This week’s double parsha focuses on spiritual purity. In times of the Holy Temple, when a person became spiritually impure, the impurity manifested as tzara’at, a leprosy-like lesion on a person’s skin, clothing and house. The Kohein (Priest) instructed the afflicted how to remove the lesion and examined it later to see if it had disappeared.
Sometimes tzara’at remained on the clothing. “And behold, the affliction has not changed appearance.” Rabbi Yissocher Frand notes that Torah uses an unusual expression to convey this idea: Lo hafach hanega et eino, literally “the affliction has not changed its eye.”
Why does Torah use such unusual wording to describe the status of the affected clothing?
Talmud (Arachin 16a) discusses seven causes for tzara’at, including lashon hara (improper speech). Lesser known is tzarut ayin, literally “narrowness of the eye”. Explains Rabbi Frand: “It refers to a mean-spiritedness, a tendency to see the negative and overlook the positive in everything. It is a singular lack of generosity in all things, a constricted view of the world and everything in it.”
If this spiritual deficiency caused the tzara’at, it could only be reversed by transforming the trait of tzarut ayin to ayin tov, literally “[a person with a] good eye”. A sourpuss had to become smiling, expansive, generous, optimistic, warm and friendly, writes Rabbi Frand.
Rabbi Frand also draws meaning from the Hebrew word for affliction, nega. He cites the Chiddushei Harim who remarks that nega (spelled nun, gimmel, ayin) has the same letters as its opposite, pleasure, which in Hebrew is oneg (spelled ayin, nun, gimmel). Noting the placement of the letter ayin, which is also the Hebrew word for “eye”, he infers that once the afflicted changes his ayin, the affliction can be transformed into pleasure.
As parents, we must teach our children to look at the world with ayin tov. In our daily prayers, we ask G-d to grant us grace, kindness and mercy “in the eyes of all who see us.” In order to receive that blessing, we must remember to view others in a positive light, especially our own children.