Parshat Tazria-Metzora

A Student Publication of the Isaac and Mara Benmergui Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Tazria-Metzora         1 Iyar 5762           April 13, 2002           Vol.11 No.24


In This Issue:

Rabbi Darren Blackstein
Jerry Karp
Yisroel Ellman
Ilan Tokeyer
Halacha of the Week
Rabbi Howard Jachter
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Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut

This week's issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by the Kol Torah staff in honor of the years of hard work by retiring Editor-in-chief David Gertler.


 

The Untouchable
by Rabbi Darren Blackstein

Upon the completion of the presentation of the laws of Kashrut in Parshat Shemini, the Torah now chooses to discuss childbirth at the beginning of this week's Parsha. We are told that Moshe is to tell Bnai Yisrael that when a woman conceives and gives birth, she will have Tamei status for a certain amount of time (Vayikra 12:2). Clearly troubled as to the connection between Kashrut and childbirth, Rashi on this Pasuk (Sham Bidibur Hamatchil "Isha") quotes the statement of Rabbi Simlai in the Midrash in Vayikra Rabbah (Parsha 12 Siman Alef) who says that just as the forming of man came after that of all the cattle, beasts, and fowl during the days of creation, so too the Torah explains the laws of man's Tamei status after describing those relating to the cattle, beasts, and fowl. In other words, the Torah is presenting the laws here in the same sequence that we find these beings created during the six days of creation. However, Rashi does not elaborate at all on this idea. The door is left open for us to gather the impact of this Midrash with relation to our Parsha, for on the surface it seems to be merely a comment on the literary construction of the Pesukim, bereft of any other messages.

At the end of Parshat Shemini, the Torah says, "Lihavdil Bein Hatamei Ubein Hatahor" "To differentiate between the Tamei and the Tahor" (11:47). Hashem is telling us that our mission is to distinguish between Tamei and Tahor. Not only must we be able to tell the difference, but also to react and act differently towards each. One is to be avoided; the other is to be drawn closer, and in this case, even eaten. Keeping this in mind, we can now approach our Parsha, Parshat Tazria, where childbirth is introduced. One of the Halachic results of childbirth is that the mother experiences a state of Tumah. In light of this, we now see that the connection between the Parshiyot is not the relationship between Kashrut and childbirth, but between one kind of Tumah, and another kind of Tumah. The first kind of Tumah is one which seems to take a physical form. Certain animals are Tamei , as the Torah states many times, Tamei Hu Lachem as regarding the camel, for example (Passuk Daled).

It seems that this form of Tumah is generated by the animal's physical make-up, and the animal is therefore understandably Tamei from a physical point of view. That is to say, Hashem has branded this particular animal as Tamei. The animal cannot go to the Mikva and emerge ritually clean.
This is not the case, however, regarding the Tumah of a person, namely, a mother. Her Tumah is much more abstract because it can be eliminated by immersion in a Mikva. One might erroneously say that this Tumah is also physical because it seems to be generated by the discharge of blood. The Torah says in our Parsha that there is "Dimei Tehorah" The blood of her cleanliness" (14:4), and ostensibly there is blood of Tumah too. This does indeed seem to put the Tumah and the Tehorah in some physical category. The Rambam, perhaps in anticipation of such a notion, mentions a beautiful Halacha in his Mishneh Torah (Hilchot Mikvot, Chapter 11 Halacha 12). He writes that it is a Davar Barur Hagaluy, a clear and revealed concept, that Tumah and cleanliness are decrees from the Torah. He writes that they are not of the topics that are perceptible through mankind's knowledge and that they are thus in essence Chukim, laws which are difficult to comprehend. The Rambam continues to prove or demonstrate his point by saying that ritual immersion for Tumah is also such a law because this Tumah is not some form of filth that can be washed away with water. This is simply the decree of Hashem, and the whole matter is dependent on, Kavanat Halev, the heart's intention. We see from this statement of the Rambam just how intangible and incomprehensible the concepts of spiritual Tumah and cleanliness are. It is also possible to say a similar theory even regarding Tamei animals. Even though a species may be branded as èîà, it may be that the physical signs are just that, meaning signs and not causes. For example, lacking a split hoof and not chewing the cud would not be causes for Tumah, but warning signs for us to be able to differentiate for our purposes which animals are Tameh, because we cannot actually see the Tumah.

This being the case, we can understand the connection between the laws of cattle, beasts, fowl, and the laws of mankind that Rabbi Simlai spoke of in the Midrash (ibid.). He was not referring to random laws, but rather to the concepts of Tumah and Tehorah which run through all of Hashem's creations. It is crucial for the Jew to be sensitive to the concepts of Tumah and Tehorah because these ideas lie at the heart of Judaism. As the Rambam (ibid.) says, they are dependent on our heart's intention. Without this Kavanah we lose the ability to differentiate not only between Tumah and Tehorah but also between right and wrong, and between good and evil. All of these concepts are untouchable and intangible. We rely on our parents, teachers, and ultimately on Hashem and His Torah to sensitize our hearts concerning these concepts.

