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If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a se'is or a sapachas…
He shall be brought to the Kohen… the Kohen shall look at the affliction. (13:2,3)
Horav Yisrael Salanter, zl, was wont to say, "Officially, the Shulchan Aruch consists of four volumes. There really is a fifth volume: that is the one which exhorts us not to be a fool." Some of us spend a lifetime looking all over the world for answers to questions which trouble us, only to discover the answer right in front of us. We refuse to confront reality, because imagination is so much more appealing. It is amazing how often we act irrationally when, with a little forethought, we could have easily found an effective solution to our problem. Chazal relate the story of a kohen who was proficient in discerning the colors of a nega, plague. He was often called upon to determine whether a given skin blemish was, in fact, tzaraas. Regrettably, his success in this field did not put bread on his table. After a lengthy discussion with his wife, he decided to pack his bags and leave his family in search of a livelihood.
The Kohen could not ignore his responsibility to the many Jews who relied on his ability to decide the validity of a skin blemish. Therefore, he decided to instruct his wife in the halachos and how to distinguish between the various colors that manifest themselves on the skin. The first lesson began with the pasuk, "if hair in the affliction has turned white" (13:3). "If you notice that the skin from which a hair grows has become dry," the kohen began, "This is a clear indication that the individual has been stricken with tzaraas. Hashem has created each and every hair separately, each with its own individual root in the skin from where it receives its nourishment. If the source in the skin has dried, the hair which sprouts from it will also die."
When the kohen's wife heard these words, she looked at her husband with shock and skepticism, "Listen to what you are saying," she exclaimed. "There are thousands of hairs growing on a human body, each and every one supervised by Hashem. Each hair nourished from its individual source, overseen by Hashem. If Hashem has provided a source of sustenance for every individual hair on the human body, do you not think that He can provide for us also? I no longer agree to allow you to leave home to seek a livelihood. Hashem will provide for us."
The kohen listened to his wife and remained home. What did she say that was so earth-shattering? Nothing! She caused her husband to open his eyes for a change and look about him. The world was going on. Everything was being sustained. If Hashem could sustain the world, He certainly could support the kohen and his family. We just do not think. We are so obsessed with looking for solutions to self-created problems that we ignore the answer waving to us right in front of our face.
A wealthy man came to the Chafetz Chaim and asked for his advice concerning an inheritance issue. He had six children who were the designated heirs to his considerable estate. "Rebbe, I am not very old, nor am I still a spring chicken. I have to make plans for the inevitable. I would like to add another "heir" to my estate. There is a yeshivah in dire need of financial support. I would like to consider this yeshivah like my seventh child. Could the rav help me draw up a will to this effect?", the man asked the Chafetz Chaim.
"My friend," the Chafetz Chaim said, "Permit me to ask you two questions. I understand that if you have 700 ruble, you would like to give each child 100 ruble and also 100 to the yeshivah. This is a wonderful gesture on your part. But, I seem to have difficulty understanding why you are waiting until you die to give the money to the yeshivah? You have already conceded that the yeshivah is in dire need, and that you have the wherewithal to assist them, so why wait? Why delay until your death when your children will hire a good lawyer to represent them to invalidate your will?
"My second question," the Chafetz Chaim continued, "is, whether I am the one who should study Mishnayos for your neshamah; why do you not study Mishnayos for yourself? You are alive. What better time to study Torah than when you are alive! Do you think that everything must be done only after one has left this world?"
Horav Yaakov Galinsky, Shlita, drives home the point. We all want to ensure ourselves through others, but what about ensuring ourselves through our own efforts? We worry about tomorrow; we write wills: set aside money: hire a Kaddish, and sit back and wait for the inevitable. What about taking care of ourselves: we should learn the Mishnayos, we should give the tzedakah, we should live today, and not worry about tomorrow. What we do on this world is all that we take with us to the next world. There are no Gemarros there; no money for tzedakah - nothing. We must act in this world if we are going to warrant any reward in the next world.
Returning to our opening paragraph; there is a fifth volume of Shulchan Aruch: not to act foolishly. How often have we decided to do the right thing, only to have our inspiration wane and cool off? The stimulant that sparked our desire for change lost its fire. But, during those few moments, those couple of days that we were "turned on", we felt good about our decision; we wanted to alter our ways; we were ready to ascend to a loftier, closer relationship with the Almighty. What happened? The fifth Shulchan Aruch. We allowed our lack of common sense, the foolishness that prevails in all of us, to overpower the clarity of vision we had for a short time. We ignored the fifth Shulchan Aruch.