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The teacher who tried everything

Parshas Tazria- HaChodesh

Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

A principal came to HaRav Aron Leib Shteinman to discuss a bachur in his yeshiva. “I tried everything,” he explained, “and I see no other option other than to expel him.” “What’s the bachur’s name?” the Rav asked. The principal gave him the bachur’s name. “And his mother’s name?” Puzzled, the principal responded that he doesn’t know the mother’s name. “In that case, how can you say you tried everything?! Clearly you didn’t daven for him.” In this week’s sedra we learn that all cases of tzara’as must be brought before a kohen who examines the person and determines whether they are indeed a metzora. The laws of tzara’as are complex, and if a kohen couldn’t come to a diagnosis on his own, he would ask an expert, even a non-kohen, for the diagnosis, and then pronounce the final verdict. Why was it so important that the verdict be pronounced by a kohen?

The treatment of tzara’as is very harsh, the metzora is separated from all Yidden and must remain secluded for quite some time. Such a harsh judgment must be passed by someone with immense ahavas Yisroel. A talmid chacham can present all the data, but only a kohen—commanded to “bless His nation, Yisroel, באהבה- with love,”—can make the final call.[1] We all find ourselves in a position of power and sometimes it’s necessary to show sternness—towards a child, a student, a tenant, a client, etc. The Torah is clear that strength is sometimes necessary, but the Torah also emphasizes that it must be driven by love, and not skewed by ego, power or any other ulterior motive. The recipient must feel that we’re not coming down on them from a position of “tough luck,” but rather, that we’re coming through for them with “tough love.” The principal clearly wanted to do what’s right, which is why he made the effort to ask daas Torah. However, although he went through all the data, he hadn’t yet passed it through his heart. May we all merit to be the recipient of only tender love, and if we must administer toughness, may the love shine through. And may we all have true Yiddishe, chassidishe nachas from all our endeavors. Gut Shabbos, Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier [1] Likutei Sichos vol. 27.

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