This week’s parshah, Metzora, describes laws of various plagues that can attack the person’s body, his home or his belongings. There are some people who in lieu of calling the parshah by the name “Metzora” — which connotes plagues, impurity and contamination — call it by the name Taharah instead, which accentuates cleanliness and purity. In other words, instead of dwelling on the negative, they prefer to approach things from a positive vantage point, always emphasizing the good. This may also be understood as representing the different attitudes of the pessimist and the optimist.

As frightening as the possibility of plagues may sound, a careful study of the laws dealing with tzara’at can serve as an excellent guide for a couple as to how to avoid unpleasant situations throughout their marriage.

During the weeks preceding the wedding, the perspective Chatan and Kallah normally see no faults in each other. During this period each is careful to exhibit exemplary behavior and each endeavors to behave with etiquette and courtesy — or perhaps they are blinded by love for each other.

As much as one might hope and pray that this affection will last, a fact of life is that inevitably things change. At times trials and tribulations occur and at times due to difficulty in coping and the realization that married life is not always what they thought it was, the couple experiences confrontation.

It becomes common for one to accuse the other of being at fault for the “nega” — “plague.”

How does Torah advise dealing with these situations?

Permit me to cite a few Biblical details and the lessons they imply.

When one sees a plague on the walls of his home, the Torah says, “The owner of the house shall come and declare to the Kohen, saying kenega — something like a plague — has appeared to me in my house” (14:35).

How strange! He notices something very unusual on his walls, yet he must say to the Kohen, “kenega” — “something like a plague.” Why doesn’t he say outright “I have a nega in my house”?

In the Polish city of Radin there lived the great tzaddik and gaon Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen, known as the “Chafeitz Chaim.” An individual who had heard many intriguing stories about him decided to visit the city and see him personally. Upon arrival, he met an elderly bearded Jew in the street and asked him, “Could you please guide me to the home of the holy tzaddik and gaon the Chafeitz Chaim?” Graciously, the man told him to turn right at the corner and look for the first house on the second block. Then he said, “Incidentally, he is not such a tzaddik, nor is he a gaon.” The visitor became enraged and slapped the elderly man across the face: “What audacity you have to speak in such a manner!”

When the visitor arrived at the home of the Chafeitz Chaim and was led into his study, he was horrified to learn that the man he had slapped earlier was the Chafeitz Chaim himself. Immediately he broke out in tears, apologized, and begged for forgiveness.

The Chafeitz Chaim smiled warmly and said, “There is no need to apologize; I deserved the admonition. I have dedicated my entire life to informing K’lal Yisrael about the terrible sin of lashon hara (slander). Today, I gained a new insight: not only is lashon hara about others prohibited, but a Jew should not even speak negatively about himself.”

In light of the above, we can understand why the person says “kenega” — “something like a plague.” When one sees a blemish in his house he should not jump to the conclusion that it is bad, but he should be patient and say, “It appears that there may be a problem” and seek a solution.

First and foremost the husband and wife must realize they are not to be impulsive and make rash conclusions. Just as you wouldn’t want to speak negatively about yourself, don’t do it about your spouse: he or she is a part of you. Before you start accusing, condemning or ridiculing, show some restraint. Only after the Kohen, i.e. a professional in the area, tells you definitely that there is a problem should you take steps to deal with it and rectify the situation under his guidance.

Another law that can be explained as a metaphor is that one who can only see with one eye is unqualified to pass judgment on a plague (Negaim 2:3). Now, what is the logic to this? Isn’t it true that one-eyed people have been endowed with extra strength in that eye to equal the person who has sight in both eyes?

When the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, was a young boy he asked his father the following question: “Why did Hashem create me with two eyes? One eye would be sufficient because when I close one eye, I can see just as well.”

His father explained that people have two eyes for a reason. There are certain things at which one should “look with the right eye” — i.e. love and concern — and there are things at which one should “look with the left eye” — i.e. apathy and indifference. When one looks at a Jew, one should always look with the “right eye” and find his good qualities. The left eye is for worldly matters and things of minor importance. Sometimes one should even close the “left eye” and not pursue materialistic desires.

The metaphor of this halachah is that before anyone can rule on a plague he must have two properly functioning eyes. Otherwise he is not qualified. How many quarrels concerning who is to blame can be avoided if “both eyes” are used!

There is one more halachah I would like to cite. One whose vision is blurred is also disqualified to pass judgment (ibid.).

This can be better understood with the following anecdote:

Many people have keen vision in detecting the faults of others, but fail to see their own shortcomings. A housewife once complained to her maid that the house was not cleaned and dusted properly. The maid blushed in astonishment, for all looked immaculate. Finally, she turned to the housewife and said, “Madam, I think the dust you see is on your own glasses.” The woman removed her glasses and, sure enough, the lenses were covered with dust.

Dear Chatan and Kallah, if you will follow these pointers throughout your life, there is a special reward for you in store. The word nega (נגע) — plague — contains three letters. These three letters can be arranged to spell oneg (ענג) — delight. With the proper approach and understanding when dealing with something that may appear unpleasant, ultimately the parties involved will experience oneg — much delight and happiness throughout all the days of their lives.

"ויאמר האדם... עצם מעצמי ובשר מבשרי"
“And the man said, is a bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Bereishit 2:23)

QUESTION: What did Adam imply by citing these two qualities?

ANSWER: “Etzem” — “bone” — and “basar” — “flesh” — are both integral parts of the human body, but both have opposite qualities: Bone is hard and inflexible, and flesh is soft and yielding. Man and woman need to have two things in common for a successful marriage: etzem and basar. Etzem signifies that which is firm and unyielding, and basar stands for that which is flexible and elastic.

Adam’s message was that when it comes to matters of Olam haba — spirituality — i.e. the relationship between man and Hashem — a couple must be grounded in the eternal principles of Yiddishkeit. They must be firm in their convictions and not bend or deviate one iota. However, when it comes to a matter of Olam hazeh — material values and inter-human relations, particularly among themselves — it is imperative that they have the quality of “basar” — “flesh” — the capacity for adjusting to one another and adapting to the ups and downs of life.