In learning about the laws of tzara’as, we find posukim which are a pelah, a wonderment.
Torah relates in Parsha Tazria;
“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.”
R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirch, z’l provides commentary in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman) on the posukim at the beginning of our Parsha regarding Negi’yim — spots, Tzoras (Sefer Vayikra, Parsha Tazria, pages 420-422):
…Every spot of tzoras that strikes a member of the Jewish nation is to remind him of the experience of Miriam. This will lead him to careful observance of relevant halachot. Every spot of tzoras, is to be regarded as punishment for social wrongdoing; and the confinement outside the camp — national area around the Sanctuary of the Torah — has no other purpose or reason than…. to instilll in man the awareness of his unworthiness.
Metzora, … Motziya rah [transliteration of the 2 words which form Metzora], a slander.
Why just for the Metzora is it ordained, ‘…He shall dwell apart, outside the camp shall his dwelling be’ (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 13, posuk 46)? He induced a rift between a man and his wife, between a man and his neighbor; therefore he too, is to be seperated from everyone and remain alone outside the camp.
In a wider sense, seven social sins are cited (Arachin 16a) as causes of negi’yim [spots]…. “slander, the shedding of blood, perjury, sexual immorality, arrogance, robbery and stinginess.”
…These sins and faults are… attributed to the organs of the body which are misused in praacticing them…. Thus, the eyes, the mouth, the hands, the heart, the feet — in short, the whole person is despised by Hashem…. Instead of using his organs and faculties that have been granted to him to conduct himself with humility and truth, to practice lovingkindness, justice and good deeds, and to speak words of truth and peace, he has become the opposite of all these. Hence he is despised and abominated by Hashem, who sends a mark upon his body as a sign of his anger; thus He expels him from the social sphere…, so that he recognize his guilt and reflect on rectifying his character.
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, this author 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 NCYI Rav who prepared the Parsha HaShevua mentioned above was indicating that, just as an individual whose affliction covered his own body because there seemed no hope for repentence and was thus deemed “pure” by the Kohen, so too, when the spiritual level of a the nation seemed beyond rectification, they still waged war successfully while being largely Ovdei Avodah Zorah. But yet, later on, when the Avodah Zora was more covert during a period of mass Teshuva, 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 one could 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. And whereas the sight of a few Israeli soldiers chasing hundreds or thousands of Arabs was seen in those previous wars, now the military is handcuffed by hands-full of terrorists and terror rockets from Gaza and Lebanon.
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 must be quarantined. Conceptually, it seems apparent that this principle would apply on a national level as well.
Parsha Metzoral deals 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 one could view 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 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.
One could find 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.
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 matzavim (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, spousal or child abuser who is 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 would seem that to bring real peace and unity among B’nai Yisrael, we Jews — ALL of us, need to rise above common human nature, show sincere, genuine contrition as a nation, and care for our fellows — V’Ahavtah L’re’icha Komocha.
It would seem that such contrition would manifest by standing solid, every Jew as one with his brethren, against the political class who would seek to divide and conquer us. Only then will our collective contrition, i.e. toward our former Gush Katif brethren, be sincere and complete. But Am Yisrael today seems a very long way from such real genuine contrition.
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 — restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage, backbone and moral stength of conviction to prevent both the eviction of Jews from their homes in all of Eretz Yisrael 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 — 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!!!
<1> As defined by R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirch, 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.