As for the Torah presenting these laws relating to mankind after those relating to animals, as was the order during the six days of creation, this idea may be a source for that which we echo in Tefillat Shacharit every day when we say: Hamachadash Betuvoh bechol yom tamid ma'asah Bereishit "And in His goodness, He always renews every day the act of creation." We state that Hashem is renewing creation every day; the process of creation is thus something that is on going. One might have thought that creation is something that happened at one point in time, and is forever buried in history, but Rabbi Simlai comes to tell us the contrary. Included in the idea of creation is not merely that which was done to construct an intelligent, populated world. Creation also represents a constant connection between us and Hashem. The Torah is our life-blood and our source for constant connection to Hashem. Rabbi Simlai reminds us of this by stating that just as the formal creation process happened in a certain order, so too are the laws of the Torah fashioned in such an order. Through the performance of what the Torah asks of us, we constantly re-establish our connection to Hashem, just as He does with us.


Transformation

by Jerry Karp

In Parshat Metzora, we learn the method of purification for one who has been afflicted with Tzaraat. The process seems quite unusual. The Metzora brings two birds. One is slaughtered; the other is taken with a cedar, a hyssop, and a piece of wool dyed in a red color which comes from a worm, and all of this is dipped into the blood of the first bird over Mayim Chaim. He shaves all the hair off his body, and is then confined until the seventh day of purification, when he shaves himself again. On the eighth day, he brings three sheep – one as a Korban Asham, one as a Chatat, and one as an Olah. The Asham is sacrificed and the blood is placed on the ear, hand, and leg of the Metzora. The Metzora must also bring a Loog of oil, part of which is applied again on the Metzora’s ear, hand, leg, and then finally to his head.

Rashi gives several brief comments about the reasons for several of the items that are brought. He says that birds are brought because they are always moving their lips, just like the Metzora’s constant Lashon Hara causes his Tzaraat. He says the tall cedar shows how the Metzora was too conceited, and the insignificant hyssop and the tiny worm from which the dye comes show him how insignificant he is now.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that the purpose of all the elements of the Metzora’s purification is to show that he is giving up his self-centered and animal life and now dedicating his life to Hashem. A wild bird is slaughtered, signifying the end of the Metzora’s animal life. Each item that the Metzora brings is to represent the animal life the Metzora used to live. The cedar and the hyssop are the highest and lowest forms of plant life, respectively, while the wool (from a mammal) and the worm are the highest and lowest forms of animal life. Together with the wild bird they represent the life of all organisms except man. However, the dipping is done in the presence of the Mayim Chaim, which symbolizes pure life. The Metzora is told to use his “animal instinct” and dedicate it to Hashem in order to achieve this purity in life. Following this, the Metzora shaves all the hair of his body, the covering of his body, which symbolizes the Metzora’s self-centeredness that caused him to not care for others. The Metzora is shaved again on the seventh day of purification to show his complete devotion to Hashem.

On the eighth day, the Metzora is reborn as a Jew, just as he entered Brit Avraham on the eighth day of his life. The Asham that he brings is to represent his leaving behind every impurity in his previous life. If the Tzaraat appears again after he brings the Asham, he must bring another Asham for he has not successfully left his impurities behind. However, this Asham is not like others; the Matanot are similar to those of an Olah but it is eaten like a Chatat. Therefore, with the Asham, he vows to leave behind all the immorality, symbolized by the Chatat aspect, and shows his direct devotion to Hashem, symbolized by the Olah aspect. The blood of this Olah is put on the ear, hand and foot of the Metzora, to show that the Metzora must use the rest of his life to two effects. First, to dedicate himself to Hashem, as the blood from the Asham is applied to the Mizbayach, and second to bring himself to the level of a truly good human being, through thoughts (represented by the ear), through actions (represented by the hand), and through effort (represented by the foot). Finally, the oil that the Metzora brings represents physical health, and teaches the Metzora an important lesson. If he wants physical health, he will have to devote every resource of his body, his thoughts, actions, and all his effort to Hashem. The remainder of this oil is applied to the Metzora’s head, the true source of every thought and action. The Metzora is now ready to devote his life to serving Hashem in every way.

Rav Hirsch shows us what the true meaning of the Metzora’s purification was. Up until now, the Metzora had led a life straying from Torah. Now, as he realizes this, he must start a new life, following in Hashem’s ways.


Look Beneath the Surface

by Yisroel Ellman

This week’s Parsha deals with a partly physical and partly spiritual illness called Tzaraat. Tzaraat is a discoloration of a person’s skin, clothing, and hair. It can even appear on the walls of one’s home.

