This week’s parshah describes the affliction of צרעת, a punishment one might receive for speaking loshon hora. Interestingly, although there are numerous פסוקים that describe צרעת in great detail, the Torah hardly alludes to the עבירה that causes it! Additionally, in describing the person who contracts צרעת, the afflicted is referred to as אדם. The Zohar Hakodosh teaches that of the many Hebrew words that refer to a person, the word אדם is used to connote a dignified or respected individual. It seems an unusual term for someone afflicted with a disease that stems from a חטא!
According to Rav Nissan Alpert, זצ“ל, the Torah is actually focusing on the greatness of man. He explains that a person isn’t measured by his mistakes. Rather, man’s stature is measured by his ability to learn from his mistakes and use them as an opportunity for growth. One who is content with the level he has reached and has no ambitions to continue improving himself is not worthy of the title אדם.
R’ Alpert says it is more relevant what one does after he gets צרעת than the עבירה of לשון הרע that caused it. An אדם is esteemed if, when he is stricken with צרעת, he goes to the כהן to understand what he did wrong and to learn how to correct his ways. That is why the פסוק that begins with the term אדם ends with והובא אל הכהן, meaning that he is brought to the כהן. After all, he can always hide the blemish until it passes! The truly great person is the one who subdues his ego and goes to the כהן for guidance.
There are two major lessons to be learned and to share with our children from this. First, the importance of focusing on the lessons we learn from a mistake, rather than on the mistake itself. And second, to constantly stress that if we welcome the opportunity to change, we can truly grow and be considered אדם.
Rabbi Gidon Goldberg
Head of School