Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Metzora
To dedicate this lesson

The Connection between the Eye and the Skin

We have seen that tzarut ayin, an anti-social trait, is, in regard to tzara’at, comparable to the cardinal sins.


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Nisan 5767
The gemara mentions seven things that cause tzara’at (roughly, leprosy): lashon hara, murder, false oaths, incest and adultery, haughtiness, theft, and tzarut ayin (stinginess; literally, a narrow eye) (Arachin 16a). The hardest of the above to understand is tzarut ayin, as lack of magnanimity doesn’t violate any sins, at least not on the level of the rest. Why did Chazal consider it so objectionable to want to keep that which is one’s own?

Chazal find a hint to tzarut ayin in the following p’sukim. Regarding an affliction of the house, the Torah says: "The one, that the house is his, comes" (Vayikra 14). The gemara says that this refers to one who sets his house aside for himself alone and refuses to share his utensils. After claiming that he does not have what his neighbor requests, he is forced to remove his wares for all to see upon evacuating the afflicted house.

The Meshech Chochma explains halachot of tzara’at based on the connection to tzarut ayin. The Torah requires the leper to stay alone outside the encampment (Vayikra 13:46), isolated even from other impure people (Pesachim 67a). This is part of a punishment that fits the crime. He who is unwilling to contribute to society is deprived of basic human interaction. Another halacha that takes on new light relates to the expense of the korban the afflicted is supposed to bring. In general, regarding korbanot that are more or less expensive depending on one’s financial capabilities, if one spent less than prescribed on the korban, he fulfills his obligation anyway. However, a rich leper who brought a korban befitting a poor one does not fulfill his obligation (Yoma 41b). Since tzarut ayin is a factor in tzara’at, one who maintains his characteristic of stinginess cannot expect to receive atonement in that manner.

There are also halachic proofs that the Torah encourages social interconnectedness. If a husband uses oaths to prevent his wife from lending utensils to neighbors, this can be used as grounds for divorce (Ketubot 72a). This is because the Torah views community life and proper relationships with neighbors as basic needs that it is forbidden to deprive a person of.

Furthermore, the halacha is that while two witnesses are usually required to establish facts, when it comes to questions of whether something is forbidden or permitted, one witness is sufficient (ed echad ne’eman b’issurin - Gittin 2b). The Ritva (ad loc.) explains that if this were not so, it would be impossible for one to be a guest at another’s house and eat his food. Thus, social needs ensure the relaxation of certain halachic standards (as subscribed by halacha), showing the relative importance of mitzvot between man and man.

Thus, we have seen that tzarut ayin, an anti-social trait, is, in regard to tzara’at, comparable to the cardinal sins. Let us cling to the values and traits needed to be positive members of society.
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