This week's parasha concerns itself with Tzaraat- the blemishes a person would find on their skin, clothes or home when they had spiritually 'gone off the derech'. This would occur during Am Yisrael's desert encampment and the affected person would have to follow a certain process in order to become pure and return to the camp.
When I was searching for something to share in this week's Dvar Torah, this was definitely NOT a topic I wanted to discuss. Loshen Hara; gossip is often cited as the main source of tzaraat, but a lesser known cause is 'tzaurus ayin' translated as 'narrowness of the eye'. The Torah describes a process through which those who have a constricted view of the world (and therefore have a nega, blemish) have to 'change their eye' to become an optimistic, expansive person (and thereby be worthy of the Hebrew word for pleasure; 'oneg'). Honestly, you try writing a Dvar Torah about all that without sounding preachy!
Surely I can talk about freedom, I've just had a week off uni, the kids have had a week off school, we've all had a week off gluten (except for that one time when I opened a bag in my room to find chometz crumbs from last week's chocolate seder at Hineni - don't tell my mum). Wait, is matzah gluten? Never mind, the point is that this week Dvar Torah is meant to be optimistic, I can quote John Lennon or Mandela and we can all go back to preparing for the next two-day Yom Tov.
And then I realized, the concept of tzaarat (the blemishes) is innately optimistic. It asserts that, given due process, gossips and slanderers have the power to change their ways. How often do we give in to a bad trait of ours and just regard it as part of our personality, something we're never going to change? In the switch from nega (nun, gimel, ayin) to oneg (ayin, nun, gimel) described above, regarding the person with a negative view of the world, the simple shift of the letter ayin from the back of the word to the front is all it takes to completely radicalise a person's views of the world. This process they followed all those years ago in the desert, symbolizes the human capacity to change, which is a freedom in itself - don't you think?
Pesach Kasher V'Sameach