A Drash for Tazria 5768 (2008)
By Marc Mangel
By our usual procedure for naming a parasha, today’s should be called “Eesha” But it is not. The Amora Rav Simlai, whom Rashi quotes at the start of his commentary notes that the first four words after Esha can be taken as an acronym for “Z’chut” – merit
We have two kinds of merit 1) Inherited – the Divine gift to us and 2) Acquired – the merit we achieve The Alter Rebbe said that it is the acquired merit that matters and is valuable, because it is the one that involves our actions and choice. The ability to err is also the ability to achieve great things and that is what separates us from the animals.
It is the difference between talent and expertise. Bill Russell once asked “If I am such a natural athlete, why do I have to practice 11 hours a day”. We are always more involved with what we have earned than with what has been given (sometimes we don’t even notice it).
We acquire merit through mitzvot, behavior, and speech in this world. R Simcha Zissel says “A person who is bitter, angry, and depressed in this world ought to worry about the world to come”. This is the place where the points are scored.
R. Solevitchik taught that two traditions are needed for acquiring merit. Formal compliance with the commandments and making it a living experience, since without the latter the former is empty.
This time of year, when the world comes alive again and when we do an actual physical house-cleaning, is also the time for us to assess and do a spiritual and behavioral house-cleaning and start anew on the acquisition of merit through our observance, speech, and behavior.