of the Weekly Reading
To be read on Shabbat Metzorah, 8 Nissan 5776/April 16,
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
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
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"
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
(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.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
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Kabbalists, and more,
click to Metzora
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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