Metzora 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Metzora 10 Nisan, 5760 April 15, 2000

Tora Dojo Teachers and Parents: If you share and discuss the Tora-Torah with younger students, tell it in your own words at their comprehension level rather than try to read it to them or have them read it.

The ultimate form of expression for a human being is “speech”. While it is true that our actions are a reflection of what we think and feel, we can usually curb our actions if we want to. But speech is harder to control. If we think it and we feel it, it will usually find its way out of our mouths before long.

What is the sequence of how speech works? First we have a thought. Once the thought enters the mind, we usually have feelings about the thought. We “layer” that feeling over the thought. Finally, we act or speak. The words (or actions) that finally come out are the final “layer” of this process.

If you think about it, this also defines the work of an actor. The actor is given a script to read and act. He is given the words, the final product. The words were written by someone else, the playwright. Before he wrote those words, he had certain thoughts and feelings in mind. The job of an actor is to work backwards: to define the thoughts and feelings that preceded the words so that when the words are spoken on stage they ring “true. If this is done successfully, the performance will be honest, real, and believable. If not, all the audience gets is a “line reading”.

In prayer, we have the same work to accomplish: we are given the words in a prayer and we have to create… from deep within us… the thoughts and feelings of the author of the words. When we pray to Hashem, are we honestly performing the “playwright’s” words or simply giving “line readings”?

In Kata, we have the same scenario once again. We are given the moves of the form. We need to touch the thoughts and feelings of the Master who created the form. We also have to touch the universal energy that the Master did when creating the form to begin with. We have to feel what he felt, touch what he touched. If we do, we are really doing the form. If not, it’s just “line readings”. Even if the moves are strong and beautiful (as with many contemporary “exercise” forms) the form we do may not be very deep depending on our preparation and understanding.

In all these examples: speech, acting, prayer and even Kata, we see that the final result that we see or hear (the words or the actions) are only a surface layer that covers deeper thoughts and feelings.

Our Parsha is about the metzora, a person with tzaraat, normally translated as leprosy. (It’s clearly not the disease we know as leprosy, which we can see from how it was cured.) How do we get this disease? The Rabbis (noting the closeness of the words metzora and motzi shem ra) teach that it comes from lashon hara, speech that is inappropriate, and which can hurt others and, obviously, ourselves as well.

How do we do teshuva (repent) for tzara’t (similar to but NOT leprosy)? Seclusion and sacrifice. First there is a required period of time to be introspective, to see what we have done and to resolve to correct it. Secondly, a korban (from the root “to draw close”) is brought, a sacrifice to remind us that we need to stay connected to Hashem. If we do, our speech will reflect that holiness.

Rav Kook writes: “When a person elevates their soul, they feel the tremendous power of speech, and they recognize the great value of all their words, the value of their prayers and blessings, the value of their Torah and their conversations. They feel the influence their words have in the world.” (Orot Hakodesh, vol.III, p.285)

Tzaraat seems to be like a cloud of negative energy that surrounds us, like the cloud of dust that surrounded Pig-Pen in the Peanuts comics. This energy can effect us on many levels including the physical. In the energy healing arts, for example, we can actually show changes in the flow of Qi through the channels in the body when someone speaks negative speech or even thinks negative thoughts! Think something that is negative about yourself or about others and Qi flow is disrupted temporarily! It’s amazing but true. There will be a disturbance in the force.

All of this refers back to last week’s discussion of purity and impurity. We don’t want to practice “unconnected to life” dead forms. We want to make our forms full of life, of Qi. And not just our Kata… we want to transform our words, and prayers and actions, the final expression of our thoughts and feelings.

How? The old cure is the best: seclusion and sacrifice. Take time to be quiet and focus the mind before you act. Let your actions serve to draw you closer to Hashem, the divine source of all light.

DeVries, my “TaShih” in Yoga, used to teach this in five steps:






She explained: “Yoga is a method not just exercise. There are five basic principles. Silence is the first of these: keeping our mind quiet so thoughts can enter. Then listening, so that you can learn. Remembering, so that we can consider. Understanding, so it will have meaning. And then, acting. So often, we just act first, getting all stirred up to no avail.”

This is true in speech, Kata, prayer. In everything. Think about it.

"Tora-Torah" is a weekly column on Parshat Hashavua with insights into the inner aspects of the Jewish martial arts as founded and taught by Grand Master H. I. Sober in the International Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association. The copyrighted 'Tora tiger' logo is used with permission of Prof. H. I. Sober.

"Tora-Torah" is written or edited by Michael Andron, PhD. Lao Shih, a Seventh Degree Black Belt in the Tora Dojo Association. He has been teaching Grand Master Sober's system for over 30 years.

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