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    Outside the Camp

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    Arik
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    Join date : 2009-08-07
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    Outside the Camp

    Post  Arik on Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:37 pm

    By Rabbi Ami Neuman
    כל ימי אשר הנגע בו יטמא טמא הוא בדד יישב מחוץ למחנה…


    “He shall dwell alone, outside the camp should be his dwelling place” (Leviticus 13:46).

    Our sages teach that an individual contracted tzara’at (a skin disease in some ways similar to leprosy) as a punishment for the sin of lashon hara — speaking negatively about others. As a result, the afflicted individual had to be removed from the rest of the people, to sit in solitude until he was healed.
    Rashi tells us that the person could not even stay together with others who were ritually impure, but rather had to be kept in total, absolute isolation. The goal was to root out the inherent, core “affliction” of this person. Instead of being focused on other people and all their faults, he should have been paying attention to himself, concentrating on how he could grow and improve.
    Though there was great celebration among Jews at the time of the creation of the State of Israel, there was also great fear. Surrounded by enemies on all sides, Israel and her people were under immediate and constant attack. During this period, one of the students of Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik (known as the Brisker Rav) went to his venerable teacher and said, “I know why all this bloodshed has befallen us; it is because of the desecration of the holy Sabbath in the Land. If only more people would observe the Sabbath, our troubles would disappear.”
    The great rabbi turned to his student and reminded him of the story of Jonah. Tasked with warning the wicked people of Nineveh to change their ways, Jonah instead fled to the sea from before G-d. When Jonah stood on the ship as it was being tossed and turned in the stormy sea, he looked around and realized that he was standing amongst a band of idol worshippers; not good people, not even neutral ones, but idol worshippers! It would have been so easy for Jonah to ignore his own faults and responsibilities and point at the company in which he found himself as the reason for the devastating tempest. Instead, he ultimately admitted that, “It is because of me that this storm has befallen you.” Though his companions were steeped in idolatry — arguably the worst of all sins — Jonah was able to look at himself and claim responsibility.
    This is the invaluable lesson that Rabbi Soloveitchik taught his student. It’s always easy to look at others and judge them; indeed, we oftentimes feel better about ourselves when we do. But our “healing” and redemption will not be brought any closer by whispering into our friends’ ears all the things that they or others need to do to fix themselves. Instead, we need to look inward, to take stock of our own deeds and, ultimately, our misdeeds. Just as the person suffering from tzara’at is freed from his own personal exile, so, too, we can hope to look toward our national redemption when we can reflect on our own service of G-d, while encouraging others to join along.


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