Tazria-Metzora: Faith, Faith, And There Is No Faith

The entire subject of the various skin disorders that are dealt with in Parshat “Tazria” and “Mazora” is perceived as one huge mystery by many. What is the possible importance of all this?

A story brought down in Midrash Tanchuma, Parshat “Tazria” teaches us a tremendous idea that lies behind this entire subject of skin disorders and blemishes dealt with in the parsha. The midrash tells us about a certain cohen in the Land of Israel who was greatly impoverished. Due to his economic stress, he decided to do what so many do today for the same reason – to go overseas. Since the occupation of the cohen included diagnosing skin blemishes (only the cohen can examine the disorder and determine if it is pure or not), he felt a responsibility towards his “clients”, and proceeded to teach his wife the tricks of the trade so she could cover for him while he was out of town. The cohen taught her the basic principle of skin disorders: “If you see that the water source of one of the person’s body hairs dried up, know that he has been stricken. Because for each and every strand of hair on the body, Hashem created for it its own life-source from which it nurtures. If the well dries up, the hair dries up.”

The midrash continues to tell us that when his wife heard this rule, she sharply criticized her husband the cohen and said, “And G-d created for each and every hair on the body its own individual life-source or well from which to drink from – you being a human being with lots and lots of hair, and your children depend on you for support, isn’t it all the more so that G-d will provide for you sustenance?” And the midrash concludes: “And thus she did not let him leave Israel!”

Though this cohen might have been dealing with skin disorders his entire life, he only understood the technical side of this mitzvah. What his valiant wife taught him was the idea or lesson that lies behind this matter, that despite all his knowledge of the details, he did not grasp. And what is the idea? That even in something that at first glance might seem trivial and mundane like skin blemishes, there is concealed the concept of G-d’s incredibly precise “Hashgacha” (Divine Providence) over every thing in this world. What may seem to us as some “coincidental” stain with hair, takes on an entirely different meaning when we understand that a “little” thing like that exists for a reason, and there is Someone up there running the show even when it comes to individual cuticles – for everything has a purpose. This woman came along and immediately corrected her husband by saying: You want to try to outsmart Hashem? Well, if Hashem decreed that you will suffer poverty, all attempts to evade G-d’s Will will be fruitless, and certainly if it includes leaving Israel which is against the “Halacha”.

This cohen is nothing more than an example of most religious Jews today. Without a doubt, he too awoke each morning and went to synagogue. He too said “I believe”, and set a fixed time each day to learn Torah. But in both instances when it comes to the moment of truth on both a personal and national level, all the “emunah” that is proclaimed remains just lip service when it has to be applied in real life situations. Even righteous Jews are not spared from this trap. The sages tell us in Trachtate Sota (48): “What cause the righteous to receive less of a portion in the Next World? Smallness (small “emunah” – Rashi) that was in them!”

He who gets up and says that parts of the Land of Israel which we are commanded to conquer must be handed over to the gentiles because of “Pekuach Nefesh”; that it is forbidden to perform certain acts of “Kiddush Hashem” because “what will the world say”; that the fulfillment of the Divine Commandment, “And you shall disinherit the inhabitants of the land” are not practical because America will stop supporting us – such people fall into the same category as the above cohen. For they suddenly “forgot” that the same Master of the World who commanded us to live in the Land of Israel and to conquer it, also sends us “parnassa” and “bitachon”.

What is missing today is that simple woman of simple faith to get up and shout: If God has Divine Providence over every single hair on the body and determines by Himself whether that hair will live or die, for sure he is watching over his Chosen People! And if G-d indeed watches over His people, could anything possibly go wrong if that people cling to His commandments, even those that seem “dangerous”?!

If one claims that fulfilling God’s Will is “dangerous” – it really does not matter if that person wears a yarmulke, a strimel, long coat or none of the above, for he is just like that above cohen — of little faith and with little to teach us.

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