Beauty may be Skin-Deep but Some Hideousness is to the Bone

Today, 29 Adar Sheini is the yuhrzeit-anniversarry of the death of the great Polish Chassidic Master Reb Shloimeleh Rabinowicz; zy”a, the first Radomsker Rebbe, as well as other tzadikim and talmidei chachamim-Torah sages. The following Devar Torah is adapted from his work on the Torah and Holidays, Tiferes Shlomo, and is dedicated l’iluy nishmas –for the ascent of the sou,l of

Mrs. Lottie B. Valberg who shares the same yuhrzeit by her grandson lhbc”c Mr. Simcha Valberg, sponsor of the weely Izhbitzer Torah.

אָדָם, ×›Ö¼Ö´×™-יִהְיֶה בְעוֹר-בְּשָׂרוֹ שְׂאֵת אוֹ-סַפַּחַת אוֹ בַהֶרֶת, וְהָיָה בְעוֹר-בְּשָׂרוֹ, לְנֶגַע צָרָעַת–וְהוּבָא אֶל-אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, אוֹ אֶל-אַחַד מִבָּנָיו הַכֹּהֲנִים.

If a person (Adam) has a white blotch, discoloration or spot on the skin of his body and it [is suspected] of being a sign of the leprous curse on his skin; he should be brought to Ahron the Kohen or to one of his descendants; the kohanim…

—Vayikra 13:2

זֹאת תּוֹרַת, אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ נֶגַע צָרָעַת, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תַשִּׂיג יָדוֹ, בְּטָהֳרָתוֹ

This is the Torah governing he who has within him the leprous curse…

—Vayikra 14:32

Comparing and contrasting  these two pesukim we find that there are two distinct types of metzoroim; one whose tzaraas-leprous curse is superficial; no more than skin-deep and the other whose tzaraas is described as being “within him”; at the core of his being. Moreover the first type of metzora is described as being an adam, the word in lashon kodesh –Torah Hebrew, that connotes human-beings at their highest level.

Reb Shloimeleh Radomsker, echoing the Ramban, (Vayikra 13:46 D”H v’habeged) reiterates the concept that the entire spectrum of negaim –skin ailments that exude tumah-ritual impurity, and their purification has nothing to do with physical maladies nor are the kohanim mandated by the Torah to deal with negaim dermatologists.

Negaim are HaShems way of disciplining the afflicted person and affording him the opportunity to cast his sins aside and return to HaShem where he will find mercy and healing.

The reason that kohanim are tasked with dealing with negaim is because it is they were chosen to instruct the people in matters of intelligence, ethics and good sense as the pasuk teaches: כִּי-שִׂפְתֵי כֹהֵן יִשְׁמְרוּ-דַעַת, וְתוֹרָה יְבַקְשׁוּ מִפִּיהוּ:  כִּי מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה-צְבָאוֹת, הוּא. “For the kohens lips safeguard knowledge, and they [the people] should seek the Torah that his mouth utters; for he is the messenger of the HaShem of the legions [of angels].”(Malachi 2:7)

Thus understood the lesson of these contrasting pesukim are not limited to the actual historical period when genuine negaim appeared and the laws of Tzaraas were in effect nor must the kohen who must heal and purify the afflicted person be a biological, patrilineal descendant of Ahron.

There is a category of people who sin but who, nevertheless, retain their humanity in the fullest sense.  Their sins are superficial and have not struck deep roots that reach the core of their beings.  Their inner selves retain their innate holiness; the holiness of Israel, and their hearts are wholesome and at peace with HaShem.  It is merely that the external factors of the material here-and-now world, the “skins” of their souls, as it were, and not the “viscera” of their souls, have tripped them up with some ethical or moral stumbling blocks.

This is the type of person about whom the pasuk says “If an Adam has a white blotch, discoloration or spot on the skin “i.e.  He is a person of the first caliber in spite of his sins and whatever blemishes and defects that we can attribute to him are out of character, derive from external factors and are, so to speak, only “skin deep.”

