fearing the right things for the right reasons.
For example, we should be afraid to be bad.
We should have a fear of being bad and doing bad things.
That's a major aspect of warning us against the slander-induced skin disease of tzaraat mentioned in the parshah.
Many people fear the opinions of others. But really, we should train ourselves as much as we can to fear Hashem's opinion of us.
What does HASHEM think about what we did or said?
Hashem vs. Social Media Monkeys (Updated to reflect accurate information after further investigation of events)
I remember when a middle-aged nurse in England committed suicide after a couple of despicable DJs prank-called her hospital pretending to be Queen Elizabeth & Prince Charles, and with the most helpful of intentions, she transferred them to the Duchess Kate's nurse, who then gave them personal details regarding Duchess Kate's severe morning sickness.
The interaction was recorded and spread throughout the world, with millions of dunderheads heaping scorn upon the well-intended nurse.
Tragically, the nurse who merely transferred the call crumbled amid the onslaught of meaningless opinions expressed by millions of vapid baboons in comment sections, likes, and posts.
Allegedly, she also felt hurt by her hospital's handling of the whole incident.
In addition, it seems that the nurse was already taking antidepressants and struggled with suicidal thoughts when the call came in.
Death by her own hand occurred only 3 days later.
The scorn & mockery of deplorable baboons still hurts, especially when it occurs on such a global scale, creating a situation that may never completely end and offering the victim nowhere to hide.
Part of the humiliation came about because the Australian DJs used what they described as "ridiculous comedy accents."
However, many who aren't British natives struggle to tell the difference between different accents and won't recognize a British "comedy" accent, especially over the phone (me included). The nurse grew up in India and lived in Oman before moving to England.
However, had she considered what Hashem thought about her actions, she might have realized that while she should have handled it more conscientiously, she meant to be helpful.
Furthermore, the worst consequence of the innocent mistake resulted in the revelation of some personal medical information regarding the Duchess, but nothing harmful or scandalous.
That's how Hashem likely saw it.
Yet she faced scorn and jeering on a level that should be reserved for someone who does something truly awful (like what the two depraved DJs did to her).
BTW, the prank call also diverted time & resources from running the hospital. Who says it's okay to do that for the sake of a sick joke?
So in our upside-down world, healthy fear & fearing the right things proves an increasing challenge and the surrounding values & priorities deteriorate.
Fortunately, the Torah holds up examples for us to examine where our priorities should be.
Attempt the Bare Minimum of Teshuvah because Hashem Never Overlooks a Sin Until You 'Fess Up
On pages 8-9, Rav Miller explains that even if you abandon a certain behavior, you still need to do teshuvah on it.
You need to verbally confess it to Hashem (and make amends if it involved someone else).
Rav Miller explains regarding Bava Kama 50a:
It means that anybody who says that Hakodosh Boruch Hu overlooks a man’s sins and won’t punish, so the man who says such a thing, he’ll be punished severely just for saying that.
Because so many people get consumed with toxic shame so easily, it pays to encourage people to keep their eye on their ultimate goal and keep moving forward.
However, as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov recommends, a person may simply say something, "Hashem, I committed this-and-such sin. I'm sorry and I regret it. Please help me to never do it again." And the sincerely make an effort to not mess up again.
If it involved another person, an apology or financial restitution may also be necessary.
I think we all know people who resist taking an honest look at minimally one of their behaviors or past actions, and saying, "Yes, that was wrong. I should have done this-and-such instead. I regret it."
Maximum, they tend to dismiss it by saying, "Oh, well. Maybe it wasn't the best thing, but what does it matter now? Can't do anything about it now, so why bother?"
But they could at least say to Hashem, "I handled that situation wrongly. I regret that."
Yet they don't.
And we see that even if they're otherwise highly intelligent or talented, something in their emotional growth seems stunted as we interact with them.
But people needn't and shouldn't drown in toxic shame.
Is Hashem Trying to Tell Me Something?
Unfortunately, he refused to invest in any self-introspection or change of behavior.
So he continued with his abusive behavior by growling and expressing displeasure via the only part of his speaking apparatus still in operation: his throat.
I keep this in mind for my own self-restraint because abusive people always think their abuse is justified. They do not see themselves as abusers but rather as the victim.
It's easy to justify one's bad behavior as "not my fault" or "he deserved it" or "just kidding!"
Believe me, the jaw-diseased guy felt his family deserved the lash of his tongue.
So his belief in himself as a victim kept his heart hardened.
Yet if a person's jaw starts to deteriorate, it should bring one to ponder: "Do I use my jaw properly?"
Perhaps he could have halted or even reversed his disease by halting his verbally abusive behavior.
But we know what the Gemara says about how a rasha standing at the gate of Gehinnom still won't do teshuvah...
Healthy Fear Contributes to Our Happiness
On page 14, Rav Miller emphasizes that real fear of Hashem coming from a healthy place is beneficial.
When the fear comes from obsession or meshugas, it harms people.
One needs to know the difference.
Healthy fear makes us happier and better-behaved people.
Don't forget to check out the practical tip on page 15.