By Rabbi Simon Taylor
In this week’s Torah portion, we discuss the laws of tzaraat, a spiritual affliction, resembling leprosy, that is famously known as the punishment for speaking lashon hara.
The Talmud (Arachin 16a) tells us that someone can also become afflicted with tzaraat by being tzarut ha’ayin, literally translated as ‘narrowness of the eye’ but most commonly understood as stinginess.
Our rabbis proceed to unpack and explain what the Torah means by tzarut ha’ayin.
We normally associate stinginess with a person who is reluctant to spend money and is deemed as tight-fisted.
A person who, when put in any given situation, tends to focus on the negative and lacks what we call a generosity of spirit.
Our sages examined the word nega in the Torah, otherwise translated as affliction. By taking the letter ayin at the end of the word nega (affliction) and moving it to the front, we get the word oneg, meaning pleasure.
Additionally, in Hebrew the names of letters can also be nouns. Ayin, for example, is the name of a letter and also the word for an eye in Hebrew. The difference between affliction (nega) and pleasure (oneg) all depends on where one places the ayin (his eye).
Central to this linguistic difference, the sages notes, is the letter ayin – an eye.
Perspective is fundamental. When we face any situation in life, we have two options: We can either fixate and stare at the bad and be tzorat ha’ayin, or we can move the ayin and change our perspective, and turn the affliction into pleasure.
As Jews, we are blessed to have a day, built into our week, which provides us with the opportunity to refocus and readjust our own perspectives – Shabbat.
On Shabbat, we take a step back from our busy everyday lives and surround ourselves with the things that matter most. Interestingly, Shabbat itself can be viewed from different perspectives.
We can regard Shabbat as a burden, a day on which many of our favourite activities are banned.
However, by refusing to adopt this perspective, we open ourselves up to the beauty of Shabbat, claiming this opportunity to reconsider our priorities and focus on what truly matters in our lives: our relationships, with friends, with family and with God.
• Rabbi Simon Taylor, Aish Schools