Both the Ramban and Rashi explain that when Tzaraat first appears on the person’s home, the affected stones have to be taken out and destroyed. If person does not get the message and continues in his wicked ways, then his clothing is also affected. If the message still does not get through to him, then the person’s skin is affected and he is forced to leave the Jewish camp until the disease subsides and the Kohen affirms that he is acceptable to return.

Rashi says that the first stage of Tzaraat, the person’s house, is actually a blessing in disguise. Tzaraat on a house can bring wealth to the person affected. As the Israelites approached Canaan, the residents thought that they would eventually re-conquer the land, so they hid all their money in the walls of their houses. However, when one would remove the affected stones of his house, he would find the hidden money that was left by the Canaanites.

Why would Hashem give a blessing to someone who has sinned? What message is Hashem sending to him by rewarding his sins with money?

The answer is that Hashem is sending a message to the person who has sinned by telling the sinner to look below the surface. On the outside he may see a dirty wall. But if he digs a little deeper and he will find gold inside. The next time you look at a person superficially, stop, think, and dig deeper. There is definitely gold beneath the surface. Sometimes you need to break down the walls to find what you at first thought never existed.

Adapted from a Dvar torah by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky at http://www.torah.org/learning/drasha/5761/tazria.html



Lending a Helping Hand

by Ilan Tokeyer

Parshat Tazria deals at great length with the laws of a Tzarua. The Torah teaches us how to identify certain types of Negaim, the laws of proclaiming one a Metzora, and the procedure that a Metzora must follow. The Torah tells us: “Kol Yemei Asher Hanega Alav Tamei Hu Badad Yeshev Michutz Lamachane Moshavo, Vehatzarua Asher Bo Hanega Begadav Yehiyu Ferumim Verosho Yehiyeh Parua Veal Safam Yeateh Vetamei Tamei Yikra.” The Tzarua must leave the comforts of his home and dwell at the edge of the camp for the duration of his Tzarua status. There he must grow his hair wild and sit alone wearing tattered clothing up to his lips and shouting to any passersby “Tamei! Tamei!”

This seems to be a strange activity that the Torah mandates. Why would the Torah obligate the Metzora to proclaim his Tumah to any passersby? And if the Metzora were proclaiming his contamination, why would he have to declare his Tumah twice? It would seem gratuitous.

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin offers the following insights in his Sefer, Oznayim Letorah. The reason why the Tzarua proclaims that he is Tamei is simply to warn others not to approach him while he is in his state of Tumah. It also serves as repentance for his sin. However, we are still left with the second question of why the Metzora proclaims his Tumah twice?

Rav Sorotzkin explains that the reason for the second declaration is so that people would Daven for him and his quick Refua Sheleima. According to Chazal, if one prays for a sick person, Hashem is quicker to heal based on the merits of Yisrael. Therefore, the Tzarua is greeting the passersby at the edge of the camp with a plea that says “I have sinned and am Tamei so do not approach me, but please Daven for my speedy recovery!”

By asking all of Am Yisrael to help him recover, perhaps Hashem’s goal was to try to reverse what was wrong with the Tzarua in the first place- namely mistrust in others and the failure to respect every member of Am Yisrael. His initial sin came because he took others lightly and did not properly realize their value. If he did, he would not possibly say something bad about them. According to the Maharal, as explained by Reb Shlomo Carlebach, one who cannot refrain from speaking Lashon Hara cuts himself off from Hashem, Hashem’s world, and all of the people within it. Perhaps by asking others to Daven on his behalf, the Metzora begins his process of Teshuva and begins to reconnect himself with other people.

Another lesson we can learn from this is the important lesson of standing up for our fellow Jew. If Hashem wants us to Daven for a Metzora, one who is obviously being punished directly by Hashem himself, we can surely learn the importance of standing up for all Jews during tough times. We can learn from this unique punishment of the Tzarua the concept of Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Lazeh, that all Jews are responsible for one another. By making this punishment for Tzaraat, Hashem is telling us that if our friend has Tzaraat, He wants us to go Daven for him, and if our friend needs our help, we should not hesitate to assist, and if our friend needs someone to lean on, we should be there.

During these most difficult times in Eretz Yisrael, we should know that the Midah that Hashem wants in all of us is to stand up for our fellow Jews. If a Jew in trouble needs our support, do we dare not give it? We must each ask ourselves, “What can I do to help other Jews?” and then we must act, for if we do not, we are exemplifying the very Midah for which the Metzora was punished for in the first place.



Halacha of the Week
Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, p.888) urges even those who reside outside of Israel to be fluent in Hebrew. He writes that fluency in Hebrew facilitates proper understanding of Torah. Moreover, he writes that fluency in Hebrew can facilitate a successful absorption into Eretz Yisrael. See Rashi to Devarim 11:19 and Rambam’s commentary to the Mishna Avot 2:1.


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