Unequivocal Emunah by Rabbi Eliyahu Wolf


The current events calendar surrounding this Shabbat point to equivocation. A cause for increased celebration exists, as it is Shabbat Rosh Chodesh. On the other hand, the passing of another Chodesh Nissan to the annals of history without realizing the fulfillment of “BeNissan Atidin Liga’el,” “in Nissan we will be redeemed,” warrants pause and reflection. In addition, this past week we gathered to commemorate Yom HaShoah; this coming week beckons the celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut. These conflicting emotions surround a spiritually charged Shabbat. What message does the Torah reading provide to shape and frame our perspective?

A Jewish homeowner approaches his home and notices an ugly green splotch growing on his freshly painted domicile. After a mold specialist informs him that this unsightly growth is more than skin deep, he approaches the local Kohen and informs him, “KeNega Nirah Li BaBayit,” “something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house” (VaYikra 14:35). Why is the homeowners’ question filled with equivocation and ambiguity? If he knows that he has been slimed with Tzaraat why does he describe the Tzaraat as “KeNega?”

Rav Mordechai Willig states that by using the simple word of “KeNega,” the Torah is teaching us an invaluable lesson in how to deal with adversity. “Something like an affliction” means that what presently appears as an affliction might really be an opportunity for growth or even a blessing in disguise as Rashi explains on the Pasuk. The homeowner is not equivocating; rather, he is demonstrating a strong sense of faith and belief that even what appears to be deleterious and damaging is really a portal to progress and a gate leading to growth.

A similar idea is found in the comments of Rav Chaim of Volozhin in his Sefer Ruach Chayim. He comments on the pasuk in Tehillim, “Mizmor LeDavid, Hashem Roi Lo Echsar Bin’ot Desheh Yarbitzeini Al Mei Menuchot Yenahaleini,” “a psalm  by David. Hashem is my shepherd, I shall not want. In lush meadows he lays me down, beside tranquil waters He leads me” (23:1-2). Rav Chaim explains that David HaMelech is comparing the faith of a Jew in Hashem to a sheep’s reliance on his shepherd with two poignant illustrations. At times, sheep are interested in exploring new terrain and looking for greener pastures, but their shepherd holds them back, forcing them to be content where they are. Unbeknownst to the sheep, miles of barren wasteland surround the pasture and no food is available for miles, so the discerning shepherd controls the movement of his sheep with care and consideration. Other times, the flock seems to have found fertile grazing and is content with staying in its location. Nevertheless, the shepherd’s staff prods the flock forward. The sheep are ignorant of the tranquil waters that await them around the next turn. The same applies to our lives as well. At times we are held back and not able to progress; our Shepherd encourages us to graze in His lush meadows. Other times we are moved forward, and we believe that our Shepherd knows of the tranquil waters ahead that will revive us and promote our growth.

The theme of unequivocal belief can be extended to Sefer VaYikra as well. At first glance, the laws of dietary restriction and ritual impurity, including the Tzaraat malady, seem to be a non sequitur within a book that is dedicated to the service of the Kohanim and Leviim. The lesson of KeNega, the deep faith Am Yisrael displays to HaKadosh Baruch Hu even when things do not appear to be positive, highlights our special relationship with Hashem.  In this vein, we can appreciate the placement of this portion in a book that is dedicated to the privileges and rituals associated with Am Yisrael’s unique bond with Hashem.

The resolve to approach all events with unequivocal Emunah, even those that have the veneer of a Nega, and the cognizance that our Shepherd is lovingly guiding us, will help us recognize and savor the varied hues of this very colorful Shabbat.

Change of Eye Eli Friedman

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