Influences (Parashat Metzora)
In the Haftorah portion attached to Metzora the thematic link of the skin afflictions caused by sin, in particular the sin of lashon hara (gossip, slander) is carried forward and developed into a real life event. Four leprous men star during a time when famine had engulfed Samaria and they in turn bring about a turning point in the conflict with the Syrian army. The critical issue though here is what the Syrian army HEARS (here the noise of chariots and horses approaching). What they heard and listened to had an effect upon them that in this case caused them to up and flee. What had entered their heads through the ears caused a reaction; in this case it stirred up fear.
What if the Israelites had heard it instead? Would they have not possibly concluded that deliverance had come from a foreign army, riding to their rescue? Same sound, same aural input, different result. Whatever we hear effects us and causes us to interpret situations for good or evil, and if gossip is involved then tragedy can occur. What goes in has an effect. The malaise is precisely this: the seeds of harm and damage placed inside of you that go on to bear fruit to your own spiritual harm. And so of course the first question comes: what voices are you listening to? Do you listen to what G-d is saying through His revealed Words of Life, developing a sensitivity to hear the small voice in life’s situations, or is the clamour of voices, either of the world or other forms of Judaism demanding attention that fill your mind and brain, affecting you and steering you? Do you listen to words that can bring harm to you, maybe superficial chit chat and gossip?
Sadly it is not only words that go in and harm and affect us, causing a deeper malaise. In the prelude to this Syrian siege something else happened that also speaks powerfully to this theme. In 2 Ki 6:8-17 the attack on the man of G-d Elisha was overwhelming in terms of human numbers and strength. The Syrians knew what they were dealing with, and it wasn’t just the power of a man! They put on all this military show to silence the Prophet who was able to hear from G-d and thus stop him from sharing info about the troop movements of the Syrians. The servant of Elisha is panicked by the visible onslaught and numbers. The end has arrived he says, what are we to do? In this case the input is not aural but visible. The input isn’t through the ears but eyes. The result however is the same. What goes in affects you. What happens around you, whether you see it or hear it, what you experience day after day HAS and will have an effect on you. It can erode you, wear you down by constant attrition and leave you empty, drifting and rootless. Elisha prays that the servant will ‘see’ what is true, what is the real reality behind the visible picture presenting itself as fact. In fact, we could say he prayed for his eyes to be opened, or to put it another way, that he would see in faith. It comes back to the inputs again and what we choose to believe, accept and uphold. Words spoken that drag you down. Situations you see that crush you. People who promise the earth and never deliver, maybe even leaders who you’ve trusted and relied upon for a long time who you discover have abused that role and position. Yes, in all this we see the desperate unfaithfulness of man pitied against our attempts to cling on in faith to what G-d has said regardless. All these inputs can cause a reaction and have an effect upon us. I believe Elisha would pray for us, Lord open their eyes that they may see. May we once more cry out for that faith to see what G-d is saying not what events appear to be saying. May we fight against that malaise that drags down and leaves us wrung out spiritually and almost unable to respond to His gentle and loving hand upon us. We have a strong need as people of faith to know G-d and what He says at all times, to know the truth and not let ourselves be knocked. By faith we walk, and not by sight or hearing.