Parshat Metzorah: Nerves
וּבָא֙ אֲשֶׁר־ל֣וֹ הַבַּ֔יִת וְהִגִּ֥יד לַכֹּהֵ֖ן לֵאמֹ֑ר כְּנֶ֕גַע נִרְאָ֥ה לִ֖י בַּבָּֽיִת׃
The owner of the house shall come and tell the Kohen, saying, “Something like a plague has appeared in my house.”
A German, a Frenchman, and a Jew are walking in a desert. The German man exclaims, “I am so thirsty! I must have some beer!” The Frenchman exclaims, “I am so thirsty, I must have some wine!” The Jew responds saying, “I am so thirsty, I must have appendicitis!”
As humans, we have the tendency to believe the worst about something, especially when we are worried. When we feel ill, we might jump to the worst diagnosis. When receiving a message from the boss saying “we need to talk,” being let go is at the forefront of our thoughts. When we can’t get in touch with a loved one, we might fear for their life. My mother nearly called the police when I once fell asleep at the JCC and she couldn’t get in touch with me. Our minds jump to the worst outcomes when we’re nervous.
It takes discipline to pause and acknowledge that maybe the outcome will not be so bad. The Torah instructs the person seeing a terrible moldy growth in their home to do just this. When they report this issue to have it inspected, they may not exclaim, “A plague has appeared in my house.” Rather, they must reign in their nerves and say, “Something like a plague has appeared in my house”. Maybe things are not as bad as they seem.
It can’t be helped that there will be real trouble for all of us at some point. Nevertheless, when our nerves start to act up and we scare ourselves into imagining the worst, we are instructed to leave open the possibility of a positive outcome. More often than not the imagined outcome is worse than the one that actually occurs.