Friday, April 4, 2014

The Blessing of Beautiful Eyes

The eyes are the window to the soul. 

At least that's what people say. 

I believe it to be true, though, because when I am with someone who has no distractions to them, when all other body parts are hidden and only their face is exposed, I can see the essence of who they are through their eyes.
But we're not here to talk about the beauty of modesty and its ironic attraction. 
We're here to talk about a metaphoric eye. Sorta.

This week's parsha, Metzora, speaks about the epidemic of tzaraat, leprosy. 
Tzaraat is a skin malady that is contracted as a result of engaging in any form of gossip. 
The parsha discusses its causes, symptoms and purification process.

As part of the purification process, the kohen has to personally check the wounds and determine whether or not the rash has healed. In reference to that procedure, in a case where the person suffering has not been cured, the possuk writes, "v'henei lo hafoch ha nega et einav",  the blemish has not changed its eye. 

The blemish has not changed its eye. 

Its eye?

Is it just me, or is this wording a little weird? Why can't it just say that the person has not been healed? Or that the ailment has not yet run its course? But, 'the blemish has not changed its eye?'

Here's what I'm thinking. Since there is not a word in the Torah that is extra, nor are there any mistakes in it, there must be a significant reason why the word ayin, eye, was used here.

There are many different ways to describe the tzaraat, and interestingly the word that was chosen to refer to the leprosy in this possuk, is nega.  
Nun, gimel, ayin.
Nega is a bruise, a pain, a discomfort.

If you change around its letters, you get another Hebrew word which may sound familiar to you: Oneg.
Ayin, nun, gimel.
Oneg means pleasure.

The kohen was not only giving the victim a prognosis; he was teaching him a lesson. He was explaining to him why he has not been cured, and for that matter, why a person contracts this condition in the first place.

What's the reason we speak loshon horah? 
The deeper, more introspective reasons are connected to issues of low self esteem, jealousy, and other emotional packages we have weighing us down. But since I don't get paid by the hour, I'm not getting into all that psychology right now.
I'm going to discuss the very basic cause of gossip. The reason we gossip is so simple, it's often totally overlooked.
We speak loshon horah because we are looking at our target with negativity. We are looking at life, at people, at situations, through a lense tinted with negativity, judgement, and pessimism.

Think negative, speak negative, feel negative. 
Think positive, speak positive, feel positive.

It's the War of the Worlds: 
Ayin Tov vs Ayin Ra. 
It's more than just an abstract idea. How do I actually begin to feel positive towards another person? It's about judging favorably. Giving the benefit of the doubt even when your version seems far fetched and unlikely. 
It's about forgiveness. Forgiving others for making mistakes, for being human, for reacting out of their own insecurities and uncertainties. 
It's about celebrating others' triumphs and successes. Being genuinely happy for them when they share their good news, when they get promoted, or when they purchase a gorgeous pair of shoes that you can't afford.
 It means removing grudges and jealousy, and always judging people favorably.

Our reaction to life, to people, and to situations is completely controlled by our view and perception.
Viewing the world with an ayin tov, a positive eye, can make life a much more pleasant place for us, as well as for all the people around us. It will also attract positivity into our lives. 

It's all about perception.

Is rain a good thing or a bad thing?
Well, that depends who you ask. 
For a farmer, it's the biggest blessing in the world. For a girl who just walked out of the salon after spending an hour on her hair, it is not such a blessing.

Having a positive disposition in life will not change your circumstances. But it will allow you to cope with anything that comes your way. And it will affect your mood, your reaction, and your quality of life.

So, let's take the word nega. Now, take the word oneg. There is only one tiny difference between these two: It all depends where you put the ayin.

A person can choose to have a life of nega. A life of pain, discomfort, and negativity. 
Or, a person can choose to have a life of oneg. A life of pleasure, enjoyment, and positivity.

There is only one tiny difference between these two lives: It all depends where you put your ayin.

Have a beautiful shabbos!