Weekly Reading Insights: Metzora

Overview of the Weekly Reading

To be read on Shabbat Metzorah, 8 Nissan 5776/April 16, 2016

Torah: Leviticus 14:1-15:33;  Haftorah: Kings II 7:3-20 (four metzorah men)

Metzora is the 5th Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and it contains 4697 letters, in 1274 words, in 90 verses

Metzora discusses the process of purification for a metzora (one having tzara’at*), the poor metzora’s offering, tzara’at on houses, and concludes with laws about male and female discharges which cause impurity and means of attaining purification from these.
* tzara’at is a discoloration appearing on skin, hair, garments, and houses, and is sometimes (inaccurately) translated as 'leprosy'

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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The Torah portion we read this week begins with the words, "This is the Torah of the metzora." A metzora is a person who contracts a skin blemish (tzara'at), sometimes mistakenly referred to as leprosy. This blemish represents a type of spiritual impurity which had to be cleansed by a process initiated by the cohen (priest) seeing it. We find two individuals in the Torah who were infected with this skin impurity. Moshe and his sister Miriam. In both cases it was because they spoke negatively about others, speech that is referred to as "lashon harah," or evil speech. In the Talmud (Erechin 15b), the great first century Talmudic scholar, Reish Lakish, tells us that we see a hint to this sin in the word "metzora." The word "meztora" can also be read, "mozti rah," or "one who takes out (or expresses) evil" about others.

The Shlah Hakodesh (author of Shnei Luchot Habris and chief rabbi of Jerusalem in the 1500's) writes that a person should know that even though they speak badly about others and do not see a blemish they should not think that nothing happened. We live in times when the spiritual roots to the things that happen around us are hidden. And when the blemish does not come out on a person's skin, it comes out on a person's soul, which is much much worse. The Chida, a famous 18th century scholar, says that in the verse, "and there was a blemish, v'haya nega," the word "v'haya," is always used to denote happy occasions. What is the happy occasion here? That the blemish came out on our skin and not on our souls.

The Grand Rabbi, Rabbi Aharon of Karlin, gave Reish Lakish's interpretation a positive twist. What can we learn from the word "metzora," that one "takes out evil"? When a person studies Torah, G-d's will and wisdom, they are given a special ability to not only identify the evil in themselves, but even to learn how to take it out, to literally remove all of the internal blemishes that they contracted through their negative behavior. Unfortunately, there is a negative side to this perspective as well; if one was given this amazing insight but does not take advantage of it, G-d forbid - i.e. one did not distance himself from his negative desires and evil behavior - not only will the evil remain, but the learning was of zero value, and it is considered as though a person was occupied with vanities. When the opposite happens, and a person succeeds in distancing himself from his negative desires that were until now ingrained, and even more, broadens his or her heart to truly serve and connect to Hashem joyously, then most certainly his study was not just study. Rather he was uniting himself to the Almighty with every letter and word and thought generated from it.

Another great Chassidic Rebbi, Rabbi Asher of Stolin, used to berate his followers for coming to him and strutting their good qualities while hiding their faults. He would say: "When I would go to my rebbe, the saintly Shlomo of Karlin, (son of Rabbi Aharon, above. When he would say his rebbi's name he would kiss his fingers to express his great love.) I would hide my qualities and reveal my faults, because, 'You must show your blemishes to the Cohen.'" (13/2) Just as the Cohens of old were our spiritual guides so are our Rabbis of today.
(Taken from Otzar Yisroel, Shlah, Bais Aharon, and Sipurei Chassidim.)

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,
click to Metzora

one sample:

Chasidic Masters
Eating Humble Pie

By Binyomin Adilman, based on Chidushei HaRim

Leprosy came as a punishment for arrogance. Cedar, which is tall and stately and symbolizes pride, taught the leper the proper way of humility. Humility and submission do not require that the body be bent over in the process; of paramount importance is inner humility and acceptance

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