Idolatrous Self-Gratification (Tazria-Metzora)
Mankind are an incorrigible race. Give them but bugbears and idols — it is all that they ask; the distinctions of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood, of good and evil, are worse than indifferent to them. — William Hazlitt
The Torah readings of Tazria and Metzora delve into what may seem arcane laws of ritual impurity and the treatment of the physical-spiritual skin malady called Tzaraat (popularly mistranslated as leprosy). The Bat Ayin on Leviticus 14:34 explores some of the attitudes that a Jew may have in observance of these commands. While it is clear that the commands need to be observed, he explores what some of the inner motivations might be. One of the highest levels of service of God is to do so out of pure love and awe of God. It is God’s desire and that is motivation enough for a fully devoted servant.
It is still good, though not an ideal motive, to perform the commands because God will provide a reward to those who perform His commandments. There will be a reward both in our current world and in the world to come.
The Bat Ayin explains that even the performance of commandments for what might appear to be a transactional reward is still vastly different and superior to the idolatrous belief that there is no reward or punishment or that there is even a Creator who is involved continually in our lives. The idolatrous belief is centered around self-gratification, with little regard for truth, ethics, or compassion. An idolatrous belief is that as long as it makes them feel good, that defines their moral compass.
May we appreciate God’s presence and intervention and may we feel it more strongly.
To Rabbi Leo Dee and the inspiration he is providing.