Are we better at spotting our flaws, or do our friends and family do a better job? Studies show that when it comes to alcoholism and related disorders, friends are much better at noticing when alcohol use gets out of hand than the individual himself. While this point may seem more apparent when it comes to alcoholism, it is likely to apply to many aspects of life.
This week we read the double Parsha of Tazria-Metzora, which explains the process of Tzara’at (leprosy) that involves the Cohen viewing the blemish on the person’s skin and then ruling whether that blemish is considered Tzaraat, rendering the person Tamei (impure).
The Mishna (Negaim 2:5), states “כל הנגעים אדם רואה, חוץ מנגעי עצמו”.
“A person can view (and rule on) all blemishes except his own.”
The simple interpretation of the Mishna is that even though a Cohen can rule on anyone else’s blemish, if the Cohen has tzara’at of his own, he may not diagnose its status and must show it to another Cohen.
Meiri (Avot 1:6) has a beautiful homiletic interpretation of the Mishna relating to all people, not specifically to the Cohen. “A person can view all blemishes except his own” can also mean that we have difficulty seeing our own flaws.
One of life’s significant challenges is that we all have personal biases that do not allow us to see our shortcomings. We are often not even aware of these biases. He asserts that this is one of the primary reasons we need friends – to set us straight when we go astray. It is challenging to provide unsolicited constructive criticism to a friend and be sensitive. However, we have a responsibility to ask our friends and mentors for constructive criticism.
Beginning this week, we will be resuming Kabbalat Shabbat before candle lighting via zoom at 7 – 7:30 pm and look forward to seeing everyone ushering in Shabbat together as a community.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay