In learning about the laws of tzara’as, we find posukim which are a pelah, a wonderment.
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)
In “Studies in the Weekly Parsha” (pages 726-727), Yehuda Nachshoni cited a quote from R’ Simchah Bunim of P’shischa which states:
“Loshen hora … utilizes man’s animalistic instinct only for evil purposes, simply to destroy and tear apart, just as a wild animal.”
Nachshoni then cited the S’fas Emes on our 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.”
And perhaps this is why footnote #1 on Amud 25A (page 25, side A) in the Schottenstein edition of Gemara Mesechta Megillah states on the phrase “Good men shall bless You” (“You” meaning Hashem):
For he does not include the wicked among those who praise Hashem, and the Sages teach us (Kereisos 6B) that any public fast that does not include the transgressors of Israel is not accepted. They derive this from the inclusion of galbanum, which emits a foul odor, among the ingredients of the incense offered in the Beit HaMikdash. Simiarly, the wicked must be considered as part of the kehillah Yisrael (citing from Rashi; cf. Ran, Meiri).
…Here the Mishneh does not rule that “we silence him” for it is possible to construe tefillah in a favorable light — i.e. as meaning that only the righteous can wholeheartedly bless Hashem for the goodness that they receive in this world (citing Tiferes Yisrael).
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.
“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.” (Artscroll; The Stone Edition Chumash, page #613)
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 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. To recollect and understand how complete Six Day War victory was is to recall reports of relative hands full of Israel soldiers chasing hundreds or thousands of Arabs in confirmation of biblical prophesy, the Arab windows drapped in white sheets of surrender pleading for their lives and thousands of Egyptian combat boots found in Sinai when Arab soldiers shed them in order to run, for their lives faster, from the oncharging IDF.
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 such that 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, including amongst the religious, have become more openly polarized toward each other where previously animosity was beneathe the surface subserviant to a national unity of purpose.
So 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 almost 4 years ago, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in January, 2009 and as we mark 56 months since the expulsion by Medinat Yisrael of our Jewish Brethen from Jewish land in Gush Katif and the Shomron. And one would be remiss to omit Amona, Hevron’s Beit HaShalom, the trashing of Federman’s farm, the expulsion a year ago from the outpost at Shvut Ami and the current government’s implementation of the “10 month” building freeze in Yesha — all of which carry the shadow of corrupt political plans jeopardizing 100,000 or more Jews living in Yehuda and the Shomron.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May 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 to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
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.