|This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my paternal grandfather Moshe Ben Yosef A”H, uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein.
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta-MY BROTHER: MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO BEN CHAYA ROCHEL
-HaRav Gedalia Dov Ben Perel
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Yechiel Baruch HaLevi Ben Liba Gittel
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Nechama Hinda Bas Tzirel Leah
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael, especially those suffering from COVID-19.
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
תַזְרִיעַ-מְּצֹרָע ● Tazria-Metzora
“Parshas Quarantine: We’ve been Doing it Wrong”
We’ve finally made it to the Parshiyos of quarantine. The current, worldwide quarantine continues to rule our thoughts and, no less, our perspective of the Torah calendar of holidays and weekly Torah portions. Indeed, our community leaders, families, and friends have all been able to identify various “connections” between the COVID-19 pandemic and our spiritual lives, some more poignant, some perhaps more of stretches.
However, from the first mention of “quarantine” over a month ago, it was these Parshiyos of the Tzara’as affliction and the confined Metzora that undoubtedly came to mind. There is no stretch here. Tazria-Metzora are the Parshiyos of quarantine.
We made it: Now, what?
Now that we are here, what do we do? What do we take away? The possibilities are endless, and considering that this topic of discussion is sure to be the most popular this week, one would think there is likely not much for me to add that you will not being hearing or have already considered yourself…
- Maybe it is appropriate to discuss the importance and privilege of being a member of society, being able to interact with family and friends.
- Perhaps it is the time to discuss what we ought to be reflecting on during quarantine, the concepts of self-introspection and spiritual self-improvement.
- R’ Chaim Kanievsky Shlit”a recommended more effort in abstaining from Lashon HaRa (slander) and arrogance, the most commonly known spiritual causes for Tzara’as.
- And just maybe, now would be the perfect opportunity to exploit the Midrash concerning the Tzara’as-afflicted house and discuss “treasures hiding in the walls of our homes”1—how beautiful and beneficial a heaven-sent infection can prove to be, the gift of being home.
More likely, you want to hear none of that. Maybe with the exception of my corny but clever spin on the Midrash, once again, you have probably heard more than you want to hear about any of these things. The question is, now what?
More Quarantine? – Been There, Done That
With all of the above in mind, if I may be so brazen as to ask the following question: Why didn’t G-d arrange that the onset of the worldwide quarantine coincide with Parshas Tazria-Metzora? The timing would have been impeccable. We would have all been listening to G-d’s obvious messages to us with awe. Granted, the quarantine is still going on, but at this point, the concept of quarantine and everything related to is has likely been long belabored. Who really wants to hear a thought on quarantine now?
My question is obviously not a fair one because who could possibly know why G-d arranges things the way He does? Who can know precisely why G-d has allowed and ordained a pandemic and suffering to spread throughout the world altogether?
With that said, while I will not be providing an explanation for Hashem’s decisions, I will challenge the notion that we have heard just enough of what there is to be said on the topic of quarantine. This is not to suggest that I will be introducing a completely new idea about quarantine, though for some, it may well be the case. This is to suggest that that which we have already heard, we in fact have not heard, or at least have likely not processed enough.
In that vein, we are going to give attention to what I think is not a parallel, but a somewhat fortunate and somewhat unfortunate contrast between our quarantine and the seclusion of the Metzora. For better or for worse (I think both), there is a major difference between the two, and to a degree, perhaps we have not been getting the absolute best of our quarantine. To a degree, we have not been doing it right.
Time-Out with Toys
With that introduction, I want to return to one of the ideas we glossed over briefly earlier, that of self-introspection. This, many suggest, is the appropriate behavior for our time of isolation. This, many suggest, is the purpose for the isolation of the Metzora.
Why do parents and teachers place a child in time-out? For some children, it is such a harsh and cruel punishment. Couldn’t the authority figure at least give the child a toy or two while he is serving his sentence? Why, in fact, don’t they at least permit the child to bring a fun and engaging toy to time-out? The obvious answer is that the goal of time-out is to force the child to really sit and think about what he has done wrong. To bring a toy would only distract him from the time-out. The purpose would be entirely defeated.
The question for us is if we have properly utilized our time-out or if we have been somewhat distracted. For better or for worse, due to modern technology and social media, it is likely that, like the child with a toy in time-out, we have been distracted.
This is not to suggest that these institutions have not provided incredible benefits and advantages. They certainly have. Continued spiritual growth is assured through “Zoom Shiurim.” Though it does not technically help the basic requirement of Tefilah B’Tzibur, communal Davening over Zoom sessions and internet connections assure a sense of community and brotherhood where there otherwise might not be. Surely, the ability to connect through cell phones enables people to contact each other quickly for food or health related reasons, saving countless lives. This is all true.
But, even as we are quarantined within the walls of our homes, have we truly experienced the isolation of the Metzora and the benefits that come with that?
The Lost Art of Isolation & Introspection
Indeed, the Torah instructs, “Badad Yeisheiv”-“alone he shall sit.”2 The implication of “Badad” is solitude, the sense of being alone, without constant connection and contact, without any toys or sense of distractions. “Badad” is the basis for that which is referred to in Chassidus as “Hisbodedus,” which really refers to the reflection and meditation which can only be accomplished when one is alone. The Metzora has absolutely no other choice but to engage in Cheshbon HaNefesh, literally, a reckoning of the soul, i.e. self-introspection.
It is fascinating to note that while the Gemara3 suggests various Aveiros that can cause Tzara’as, at no point in these Parshiyos does the Torah specify what those Aveiros are. Perhaps that is because it is the job of the Metzora to engage in that Cheshbon HaNefesh and figure out for himself precisely what his sin was; like a child in time-out: “Think about what you did wrong.”
I am sure that we have all been spoken to about self-introspection, but how many of us have actually made the time to engage in that endeavor? Yes, we attended Zoom Shiurim delivered by wonderful Rebbeim and Rabbanim and maybe continued our Torah learning with vigor, but have we actually done a serious Cheshbon HaNefesh? One can attend a powerful and fiery Shabbos Shuvah Drashah delivered by a Rav to many congregants, but indeed, he is addressing a congregation. Who is the one that is going to speaking just to you with a concentration on what it is that you need to do to better yourself? The greatest Mussar Shmooze is no supplement for genuine Cheshbon HaNefesh.
True isolation and introspection are indeed a lost art nowadays. We don’t know what it is truly like to be Metzora’im, but now that the true Parshiyos of quarantine have arrived, perhaps now is the time to actually take some time to think about what that might be like. Perhaps now is the time to make the best of our quarantine. Perhaps now is the time to put our phones and other toys away and even slightly learn the lost art of isolation and introspection, to engage in a few minutes of undistracted Cheshbon HaNefesh.
May we all be Zocheh to put away our distractions, engage in true Cheshbon HaNefesh, really improve ourselves, and Hashem should answer our genuine efforts with the arrival of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos! Don’t forget to count Sefiras HaOmer (#16).
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂
- See Toras Kohanim 14:75 and Vayikra Rabbah 17:6.
- Vayikra 13:46
- Arachin 15B