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Rabbi Jonathan Ganger
by Published on April 16, 2021

There have been several impacts from the increasingly powerful pocket computer we all carry. Perhaps the most detrimental of them is that it has grabbed our attention when we walk around the world. Many of us have walked and texted to our own detriment. Apart from running into poles and who knows what else, the other problem is that we no longer see our environment or the people around us. It is an unintended self-absorption, it is the ultimate narrowing of our eyes as all we see is the small device in front of us.

 

The idea of narrow eyes is the problem discussed in this week’s Torah portion. There is an affliction that occurs in people called ‘tzaras’ which can be literally translated as a ‘tzar’- narrow, ayin- eye. It manifests as a leprous like condition on the skin called a nega. The skin turns white and scaley, as if it is dying and that is the point. A person who doesn’t look at the world properly- looking at the negative in others is taken out of the world and forced to quarantine. Interestingly, this affliction is not limited to our body’s, but it could even appear on our houses. The Talmud says that this situation occurs when we view our houses as exclusively ours and we don’t use our material things in the service of others.

 

As mentioned, the word used to describe the plague is called a נגע- nega. The kabbalists note that it is the same letters as the word ענג- oneg, which means pleasure. The difference? The letter ע is in the front of the word which means an ‘eye’. When our eyes are in front perceiving the world and connecting with those things around us, we experience pleasure. When our eyes are hidden at the end, meaning they are closed and internal, we lose that sense of connection and pleasure. The result? We reap what we sow and need to be closed off from the world. After a long period in quarantine, it is time to recapture our desire to connect and look at the world outside of our self to see what are the needs of the people around us.

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