Tazriah-Metzorah – Why Should I Suffer?
When I was a very young child my cousin, who was only a bit younger than me, was run over by a school bus and killed. He was a young, innocent child whose entire sin was to chase after his hat that had
blown away. He was my pal. We had a mutual imaginary friend who we played with. Since we are Kohanim it could not have even been entertained whether I would attend the funeral. For a while I was
plagued with nightmares of his coming back to life.
Some said that such things happen because of Chilul Shabbat – desecrating the Shabbat. This tidbit of information came from the more religiously observant people in the family and learned people who were
always around. This, of course, frightened my young mind because we were not very observant ourselves.
Our Perasha discusses the laws of Leprosy. There are three different types of Leprosy. The first type is a terrible skin disorder. A person suffering from Leprosy is thrown out of town and must live in the
wilderness with criminals and social misfits. (see Four Lepers) The second type of Leprosy attacks a person’s clothing. The article is burned. The final type of Leprosy attacks one’s house. The house might be destroyed.
Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory have taught us:
The Holy One Blessed be He finds it difficult to raise his hands
against a man. First he gives man a warning by damaging his house with
a leprous growth. If the man repents it is nice otherwise G-d then
damages his clothing. If the man repents it is nice otherwise G-d
damages his skin. (Tanchuma Yashan – Tazriah 14)
However, It often happens that a person who seems to be righteous is “damaged” by G-d. Additionally, many very nasty people seem to live carefree lives.
Divine laws of justice might have had me crushed under the wheels of a school bus and my cousin philosophizing about it.
The question of justice in the world and of “Why Do Bad Things happen to Good People?” is at least as ancient as Judaism itself.
The Book of Iyov is very long and primarily discusses this subject: Iyov was a very wealthy man with children and flocks and all that. He was a very righteous person. Despite his righteousness G-d allowed The Persecutor to take away his wealth, kill his sons and to give him leprosy. In his suffering he considered his past actions to be completely righteous. Therefore, G-d had no reason to punish him. He
questioned whether there was justice behind G-d’s actions.
His friends came to grieve with him. They told him that G-d acts only through justice. Therefore, Iyov MUST have sinned. According these pals G-d would only wreak such havoc on a sinner.
There are many long, very poetic chapters of Iyov questioning G-d’s Justice and his friends accusing him of sinning. In Chapter 32 we learn of an additional friend named Elihu. He has been listening in on
the discussion without comment.
According to his own account he refrained from making a statement earlier so as not to insult the others who were older.
The commentators disagree on how to explain the words that he said as well as their meaning. It seems that he says that G-d runs the world with total justice. In addition to that (33-12) since G-d is greater
than man he reserves the right to do as he pleases and answers to no one.
Rambam says that Elihu was correct in his statement about G-d. However, Others say that Elihu only repeated what the other three had already said. Others say that his statements were blasphemy and that
he is beyond redemption and has no appropriate Tshuva. All views seem tenable.
What is the true answer as to why G-d allowed The Persecutor to smite Iyov? The answer is very simple. The book begins with telling us how righteous Iyov is. We then see G-d praising Iyov about how good he is. The Persecutor tells G-d that if his wealth is taken away Iyov will even curse G-d. Iyov did not even question G-d when his children were killed and his wealth destroyed. After this The Persecutor asks G-d to damage Iyov’s body. The Persecutor told G-d that after this Iyov will certainly curse G-d.
Therefor it is clear that everything that happened to Iyov was a test of his faith in G-d. G-d wanted to see if Iyov would be as pious when he is a poor leper, as he appeared to be when he was a wealthy patron.
The result was Iyov’s questioning of G-d’s righteousness though he did not curse G-d.
Very often we do not understand our own tribulations. How can G-d have caused my little cousin to die? How can he have allowed “The Persecutor” and the Nazis to murder the beautiful children of
Terezinstadt? (See a related discussion at prague.) Most cancer patients are not evil enough, in my eyes, to warrant a slow death at the hands of a disease like Leukemia, why do they suffer so much? The
same thing applies to Leprosy that eats away at a person’s body.
Leprosy is a terrible, debilitating skin ailment that, like any other disease, is even worse if the sufferer is poor. If something happens to you as in the midrash quoted above that your property, clothing or
body or is damaged you certainly should examine your activities and try to better yourself. You should give more Tzedaka than usual. If you study Torah you should study a little more. If you do Chesed you
should try to do a little more.
It is difficult to understand how G-d runs the world. However, doing mitzvot and praying to G-d for assistance can help.