Parashat Metzora

Man and the Mosquito

The Torah Portion Metzora is, at first glance, a portion concerning dermatology and various skin diseases such as leprosy. However, in the opinion of the sages, this is not the main topic. Our skin is a defensive wrapping that separates what is within us from what is outside our body. Therefore, say the sages, skin ailments are not only physiological but also expressions of defects in our inner, spiritual state.

Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nahmani speaks in the name of Rabbi Yochanan of seven evils that cause these skin diseases: gossip (Lashon HaRa), bloodshed (Shefichut Damim), vain oaths (Shevuat Shav), forbidden sexual relations (Giluy Arayot), haughtiness (Gasut HaRuach), robbery (Gezel) and envy (Tzarut Ayin) (Arachin 16a).

Today I would like to speak about one of those seven sins: haughtiness (Gasut HaRuach), which lies at the root of all other vices.

Unfortunately, we all know this vice, as chutzpah is also haughtiness. We all know that this is the most striking negative trait of our Israeli society. We know that the world has English tea, French perfume, Argentinian Dulce de Leche and Israeli chutzpah. This insolence is a blue and white product, made in Israel.

What is chutzpah? How can we define this well-known word?

It is the overbearing confidence of someone who thinks that all right and justice are his alone. Such a person feels that he is the centre of the world, that only he counts.

Actually, man is born with this trait. We are all descendants of Adam, who was the centre of the world and bequeathed this trait to all mankind.

In the Tractate Sanhedrin (38a) there is an interesting discussion on the fact of Adam being created on the eve of the Sabbath. If man is the crown of creation, why was he created at the end of the process and not at the beginning?

Among the interesting answers to this question, I like the following one: "So that if man becomes arrogant, I will tell him, 'the mosquito was created before you'". As soon as man becomes conceited and haughtiness enters deep into his soul, it is possible to remind him that even the mosquito preceded him in the order of creation.

Rav Raphael of Barshad says: I can try to justify and find excuses for all sins except that of haughtiness.

When I am asked in the heavenly court, "Did you study Torah?" I will answer, "To my sorrow I was ignorant and did not know how to study."

They will ask, "Did you observe the fasts?" and I will answer, "I was weak and did not have the strength."

"And did you give money to charity?" they will ask and I will answer, "To my regret, I could not. I was poor and needy."

In that case, they will say: "You were ignorant, you had no strength, and you had no money. Why were you insolent? Why did you have such conceit and chutzpah?"

To that, says Rav Raphael, I will have no answer.

The Torah warns us against this unjustifiable vice, and the destructive power of haughtiness. Let us always remember that even the mosquito preceded us in the order of creation.

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