Parshiyot Tazria, Metzora 5775: Tzara’as, the Metzora and the “Meeting Halfway” Between Kohen and Metzora

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Parshiyot Tazria, Metzora 5775: Tzara’as, the Metzora and the “Meeting Halfway” Between Kohen and Metzora

by Moshe Burt

Our twin Parshiyot Tazria and Metzora discuss the sins of slander, gossip and other forms of speaking against or shaming another, the resultant affliction and rectification.

Rabbi Moshe Weissman, in his sefer “The Midrash Says”, cites R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch who, in turn, cites Sforno (who was a physician) in explaining tzara’as and differentiating it from the natural disease of leprosy:

The natural disease begins with a swelling of the skin which causes it to darken in color, whereas tzara’as caused no swellings and the affected areas turned white.

The most malicious type of natural leprosy known, … according to Torah law, does not render anyone tamay (impure) at all.

Torah informs that one so contaminated by tzara’as is known as a Metzora. (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 14, posuk 2)

R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l defines Metzora in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman, page 420):

Metzora, … Motziya rah [transliteration of the 2 words which form Metzora], a slander.

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.”

The Chafetz Chayim, R’ Yisrael Meir HaKohen, in his sefer “The Concise Book of Mitzvot”, lists as Negative Commandments #77 and #79 (pages 162-169) and comments citing sources:

#77/ It is a negative commandment not to tell anyone things that another person said against him.

#79/ It is a negative commandment not to shame one’s fellow man.

The Sages of blessed memory taught (Talmud Yerushalmi, Pe’ah i, See Rambam, Yad Hilchot de’ot vii 3): For three transgressions punishment is exacted from a person in this world, and he has no share in the world-to-come: iddolatry, incest or adultery and bloodshed. But evil gossip is equal in seriousness to them all…. And our Sages of blessed memory said, too (Devarim Rabbah, v 10): Evil gossip kills three; the one who tells it, the one who accepts it, and the one about whom it is told….

R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l provides commentary in the new Hirsch Chumash 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 [Torah laws]. 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 instill in man the awareness of his unworthiness.

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 separated 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 practicing 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 loving kindness, 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.

We learn in Parshat Tazria that unity, between individual Jews, as well as on a national level, was role of the Kohen (Priest), whose very essence and “inherent trait throughout the generations” has been unity. (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in “Growth Through Torah”, page 253 citing the Rabbi of Alexander).

Bearing in mind this inherent trait which, l’chatchila, permeates the Kohen, our Parshat Metzora opens with two seemingly contradictory instructions given by Hashem to Moshe (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 14, posukim 2-3):

“This shall be the law of the metzora on the day of his purification; He shall be brought to the Kohen. The Kohen shall go forth to the outside of the camp; the Kohen shall look, and behold! — the tzaraas affliction had been healed from the metzora.”

Basically, in posuk 2, we are informed that upon the metzora’s teshuvah — “…the change [which] takes place within his mind and heart”

(Artscroll Stone Chumash commentary citing R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 14, posuk 2) during his solitary dwelling outside the camp, that “…Hashem Who afflicted him will remove the mark [the nega’im — the affliction] of his degradation and he can begin the process of return.” (ibid)

It would seem to this author that while the metzora, seemingly healed, would have to be brought to the Kohen, that the Kohen has the final call as to whether the afflicted has healed, has indeed purified himself. Only once the metzora is deemed as purified, can he re-enter the camp.

Seemingly, for that reason, the Kohen must come to the metzora, therefore leaving the camp.

Yehuda Nachshoni, in “Studies in the Weekly Parsha” (pages 733-734) cites S’forno and other commentators with deeper meaning regarding the healed metzora being brought to the Kohen and the Kohen going out of the camp to the metzora:

S’forno gives… basis for a new halachic insight. Not only did the Torah require the Kohen to go out to the metzora, it also required the metzora to go out to the Kohen. Thus, the Torah requires the metzora to come to the nearest possible place so that the Kohen should not have to travel a great distance. The metzora is to be brought to the closest point outside the camp so that the Kohen can see him without excessive effort.

The Gaon of Lutzk, in his Oznayim LeTorah explains a reason for this commandment. One cause of nega’im is pride. If the Kohen would go to the metzora, the latter would be conceited by that fact. Therefore he has to come to the Kohen.

Sifsei Kohen takes the exact opposite approach. The Kohen must go out to the metzora to show him respect. This is because the metzora who was sent out of the camp was publicly humiliated; now that he has been healed, he is entitled to be shown respect in compensation. It is for that reason that the Kohen goes out to him.

Ohel Yaakov explains that the stress on “He will be brought out to the Kohen” is so that the metzora will learn an ethical lesson in realizing that life and death are in the power of the tongue. The Kohen takes him out of his tumah through the word of his mouth. He does not become tohar [pure] until the Kohen says the word “tohar.” This is measure for measure, for he [the metzora] became tamei because of his words.

It does seem to this author that this “meeting halfway” between the Kohen and metzora strikes a balance between showing kavod (respect) for one who has seen the error of his ways and has done teshuvah, while not becoming conceited or arrogant as a result of the Kohen coming to him. This “meeting halfway” seems to provide practical contemporary lessons in various arenas among the diverse sectors of observant Jews in Israel.

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 brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
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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