Not to be wicked

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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

We are living in a reality that tosses us from side to side. We got over a pandemic, are in the midst of frustrating political turmoil, have just been victimized by self-inflicted catastrophes, and have withstood a furious missile attack. What is a reasonable person supposed to do in the face of such events?

A moment after Miriam the prophetess speaks lashon hara about her brother Moshe and is afflicted with tzara'at (a leprosy-like skin condition), the spies in this week's Torah portion speak lashon hara about the Land of Israel. Rashi explains that the Torah coupled these two incidents together on purpose, in order for us to notice that the spies saw what happened to Miriam, but did not learn a lesson from it. In his words: "and these wicked people witnessed it, but did not learn their lesson."

This is a completely new definition of the word "wicked." According to this definition, a wicked person is someone who witnesses a dramatic event and yet continues as though nothing had happened. In this case, Miriam spoke lashon hara and the entire nation waited for her to heal from tzara'at before continuing on their journey. Yet no one contemplated the meaning of what had just transpired. No one really paid attention or drew useful personal conclusions from the tragic affair.

Our commentators write that this lesson can be applied everywhere, all the time. It's simply a matter of looking at events not only in order to express an opinion, but rather to draw personal and purposeful conclusions. When we get angry at the current behavior of politicians, we must at the same time check if we behave in a similar manner in our own lives, heaven forbid. Instead of just rejoicing that the coronavirus is over in Israel, we need to check what we learned from it for the future. Everyone is invited to add examples of what can be learned from these and other events in order not to allow reality to pass by us without changing us.

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