“Obstinacy is will asserting itself without being able to justify itself. It is persistence without a reasonable motive. It is the tenacity of self-love substituted for that of reason and conscience.” -Henri Frederic Amiel
It is said that experience is the best teacher, but sometimes even that is not enough. There are times when actions and their consequences are so clear that it is only by a great force of will or delusion that the correct lessons are ignored.
The Torah dedicates a lot of ink to the malady known as tzaraat. There are three categories of tzaraat: afflictions upon the structure of ones house, afflictions upon ones clothing and affliction upon ones body. Tzaraat is generally attributed to gossip. Rabbinic commentators explain that if one gossips, God sends an initial warning by affecting ones house. The damage, minor as it may be, is meant to be an opportunity to deliberate as to the spiritual ills that lead to the physical harm.
If one gets the message, they clean up their act, fix their house and life goes on. However, the Netziv on Leviticus 14:44 explains, if one doesn’t get the message, if one doesn’t excise the spiritual illness from themselves, the tzaraat will return and with more force.
The second level that is affected, is ones clothing, ones personal possessions – much closer. The final level that is affected is ones body.
May we use the opportunities that damage and afflictions give us to contemplate our lives and areas for repair and improvement, especially regarding the great evil of gossip.
To all those who are both careful with what they put in their mouths over Pesach as well as with what comes out of their mouths the whole year.