I often am asked why a Jewish man needs to wear a yarmulke and tzitzis whereas a woman does not. The Yalkut Reuveni brings down an interesting Pesiktah that sheds some light on this. Parshas Tazria begins with the birth of a baby boy (zachar, זכר). The Pesikta comments, “A male is called ‘zachar’ in Hebrew from the root ‘zachor, to remember.’ This connotes that man’s mission in life is to remember his Creator and His commandments and to know why he was created, to fulfill the Will of Hashem.”
A male must work hard to remember Hashem and to recall his spiritual obligations; whereas, a female does this naturally. Women as wired for connection and thus do not need as many physical reminders about their purpose. Chazal say (Berachos 17) that there are more meritorious women than men. Women by nature gravitate to Hashem and thus they do not need to external reminder of the yarmulke and tzitzis.
Our parshiyos talk about tzaras and its cure. The Megaleh Amukos writes about how Elisha Hanavi knew to give Naaman advice about how to get rid of his tzaras by dipping in the yardain river. There are three verses in the Torah that begin with the letter nun and end with a nun just like Naaman’s name (ןנעמ). (See there that 15 such verses exist) One is “Negah tzaras ki yehyeh… hakohen.” This described Naaman’s tzaras situation. “Navi mikirbecha… tishma’un.” Naaman sought out Elisha the prophet for counsel. “Nachnu naavor chalutzim… biyardain.” The antidote was to dip in the yardain!
Metzorah: Two Perspectives
The Zohar brings down that the word negah (ענג), affliction (in this context of tzaras), can be interchanged with oneg (ענג), pleasure. What does this mean? The Zohar is talking in reference to Shabbos. One who keeps Shabbos merits to delight in it, but one who does not keep it gets affliction.
Rabbi Shimshon Pincus explains that it all depends on one’s perspective when it comes to all mitzvah performance. Do you look at mitzvos as a privilege and pleasure or as a burden and inconvenience? For example, one can look at Shabbos as an opportunity to rest from work, disconnect from media and distractions, reconnect with God, family and self and you can enjoy every moment. Or one can look at Shabbos as huge restrictions and limitations and feel like it is the most tortuous experience. “You call this rest, I can’t do anything?!” When viewed as a burden it is a negah and when viewed as a blessing it is an oneg!
In fact, the seforim bring down that oneg also stands for nahar, eden and gan. The greatest pleasures are available for one who keeps Shabbos. However, if one does not, then he is so to speak desecrating those items and like Adam, he can be banished from the most pleasurable place on earth.
The same is true with the tzaras itself. What begins as a negah, affliction, can be stemming from one looking at Torah and mitzvos in a negative light. One failed to take care of utilizing proper speech or performing other sins and was thus punished with tzaras, an affliction. However when he does teshuva, repentance, the experience uplifts him and makes him a better person. He is left with great oneg, pleasure. Many people found treasures behind the negah. The treasures came when they took down their old faulty houses, perspectives of life, and reconstructed them according to the Torah. That is where true happiness lies. May we merit to turn our negah, personal challenges, into oneg, conduits for connecting with Hashem and growth.