Divrei Azriel: Think Positive

This week's Dvar Torah is by Moshe Schwartz. Divrei Azriel is edited by Yechezkel Gorelik & Yonoson Kenton.

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YU RIETS Israel Kollel,

Parshat (the Torah reading of ) Metzora is a continuation of Parshat Tazria in the respect that it deals with the metzora, the leper, the person who gets tzaraas, a disease which is translated as leprosy, but does not refer to the disease known by that name today.

The parsha deals with many mitzvahs dealing with the metzora, but when looking at the mitzvahs in this week's parsha one notices something very curious. There are only positive mitzvahs, whereas normally every parsha that has mitzvahs contains both mitzvahs aseh (positive) and mitzvahs lo taaseh (negative).

Why is it that there are only positive mitzvahs in Parshat Metzora? What, in this week's parsha, can shed light as to this interesting circumstance?

When I asked this question to my father he steered me to a Gemara in Kiddushin 70a. There it says, "kol haposel be'mumo posel." Everyone who puts down somebody else, eg. by speaking lashon hara, slander, about them, is really slandering the same thing that is wrong within themselves.

Now, we have to ask what causes lashon hara? When we answer this we will be able to come up with a possible reason as to why Parshat Metzora contains only mitzvahs aseh. Lashon hara is caused by low self-esteem. Low self-esteem makes us want to bring ourselves higher by bringing others down. If we were to think positively about the world and ourselves and have a higher self-esteem and self-worth, there would be no reason to bring others down and speak lashon hara.

Rabbi Frand discusses this idea in a dvar torah on Parshat Korach. There he notes that such behavior could, in contemporary parlance, be called projection. "What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than about Paul," he writes, and then uses Korach's complaint against Moses to understand Korach's own shortcomings.

So perhaps this is the true reason why Parshas Metzora only contains positive mitzvahs. The positive mitzvahs hint at the underlying cause of lashon hara and suggest to us that positive thinking is the way to go. The Chumash here is teaching us the power of positive thought.

Studies have shown the power of smiling. When you smile, chemicals in your body produce the hormones that make you happy. Conversely, the physical act of frowning releases chemicals that make you sad. When you're sad you feel moody and maybe even depressed, and as a result your self esteem will lower. The only way you'll get tzaraas is if you have low self esteem and are moody, and you project your feelings onto someone else, as the Gemara suggests.

So smile, and think happy thoughts!