Friday, April 11, 2008

Table Talk for Parshat Metzora 5768

Words -- especially in Hebrew, have the power to convey deep and thoughtful ideas. We find this principle evident in this week's parshah.
When describing the affliction known as tzara'as, the Torah uses the word נגע -- (pronounced nega) meaning affliction. When someone "comes down with" tzara'as the Torah describes it as a נגע צרעת -- "a touch of tzara'as". (Isn't it interesting that in American vernacular illness is coincidental, whereas from the Torah's perspective, it's the touch of God.)
I saw in a book called Orot Zion written by Rabbi Yadger that the word נגע shares the same letters as the word ענג, (pronounced oneg) meaning "pleasure". In fact, Judaism often describes the day of Shabbos as ענג -- a type of spiritual pleasure and nirvana that one gets from basking in the glory of God.
One who guards and keeps the Shabbos takes the inert nature of the world and transforms that material into immeasurable spiritual pleasure. Conversely, the leper -- by speaking slanderously about his fellow man -- takes that very same potential pleasure in the world and tragically transformed into sickness and darkness. The world - and the way we interact with it -- returns back to us whatever we give it. It can return to us either ענג or נגע -- pleasure or affliction.
It all depends on how we use it.