The Real You
By Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig
"If a person will have upon his skin of his flesh...a tzara'as
affliction...he shall be brought to Aaron the Kohen (priest) or one of his
sons the Kohanim" (Vayikra/Leviticus 13:2) Our Sages explain that of the
different manifestations of the tzara'as affliction, the form that attacked
the body was the result of improper speech. If a person slandered someone
else or did not fulfill a sworn oath, he was stricken with tzara'as sores.
Of all of the external and internal sicknesses existent in G-d's creation,
why did He choose a disease similar in appearance to leprosy as the
punishment befitting one who errs with his speech?
The Torah testifies to Adam's creation as, "And G-d the L-rd formed the man
of dust from the ground and he blew into his nostrils the soul of life and
the man became a living soul." (Beraishis/Genesis 2:7) Targum Onkelos
(authoritative Aramaic interpretive translation by the Tannaic-era proselyte
Onkelos, c.90) elucidates that the "living soul" of Adam was the spirit of
speech. Thus, the Torah illuminates that the essence of the soul, the
essence of the human, the attribute that elevates man over the entirety of
the animal kingdom as the power of decisive, intelligent speech. The Talmud
(Tractate Sanhedrin 99b) expands this concept by stating that the entire
purpose of the birth of mankind is the righteous use of his speech.
Rabbi Yitzchok Goldwasser, in his work Be'eros Yitzchok, clarifies that a
person who is frivolous with his speech indicates that he does not
appreciate his elevated status above the rest of the animals of creation. He
is not focusing on his spiritual self and using speech to elevate his soul
to its fullest potential. The purpose of tzara'as was to have the bearer
become disgusted by his own physical appearance. While in such an
unappealing physical state, the afflicted will comfort himself with the
knowledge that the physical body is merely the "clothing" adorning the real
person - the soul - within. That soul that defines the person remains
unblemished by the sores of tzara'as; it is only affected by the holiness
present in (or absent from) his words and deeds. With this renewed
consciousness and reorganization of priorities, the bearer will then shift
his focus away from the vanities of the material world and strive to
maximize his spiritual potential by using his speech - indeed, all of his
G-d given resources and talents - properly.
Have a Good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
Studies 5007 West Keefe Avenue; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 414-447-7999