Unifying the People by Yitzi Rothschild


In this week’s Parashah, Hashem tells Bnei Yisrael many of the laws of Tzara’at. Early in the Parashah, He warns them, “VeNatati Nega Tzara’at BeVeit Eretz Achuzatchem,” “And I will put the plague of Tzara’at in the house of the land of your possession” (VaYikra 14:34). What message is conveyed by informing them that He will afflict them with Tzara’at immediately after they settle in their new homes in Eretz Yisrael?

This is very similar to the beginning of Parashat Ki Tisa. Hashem describes the dedication of the Mishkan, the donation of a half-shekel, and all of the utensils in the Mishkan. Immediately after the dedication of the Mishkan, Hashem reminds Bnei Yisrael them to keep the laws of Shabbat. Why was this necessary right after the dedication of the Mishkan? Rashi (Shemot 31:13 s.v. Ach Et Shabetotay Tishmoru) explains that although Hashem was proud to see the Jews hard at work fulfilling His command and building the Mishkan, they were not supposed to be so engrossed in the work to forget about observing Shabbat.

I would like to suggest another possible answer to this question. Hashem told everyone to bring a gift to the Mishkan. According to the simple understanding of the Pesukim, Hashem did not single out any of the Shevatim in particular. Rather, He says, “VeLakachta Et Kesef HaKippurim,” “And you will take silver atonement” (Shemot 30:16). This atonement refers to the money that was used in the dedication of the Mishkan. The purpose of the silver atonement was so that there would be an act of unity towards Hashem. No gift was valued differently than another - everybody was equal. Similarly, the Pesukim describing the laws of Shabbat following the dedication of the Mishkan contain the message of unity. Shabbat is a time when Bnei Yisrael unite in Tefilah, Se’udah, and Limud Torah to sanctify the day. Both the period of the dedication of the Mishkan and Shabbat are times when Bnei Yisrael unite for the sanctification of Hashem.

When somebody encounters a white spot in his house he removes all of his possessions in order to keep them pure. He then calls for a Kohein to do an inspection. If the Kohein says that the spots are not Tzara’at, the owner can put everything back into his house. If they are Tzara’at, the owner keeps everything outside for a seven day period, and then the Kohein comes back and checks whether the Tzara’at remains. If it has disappeared, the owner is permitted to move back into his house, but if the Tzara’at is still present, the owner of the house is required to break down the impure wall, remove the stones from the wall, and bring them outside the city. Rashi (VaYikra 13:34 s.v. VeNatati Nega Tzara’at) explains that the reason the walls were impure is that they were originally walls of the Emorim, who worshipped Avodah Zarah within their confines and Hashem wanted those walls to be uprooted. Rashi continues to explain that hidden in those walls the Emorim would store all their gold. Thus, when a Jew would listen to Hashem’s command and follow the laws of Tzara’at, Hashem rewarded him with the gold he found when knocking down the walls.

Rambam has a completely different approach. He explains in Hilchot Tum’at Tzara’at (16:10) that there are three types of Tzara’at: on the home, on the clothing, and on the body. After each infliction, one has the opportunity to do Teshuvah and mend his ways. If a person does not repent, he is punished by being removed outside the camp for a seven day period in order to contemplate his actions. The person has the opportunity to correct his ways and reunite with the rest of Bnei Yisrael.

On Erev Purim, Bnei Yisrael are commanded to fast in order to remember when the Jews of Persia came together to pray to obliterate the decree of their destruction. Similarly, on Pesach, Bnei Yisrael are commanded to remember when they cried out to Hashem for protection from the Egyptians. Both Chagim commemorate our unity and the acceptance of our Tefilot.

As Chag HaPesach approaches, we should remember that the essence of the Chag is the unity of all of Bnei Yisrael. As we recite at the Seder, “Kol Dichfin Yeitzei VeYeichol.” The ones who are able should open their homes and hearts to those who need a little help. If we keep this in mind throughout the upcoming weeks approaching Pesach, then together we can properly sanctify the Chag.

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