As a young man, Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz chose to spend a few summers helping the local shluchim at Chabad-Lubavitch of Alaska. He would routinely stand outside the Alaska Visitors Center in downtown Anchorage with a pair of t’filin and packets of information about Jewish programs, greeting tourists disembarking from the scenic cruises along the Alaskan coastline. If they were Jewish, he would let them know where they could find a minyan or a good kosher meal.

The Torah makes it very clear that the plague of Tzaraas (“Leprosy”) that afflicts one who speaks lashon ha’ra, is not a natural occurrence, but rather a Divine retribution that is meant to punish the sinner. His only recourse is to absolve himself of this disease through repentance and a sincere effort to distance himself from his sin. The sooner he does t’shuvah, the sooner the plague will go away, and no medication, ointment, or healing remedy will have any effect on his ailing body, since this disease is not a natural one. This, says the Alshich HaKadosh zt”l, is the deeper understanding of the pasuk: “And behold, the tzaraas affliction has been healed…from the m’tzora.” In other words, it is up to the m’tzora to rid himself of this plague through t’shuvah – not through medicinal or restorative means.

Rav Matisyahu Salomon shlita says that one cannot be a maamin (a believer) unless he is first ne’eman (faithful). One cannot believe in the Torah and the word of Hashem unless he himself is a person who values a word. If it means nothing when I say something, then when Hashem says something, why should I believe it? The more trustworthy a person is and the more meticulous he is about his own words, the more he will be faithful to the word of the Almighty.

ואתא השוחט ושחט לתורא דשתה למיא דכבה לנורא דשרף לחוטרא דהכה לכלבא דנשך לשונרא דאכלה לגדיא ... (סדר נרצה)  

 The winter in Poland is usually grey and wet. Temperatures drop rapidly, the days become shorter, and there are frequent intervals of snow. Although Polish winters last from December to March, high up in the mountains, snow stays well into May. The coldest months of the season are January and February, when temperatures often drop to negative 20 degrees Celsius.

The Maharal (Neitzach Yisrael 10) writes that when Hashem places Jews in positions of power, from which they are able to save their people, this reveals His special love and protection for us. The Purim story, the incredible hashgachah, and the fact that Mordechai and Esther were appointed to positions of authority to bring about Haman’s downfall, teaches us the importance of Emunas Chachamim. We must always look for Hashem when He is not clearly present, but even more so must we trust the insight of our Torah leaders who are better able to strip away the physical mask that conceals spiritual reality and show us the truth. For klal Yisrael, these are the true keys to salvation and redemption.