Parshat Metzora 5779: “Meeting Halfway” Between the Kohen and the Metzora

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Metzora is being sponsored by Seth and Ester Grossman and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for a full recovery and good health for Atara Tziona bat Shulamit Gila To the Grossman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Metzora 5779: “Meeting Halfway” Between the Kohen and the Metzora

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 inter-related Parshiyot each stand on their own.

To quickly review, the term “metzora” as expressed by R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman):

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.”

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin writes in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra as a summary of the double Parshiyot of Tazria-Metzora (page 81):

…The primary topic of these parshiyot [is]: the diagnosis and treatment of tumah brought about by… tzara’at, biblical leprosy.

In great depth, the Torah reviews a wide variety of physical ailments, conveying critical information to the Kohanim who are responsible for the identification and management of afflictions falling into the category of tzara’at. Included in this review are afflictions affecting persons, garments and dwellings [and] additional laws concerning zav, impure bodily emissions and niddut, laws surrounding a woman’s monthly cycle.

R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, 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, Tzaraas (Sefer Vayikra, Parsha Tazria, pages 420-422):

…Every spot of tzaraas 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 tzaraas, is to be regarded as punishment for social wrongdoing; and the confinement outside the camp — the national area around the Sanctuary of the Torah — has no other purpose or reason than…. to instill in man the awareness of his unworthiness.

And so, we learn that one afflicted with tzaraas has the status of a metzora.

We learned last week in Parshat Tazria that unity, between individual Jews, as well as on a national level, was the 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 Parsha 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 who provide 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 the 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 publically 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 has its practical contemporary lessons and applications in various arenas among the diverse sectors of observant Jews in Israel.

May we, the B’nei 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 and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four plus years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila 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 Al’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.