Parsha Tazria 5768: Tumah and Tahara Relating to Nation — Revisited


By Moshe Burt

In learning about the laws of tzara’as, there are posukim which are a pelah, a wonderment. And so it is relevant to revisit a vort from last year.

Torah relates in our Parsha;

“If the tzara’as will erupt on the skin, and … will cover the entire skin of the afflicted from his head to his feet, wherever the eyes of the Kohen can see — the Kohen shall look, and behold! — the affliction has covered his entire flesh, then he shall declare the affliction to be pure; having turned completely white, it is pure. On the day healthy skin appears …, it (the affliction) shall be contaminated.” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 13, posukim 12 – 14)

This citing and others in our Parshiyot teach us that it is the Kohen who makes the call, who gives the diagnosis; ta’amei or tohar. But why the Kohen? Why not a great Talmud Chacham? Why does it have to be a Kohen?

The answer would seem to lie in the contrast between what loshen hora is and what the Kohen represents to the B’nai Yisrael as exemplified by Birkat Kohanim.

In Yehuda Nachshoni’s “Studies in the Weekly Parsha” (pages 726-727), one of his citings; R’ Simchah Bunim of P’shischa states that;

“loshen hora … utilizes man’s animalistic instinct only for evil purposes, simply to destroy and tear apart, just as a wild animal.”

He then cites the S’fas Emes on Parsha Metzora;

“In everything, there is a mixture of evil and good. And so with man. In general, good overcomes the evil, for there is more good. But one must be careful not to exclude evil from the community… ‘Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit … seek peace and pursue it,’ which means that (the evil) is to be engulfed by the common good, as indicated in the act of taharah of metzora…’ The emphasis is to return to the source and to cleave to the root, and when one is within the common good he can be rectified.”

This explanation seems to add meaning to the words of the third and final section of Birkat Kohanim (Artscroll Mesorah Series Bircas Kohanim, pages 80-81); “V’Yaseim L’cha Shalom” — “and may He grant you peace.”

Artscroll cites a S’forno which “interprets this as the blessing of the World to Come.” The S’forno continues that;

“One may have prosperity, health, food and drink — but if there is no peace it is all worthless. Therefore the blessings are sealed with the gift of peace.”

Finally, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in “Growth Through Torah” (page 253) cites the Rabbi of Alexander who cites as the reason why the Metzora is sent to Aharon, the Kohen;

“One of the traits of Aharon was that he did everything he could to make peace between people.” The Sefer relates how Aharon “exaggerated and told untruths in order to bring about peaceful relationships between people.” When people quarreled, he would tell each side how highly thought of they were to the other. “When someone was told that the other person was speaking positively about him, he automatically felt positive about the other person and this greatly improved their relationship.”

With all of this in mind, let’s return to the case of tzara’as erupting on the skin, and covering the entire skin of the afflicted from his head to his feet, everywhere visible to the Kohen.

The Artscroll, Stone Edition Chumash (page #613) notes;

But someone whose entire skin has turned white is so morally corrupt that he’s too convinced of his rectitude to think of changing. There is no point in continuing to isolate him. By telling him … that all hope for his ability to improve is gone, Torah shows him dramatically how low he has sunk.

A number of years ago, I saw a National Council of Young Israel weekly Parsha sheet (the parsha sheet subsequently misplaced by me) which spoke of how Israel, in the depths of it’s corruption and idolatry during the reign of King Achav, won all of it’s wars.

The Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities, by Yishai Chasidah, brings a quote from Mesechta Megillah 11a; Three men ruled over the entire world — Achav, Nevuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus. The world was comprised of 252 provinces and Achav ruled over them all. (Esther Rabbah 1:5)

The Rav who prepared this Parsha HaShevua was indicating that, just as with an individual whose affliction covered his own body because there seemed no hope for repentence, so too, when the spiritual level of a the nation seemed beyond rectification, they waged war successfully while being largely Ovdei Avodah Zorah. But yet, later on, when the Avodah Zora was more covert, we lost Bayit Rishon.

One might follow-up on this equation by asking what the moral of this is for the Jewish people in contemporary times. The contemporary Jewish State, largely unified, fought 3 wars, in 1948, 1956 and in 1967 winning each one convincingly, particularly 1956 and 1967 when they won overwhelmingly and completely.

A great T’shuvah movement took hold in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the Jewish world after the Six Day War. And so, as I understand the essence of that National Council of Young Israel weekly Parsha sheet,
just as a Melech (King) subsequent to Achav was dedicated to wiping out avodah zora and, therefore, its instances became more covert where they had previously been blatant, the great T’shuvah movement after the Six Day War may have caused what may be understood as a collective national tzara’as to recede from covering the entire national body. As a result, derision of the religious intensified among elitists and an increasingly leftist-controlled media, as well as among those few who held monopolistic control over national capital. Sectors in Israel became more openly polarized toward each other where, previously, the animosity was beneathe the surface subserviant to a national unity of purpose. And we learn that as long as the tzara’as covers the entire, visible body, the afflicted is deemed pure, but when affliction recedes and no longer covers the entire visible body, the afflicted is deemed ta’amei (contaminated) and most be quarantined.

That may possibly be the message behind our current national travails in the aftermath of the results of the Lebanon conflict of the summer of 2006 and as we mark 30 months since the expulsion by Medinat Yisrael of our Jewish Brethen from Jewish land in Gush Katif and the Shomron. That may be the message for remembering Amona, as well as the context of Chevron’s “Peace House” and on-going efforts by expelled former residents of Yishuv Homesh to retake and reconstitute the town as well as Olmert’s drawing board containing more expulsion plans jeopardizing 100,000 or more Jews living in Yehuda and the Shomron.

May we be zocha in this coming year that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the 3 captive Chayalim and the other MIAs be liberated and returned to us and that we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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