Kohanim are prohibited to come in contact with tumah. Both tumah and viruses share similarities and differences. Tumah is an invisible spiritual disease. In contrast, a virus which is also invisible to the human eye is a disease that enters the body and promotes physical damage. Unlike a virus, tumah cannot even be seen under a microscope. When one contacts a virus his physical being is compromised in contrast to tumah only one’s spirit and kedusha are compromised. The cure for viruses is medicines that must be administered to obtain a back to normal state from sickness. This is in contrast to tumah which spiritual treatments including physical procedures are the solution, such as Mikveh and the ashes of the Para Aduma. One common denominator for both diseases is seclusion even though they have different functions. The individual who has tzaraas on his body must exit the Yisrael Camp. The tzarras is not contagious since its origin is a lacking in the spiritual proper speech of man. The seclusion of the metzorah is, therefore, to aid him in doing teshuva. His aveirah of Lashon Harah causes separation between people so, therefore, midah keneged midah he is separated and socially distanced from others. This procedure is in the hope that he will realize the gravity of his transgression and will do teshuvah which will rid him of the tzaraas. This is in contrast to a virus which the seclusion is to ensure that others do not catch the same sickness. It is for protection and not to inspire teshuva.
Quarantine is a word that by now triggers uncomfortable and dreadful feelings, to say the least. Yet if one thinks his predicament of isolation is bad, just think of Rabbe Shimon Bar Yochai whose yartzeit is this week. He quarantined himself for twelve years lest the Romans who were today’s Covid 19 would come in contact with him and kill him for his alleged crimes against the government. Now just imagine that Rav Shimon did not have for all those 13 years a bed or a change of clothing like we have in our closets. He was not able to walk to a supermarket to buy the usual staples and menus that were available even during Quarantine Time. How did Rav Shimon occupy himself to fight boredom for the longest time? Of course, the answer as we all know is that he learned Torah and elevated himself to the most incredible level of deveikus with Hashem. יושב בסתר עליון If someone is בסתר secluded away from all the distractions that prevent him from coming closer to Hashem, then he will actually become closer to Hashem if he desires to do so. Dovid Hamelech is saying that if you are a יושב בסתר if you are in isolation then you have the capability of becoming עליון a lofty individual.
Life is so busy that we forget to live it. Chazal tell us that one must think and ponder on the thought of מאין באת from where are your origins. One has to review again and again the first chapter of the (Bereihshis 5,1) זה ספר תולדות האדם the story of one’s life. Every person is constantly writing his own personal sefer of his life. Chapter one in everyone’s book is the foundation stone and directive for the rest of one’s life story. This first chapter answers the most significant question that without it one’s book will be a total failure. The question that it is supposed to answer is why was I created? Without the correct answer to this query, one will pass through this world in vain without any achievement that counts in the eyes of Hashem your creator. The Ramchal begins his first chapter in his sefer Mesillas Yesharim with the statement that the foundation of life is based upon the discovery and realization of what is one’s purpose and mission in this world, שיתברר ויתאמת אצל האדם מה חובתו בעולמו to clarify and realize as absolute truth what is man’s obligation and responsibility in his world. One must first understand that if he was created by the ultimate designer of every perfect atom in creation, then he too is designed and designated for a specific challenging journey, of which his success will validate his creation in this world.
Humans live on what is called planet earth. Our world is called a planet because one must plan it. “It” is referring to both his life in this world and the next. If it is natural before a family vacation that one plans for hours all the minute details of the itinerary, how much more so does one have to daily plan his life not only for success on this planet but also for life on the planet that lasts for eternity. The saying goes that if one fails to plan he plans to fail. If one fails to constantly review chapter 1 he will unfortunately end up in Chapter 11. Koheles (7,8) writes that טוב אחרית דבר מראשיתו a thing is good at the end only if it is good from the beginning. A secondary message conveyed here by Shlomo Hamelech, is that Man will have a good end only if he constantly returns to his beginning asking what does Hashem want from me that he created me? The acronym of אחרית דבר מראשיתו spells אדם. Being connected to chapter one, all of the time guarantees that one will not come to the end of his life only to find that his last chapter that sums up his life is chapter 11. If one thinks that quarantine in this world is bad, one ch”v is in for a big surprise to discover that in the next world – the quarantine for bankrupt individuals is way worse.
Seclusion and התבודדות allows one to return to the beginning to one’s בראשית prior to your neshama descending to this world and entering your body. Chazal say that the neshama was carved out from under the Kisay Hakavod, the Throne of glory. That makes us royalty and not plain folk. As a prince, one must conduct himself in a regal manner befitting royalty and not as a peasant. Lehavdil, just like the Constitution of the United States has a Preamble that states the purpose of the Constitution and the intention of the entire document full of laws, so too the neshama has its preamble which we recite every morning. Every morning we remind ourselves of our roots by saying the beracha of אלהי נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא the neshama which You gifted to me is pure and it originates from the highest of the highest places the world of Atzilus. אתה בראת אתה יצרת אתה נפחתה בי From there it passes the world of Beriah, then to the world of Yetzirah, and then it enters the world of Asiya (בראת יצרת נפחת) to be encased in my body of flesh. Our mission and duty is כל זמן שהנשמה בקרבי מודה אני לפניך רבון כל המעשים I must thank You and acknowledge that You alone are the Master of all deeds and control every aspect of the universe. Man reminds himself every day of his mission statement which is chapter one of his personal book of Life.
This stark comprehension of one’s purpose on earth can only be arrived at, through one’s precious moments of solitude, one that is totally free from any distraction that might hinder or hold back the ability to be truthful with oneself amidst a world full of tsunami lies. Rabbe Shimon experienced twelve undisturbed years to dig for the profound truth that Hashem camouflaged in creation. Because of his 24/7 unadulterated and relentless focus on seeking the absolute truth, he was able to connect to בראשית, the yesod, the source which enabled him to write the Zohar Hakadosh which also deals with that reality and secrets of בראשית. It is not a coincidence that the acronym of his name רשב”י is found in the letters of בראשית which includes the two remaining letters of את which symbolize the Torah whose letters range from א to ת.
Rav Shimon was able to contact his בראשית the beginnings of his neshama which spells out beyond any doubt, that his life must be dedicated and devoted to Hashem and the elevation of Am Yisrael. This is also hinted in the word בראשית which represents the first chapter of one’s personal sefer. The acronym is ראוי אדם שיתברר יתאמת תכלית בריאתו. It is proper for man to clarify and attain the absolute truth of his purpose of being created which is the paraphrase of the first words of the Ramchal in his sefer Mesillas Yesharim.
The Targum Yerushalmi on the first word בראשית translates בחכמתא with wisdom as it is written חכמה יראת ה’ .ראשית Without serious thought and focus, one cannot come to improving one’s spiritual life in a deep way. I always repeat that if one fails to think he will not connect to the Hashem link and thereby allow himself to sink in the murky waters of Olam Hazeh. Isolation, even if it is for a short time only, can bring one from constantly nourishing himself from the עץ הדעת, where the good and evil are mixed together and are always confusing, and begin feeding himself from the עץ החיים and then start living as it was Hashem’s original intention for Man.