"Why do crabs need to break out of their old shells in order to grow bigger?"
His older sister, Rachel, gave him a glare. "David! We're eeeeaaaating."
"Seriously," David persisted in his questioning. "It must be painful—imagine having to shed your comfy shell… Our biology teacher just laughed at my question today, but I really mean it!"
Rachel was about to launch into a lecture about how biology should never be mentioned at the dinner table, when she noticed their father clearing his throat.
"You know," Mr. Cohen began, "your question is actually connected to this week's Torah reading." David blushed with pride. "I didn't realize it had anything to do with the reading of Tazria!"
"Oh yes," his father continued. "Let's see…what does Tazria talk about?"
Rachel leaned forward with interest. "It's all about tzara'at. That was a skin disease somewhat similar to leprosy that the Jews used to get if they spoke negatively about someone else, lashon hara. They would have to leave the camp or the city and remain outside until their tzara'at was cured."
Mr. Cohen smiled. "True, whoever got tzara'at needed to leave the encampment. How do think that person felt?"
"Painful, hurt, humiliated... hey, are you comparing them to crabs?!" Ben looked at his Dad. "How could you? The crabs are going through the pain to grow—something good is happening. And… I mean… someone who got tzara'at needed to go through the pain as a punishment! There's no comparison!"
Rubbing his hands together, Mr. Cohen looked at his two children. "It may seem like there is no similarity between a crab and someone with tzara'at—but there is. Tzara'at may seem like a punishment, but it is in fact a cleanser. At the end, only good came out of it—the person became a changed man!"
"I get it," Ben exclaimed, "The punishment was not so terrible, because in the end, there was an improvement—he became like a new person!"
"Bingo! The name of the Torah reading, Tazria, which means "to plant," is also a hint to this, teaching us that something new and positive comes from hardship. You plant the seed in the ground, it autodestructs, and then you get something new growing."
They all sat there in silence, until Rachel summed it up: "No pain, no gain!"
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