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{Originally posted to the Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

Cancer survivors often describe themselves as living in a pause, constantly waiting to find out what will next happen, unable to fully reenter life. There is the pause in the life of the person waiting to learn if a treatment will work, if his proposal will be accepted, if she will be offered a job.


Some spend lifetimes living in a pause, not directly engaged in the world, just waiting for real life to begin, to discover meaning, to find significance in their existence. These are the people who are stuck in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

Certainly, the Garden is a pause in the creation story. We are told nothing about what was happening outside the Garden, as if nothing or no one else existed. Adam and Eve are disengaged from the world outside and challenged to engage life inside the Garden. There are no outside distractions. Adam and Eve are urged to work and guard the Garden, to enjoy the fruit of all the trees save the one.

They are part of the Garden, and therefore, part of “working and guarding”  is to work on and protect their relationship. Yet, when the snake appears, Eve stands by herself. Adam is absent. Disengaged from the world, they become disengaged from each other. Disaster follows.

And so we come to the person in this week’s portion, who has begun to disengage from relationships because of envy, resentment, anger, all expressed in negative speech. His destructive feelings bubble up on his skin and he can no longer hide the ugly emotions that beat in his heart. His friends, neighbors and family see his rashes of envy, boils of resentment, they see his hair and beard lathered in his hateful spew and they recoil. They disengage from him. They pause in their relationship. Desperate, he runs to the Kohen for guidance. The Kohen removes him from society. He has him act out his disengagement from others, and offers the disfigured man an opportunity, a pause; he will have a week to work and guard his secluded environment, consider his relationships, to do the work at which Adam and Eve failed.

The Kohen visits him on the seventh day of the pause and with a single glance will know whether the man has healed himself from within or if he has spent his period of disengagement with increased anger. Have the ugly diseases weakened or increased?

The Kohen wants the man to understand that he must learn how to use life’s pauses to master healthy engagement.

Adam and Eve fail to use their pause to “work and protect” their relationship. No wonder they withdraw further into the trees, hiding from God; their pause proved their inability to connect. God tosses them out of the Garden forcing them to learn to engage life and each other.

Shabbat comes and offers us a pause in our lives, an opportunity to work and protect our Gardens, heal ourselves from within. We can use the pause to prepare to re engage the world in joy and strength.
Shabbat Shalom.


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Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg, is founder and President of the leading Torah website, The Foundation Stone. Rav Simcha is an internationally known teacher of Torah and has etablished yeshivot on several continents.