It was, Like, Negah!
Volume 6 Issue 29
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Like (lîk) adjective 1. Possessing the same or almost the same
characteristics; similar: on this and like occasions.
2.Alike: They are as like as two siblings. 3. Having equivalent value
Ah, the good old days, when the word meant something. Today, the kids have
found a new interpretation for the word.
"So I was, like, hello?" "So I was on the checkout counter, and the girl in
front of me had, like, some apples."
I am wont to interject, "were they like apples? You mean, that actually
they were not apples, but rather they were really oranges disguised by a
shiny red coating?"
But just as our parents learned to realize that the word cool was no longer
a setting on an air-conditioner, or a description of current climate
conditions, I decided to accept that like has also metamorphosed into just
another expression. I guess it's, like, cool.
But maybe there was more than etymological benefit to this exercise in
social adaptation. I began to adjust my thought process and applying the
fact that the word like has taken on new meaning. And I applied that
thinking to this week's Torah reading.
The parsha tells us this week that just as the concept of an irregular
blemish can appear on one's body or hair, it can also appear on the walls
of his home. And when a negah appears in his home, he goes to the kohen and
declares, "like a negah appeared to me in my home." The afflicted sounds
like a child of the new millennium. Why does he not say I may have a negah?
Why use the words "like a negah." After all if it looks like a negah and
acts like a negah than it must be a negah! Why then does he use the word
like in describing it?
Rabbi Paysach Krohn loves to tell the beautifully haunting story of the
woman who left Rusk Institute with her child who was in a wheelchair. It
was a wintry day and the chill that pervaded the young boy’s fragile bones
declared its chilling presence with the icy frosting it left on the exposed
metal of his wheelchair.
Waiting at the bus stop on the corner of 34th and 2nd Avenue, three large
city busses whizzed by, unable to accommodate the mother and the child and
his special chair. It was only after a half-hour wait that the mother
flagged down a bus and insisted to the driver that he allow them to board.
As the poor woman struggled to lift the wheelchair into the narrowly
impatient doors that waited to slam like the jaws of a tiger, the driver
shouted at her, "Lady you'll have to wait for a bus with a lift! I gotta go!"
Immediately a few passengers jumped to her defense! "It's freezing out
there. We will wait!"
Embarrassed into submission, the driver acquiesced. As the mother and child
settled in their place on the bus, one said to her, "Your child is not
handicapped. It only seems that way. In truth it is the driver that has a
The Torah is telling us an important foundation in negativity. When one
seemingly has a blemish or sees a blemish in his own home, he has no right
to declare it as such. He may have a problem but should never declare it
until seeking spiritual confirmation. One may think it is a blemish, it may
even appear as a blemish yet until confirmed by the compassionate kohen, it
is only like a blemish. However, until confirmed with counsel, it is not.
If one goes to the kohen and learns to utilize the impairing experience to
grow, to become more patient, more understanding, and perhaps more
sensitive to others, then the hindrances that he or she experience may be
troublesome, they may even be disheartening, they may even be like a
handicap -- but they are truly not. Because the handicap is only in the
mind; and what is on the body is only like a blemish that can fade away
like the whiz of a speeding bus on 34th Street.
Dedicated in memory of Alisa Michelle Flatow , Daughter of Shmuel Mordechai
and Rashka Flatow L'Iluluy Nishmas Chana Michal Bas Shmuel Mordechai
V'Rashka Flatow Nift'rah Al Kidush Hashem, 10 Nissan HY"D
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The author is the Associate Dean of theYeshiva of South Shore.
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