Such a person should show the blemishes of his soul to the Kohen; that is to say to the tzadik hador – the just one of the generation. This “kohen” will then command him בָּדָד יֵשֵׁב (13:46) to dwell alone i.e. to be misboded and, in his solitude, become introspective and reflect upon his missteps and where and how he went wrong.

In fact, the “adam factor” of such sinners is still so intact that when an outside person such as the kohen or tzadik hador, becomes involved in their teshuvah process the relationship grows symbiotic and reciprocal.

Vis a vis the bayis hamenuga-the house with the leprous curse, the pasuk states וְשָׁב הַכֹּהֵן-literally that the kohen shall return [to reexamine the masonry of the house.] But this can also be understood to mean that the kohen himself or, in contemporary terms, the tzadik himself, must do teshuvah.  As David the King wrote יָשׁוּבוּ לִי יְרֵאֶיךָ . (Tehillim 119:79) literally; “Let those that fear You return to me.”  But this can also be understood to mean that those who fear You are the ones who cause me to return in teshuvah. Since they come to me to learn the ways of serving You in order for me to teach them I must first edify of myself. As our sages taught: If just one person does proper repentance, his teshuvah weighs down the scales on the side of merit for the entire world. (Kiddushin 40A-B, Yoma 86B)

On the other hand there are those who sin habitually and egregiously such that the nega-leprous curse, can be described as “within them.”  A person so afflicted has a much more difficult path to repentance.  He needs to deepen his avodas HaShem and intensify the level of his Torah learning and his mitzvah performance such that his motivation for these is entirely leshem Shamayim.

There are those who pat themselves on the back and say “I am a sage and I study Torah every day” and yet they possess much internal evil and their hearts and the inner core of their beings are full to the brim with negaim; untoward thoughts and passions for the temporal pleasures and vanities of the here-and-now world. So immersed are their hearts in meaninglessness and corporeality that their Torah study becomes nisbatel-“nullified” to the many vanities and emptiness of the temporal world.  As is the case with chametz before Pesach; one can “nullify” the Torah he has learned and absorbed as well.

This is what Chazal mean when they say (Berachos 5A):– פשפש ולא מצא יתלה בביטול תורה –“If a person [trying to discern the source of his troubles [has already examined his behaviors and not discovered any reasonable cause he should pin it on bitul Torah.”

On a simple level bitul Torah means time squandered on activities other than Torah-study.  But how much of an intensive spiritual audit does that take?  If a person oversleeps or overindulges in recreational activities rather than attend a Shiur, that cause for retribution should seem pretty obvious.  Rather, the Radomsker maintains that our sages are revealing to us that there is such a thing as being mevatel the Torah one DID study, nullifying the Torah and the ennobling effect that the Torah material already learned ought to have had on his soul.

This is why in davening we say “Return us, our Father, to Your Torah and bring us close, our King, to Your Service” It is not enough to merely learn Torah.  The Torah that we absorb must distance us from the vanities of the temporal world and make us intimate with HaShem through serving Him and yearning for Him.

For the second type of afflicted person the Torah says זֹאת תּוֹרַת, אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ נֶגַע צָרָעַת … Visiting the tzadik hador is insufficient, it will require more than the tzadik taking a look at his superficial defects and prescribing introspection to heal such deep-seated negaim.  The person so afflicted  needs Torah, i.e. he needs to reverse the effects of having nullified his Torah by  learning Torah in a purer way, Torah Lishmah that results in greater avodas HaShem and implementing all that the Torah instructs and directs him to do.

He needs to repent; doing teshuvah as a prerequisite to any Torah study that he does and yearn for the Torah to impart new pathways in serving his Creator.   Torah, in particular Torah Lishmah is the only cure to those whose negaim have become internalized.

~adapted from Tiferes Shlomo Bais D”H Adam pages 160,161


2 comments on “Beauty may be Skin-Deep but Some Hideousness is to the Bone

  1. It would seem that the same way that Hashem in his infinite wisdom sees to it that needy Kohanim are Terumah recipients, so too, those Kohanim that are needy (in need of doing Teshuva) are the one’s chosen by the Metzora to process their Tzaraas.

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