Parshat Metzora 5771: Gauging the Sincerity of Individual/National Teshuvah

by Moshe Burt

In most years, our Parsha Metzora is normally the twilight side of a Torah doubleheader parsha. But this is one of those Adar Bet years where these two normally inter-related Parshiyot stand on their own. As such, this Parsha HaShevua will deal with the sincerity of an individual’s rectification of the aveirah of loshen hora — Motziya rah [transliteration of the 2 words which form Metzora]: a slander <1>, and how this author views such rectification when it would seem required on a national scope.

Firstly, we learn Parsha Tazria, as well as in upcoming Parshiyot that unity is the very essence of the Kohen.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in “Growth Through Torah” (page 253) cites the Rabbi of Alexander who cites as the reason why, when one suspected an affliction with tzara’as, that he must go to… the Kohen and not to a scholar, a Talmud Chacham;

“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.”

This trait of Aharon, his sons, of Pinchas; of conveying and facilitating unity was to be an inherent trait in Kohanim (priesthood) throughout the generations — with the Mishkan (Tabernacle), with both the Beit Hamikdash Rishon and Sheini (both the 1st and 2nd Temple) and down through the Galut to comtemporary times. It seems axiomatic; with peace, there is unity — between a Jew and his brother and on a national level amongst all groups and sectors of B’nai Yisrael.

In “Studies in the Weekly Parsha” (pages 726-727), Yehuda Nachshoni cited a quote from 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.”

In light of the above, the message of the 2nd posuk of our Parsha seems profound (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 14, posukim 2-4):

“This shall be the law concerning the Metzora when he is purified: he shall be brought to the Kohen. The Kohen shall go outside the camp, where he shall examine the Metzora to determine that the tzara’as has healed. The Kohen shall then order that for the person undergoing purification there be taken two live kosher birds, a piece of cedar, some crimson wool, and a hyssop branch.”

And, R’ Pliskin in “Growth Through Torah” (page 259) cites and explains an Ibn Ezra on why the purified former metzora is brought by another person to the Kohen:

…After the tzara’as clears up. he will not want to bring the offerings that he is responsible to bring.

When a person has tzara’as, he will definitely claim that of course he will bring the necessary offerings when the tzara’as clears up. But once he is cured, he can easily forget his obligations. Now that nothing is pressing him, he will focus on other things and not on meeting his obligations.

Some people find it difficult to meet their responsibilities. When they need favors from someone or want to impress someone, the might make many promises. But when the time comes to keep their obligations, they do all they can to avoid meeting them. A person with integrity will derive pleasure from meeting his responsibilities and not need others to coerce him to keep them.

This author finds R’ Pliskin’s explanation of Ibn Ezra a bit hard to understand in the context of the metzora; i.e. that it would be possible that one who was afflicted with tzara’as due to his loshen hora — slander, and did genuine teshuvah for his aveirah resulting in his purification, that such a person would avoid bringing the atonement offering to complete the teshuvah/purification process, thus continuing his slander.

But one can easily see the Ibn Ezra’s point that “teshuvah” followed by avoidance of obligations and responsibilities seems part of general human nature, as does loshen hora, and as does slander by way of complacent complicity, i.e. turning away from one’s fellow Jew’s matzav (difficulties) either on a one-to-one level, or on a national sectorial level. Whether it is the Jew cheated by the disreputable Jewish merchant or businessman, or the Jew who received committment for work – for a job under false pretenses, the aggrieved and battered spouse who is abandoned by heretofore friends and community, the mafia criminal permitted to walk the streets free as a bird due to bribery of police and judiciary — while the community turns away, or those who pled teshuvah for their lack of support and actions regarding the evicted former residents of Gush Katif, but who are now equally silent regarding the possible media-publicized machinations of the government — to make biblical Jewish land Yudenrein, Ibn Ezra’s point and R’ Pliskin’s explanation seem mostly well-taken. It seems to this author that to bring real peace and unity among B’nai Yisrael, we Jews need to rise common human nature and care for our fellows — V’Ahavtah L’re’icha Komocha. Only then will our collective contrition be sincere and complete.

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 — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the eviction of Jews from their homes and to prevent 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 — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

<1> As defined by R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman) on the posukim at the beginning of Parsha Tazria regarding Negi’yim — spots, Tzoras (Sefer Vayikra, Parsha Tazria, page 420).

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.