In this week's parashah (and last week's), we read that a metzora
must leave the camp or city for seven (or more) days and sit alone.
Chazal say that this is a punishment for the antisocial behavior of
speaking lashon hara.
R' Yaakov Emden z"l (died 1776) points out the many benefits
which man can attain only when he is part of society. Indeed, Chazal
say, "Give me a friend or give me death," and the Torah says, "It is
not good for man to be alone."
All alone, man could not obtain all of his physical needs,
including proper food, drink, clothing, and shelter. A person also
could not fulfill the Torah if he were alone. For example, he could
not carry out the laws of property, the laws of marriage, and the laws
A person who is all alone can never pray with a minyan or have
his Torah questions resolved by scholars, and thus he can not properly
practice a single one of the six pillars on which the world stands (as
listed in Pirkei Avot): justice, truth, peace, Torah, prayer, and acts
of kindness. Also, how can man emulate Hashem if he is all alone?
For example, just as Hashem is merciful, man must be merciful to his
Of course, there are times for being alone, but even in those
times, man should not roam too far from home. To the contrary, man is
capable of achieving the concentration that comes from solitude while
he is surrounded by people. (Migdal Oz: Perek Aliyat Habedidut)
The Mishnah (Nega'im 2:5) states: "A person sees all nega'im--
tzara'at wounds--except his own." Literally, this means that a
person, even a kohen, may not be the judge of whether he himself has
tzara'at. Rather, he must go to another kohen.
Figuratively, however, this statement is frequently interpreted
as referring to the fact that people are rarely objective about their
own faults. A person sees everyone else's faults, but not his own.
If so, asks R' Eliezer David Gruenwald z"l (1867-1928; Hungarian
rabbi and rosh yeshiva), how can a person assess where he stands? The
answer is found in another Mishnah: "One does not search [for chametz]
by the light of the sun and by the light of the moon, but only by the
light of a candle." Kabbalists and mussar works teach that chametz
represents the yetzer hara. The strong "light of the sun" represents
wealth, and the weak "light of the moon" represents lack of success.
Wealth is not an accurate indicator that a person has conquered his
yetzer hara and therefore Hashem is happy with him, and lack of
success is not an indicator of the opposite. Only the "light of a
candle," an allusion to the verse, "Ki ner mitzvah" / "A mitzvah is a
candle," is an accurate indicator.
What does this mean? If a person wants to know where he stands
in his service of Hashem, he should look at his attitude towards
mitzvot. If he or she considers mitzvot to be a burden, then he or
she has a long way to go. However, if a person enjoys performing
mitzvot, then that person is on the right track.
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Chasdei David)
Our Sages teach that if Bnei Yisrael had remained in Egypt a
moment longer than they did, they would have become mired in the
"Fiftieth Gate of Tumah / Ritual Impurity," from which there is no
R' Gedalia Schorr z"l (1911-1979; Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaath
in Brooklyn) asks: What does it mean that there is no escape from the
Fiftieth Gate of Tumah? Chazal's statement implies that even Hashem
could not have removed them from there, but surely there is nothing
that is impossible for Hashem to do!
R' Schorr explains: Hashem promised Avraham that his (Avraham's)
descendants would be enslaved in a foreign land for 400 years and then
redeemed. But not all of Avraham's descendants were enslaved in
Egypt, only those who both carried Avraham's physical DNA and were his
spiritual heirs. Had Bnei Yisrael sunk down to the fiftieth level of
ritual impurity, the spiritual link with the Patriarchs would have
been severed. Of course Hashem could still have saved them, but He
would not have been saving the spiritual descendants of Avraham.
Rather, it would have been a new people that He was taking out of
Egypt. That could not be permitted to happen.
The leaders of the town of Radin complained to R' Yisrael Meir
Hakohen (1839-1933; the Chafetz Chaim) that donations to the town's
Ma'ot Chittim / Pesach charity fund were inadequate to feed the town's
poor. The Chafetz Chaim acceded to the leaders' request that he
address the townsfolk.
"I am an old man," the Chafetz Chaim said in his speech. "Soon I
will be called to give an accounting in the World-to-Come, and, since
I am an influential person in this town, I will be asked whether the
people of my town of Radin gave generously to charity. I will then be
faced with a dilemma. If I say that they did, I will be telling a
lie, something I have never done. On the other hand, if I say that
the people of Radin did not give generously, I will be speaking lashon
hara, which I also have never done.
"There is only one solution to my dilemma - for each of you to
give generously to the Ma'ot Chittim campaign."
(A Word of Wisdom, A Word of Wit)
Perhaps one of the most perplexing parts of the Haggadah is the
song known as "Dayenu," in which we say that if G-d had taken us out
of Egypt but had not judged the Egyptians, that would have been enough
for us. Or, if He had judged the Egyptians, but had not destroyed
their idols, that, too, would have been enough for us. Or, if He had
destroyed their idols, but had not killed their firstborns, that, too,
would have been enough. Or . . . What does this song mean?
R' Eliyahu Hakohen Ha'itamari z"l of Izmir (died 1729; the "Ba'al
Shevet Hamussar") explains that for each of the Divine gifts or
miracles listed in this song, one could make an argument that G-d
should have acted otherwise. Our praise of G-d is that He considered
all these arguments and acted in the way that was best for us and for
the glory of His Name.
For example, one could argue that if G-d had taken us out of
Egypt but had not judged the Egyptians so harshly as to practically
destroy them, His name would have been magnified even more because the
Egyptians would live to remember, and to tell others, how He had
humbled them. On the other hand, one could argue that they would not
feel humbled in that event. Rather, they would say, "He won this
battle, and we will win the next battle."
G-d considered these arguments and decided to judge the Egyptians
harshly. However, one could argue that if G-d had judged the
Egyptians harshly but had not destroyed their idols, those idols would
have served as constant reminders of G-d's power to anyone who saw
them. On the other hand, some people would say that G-d was not
strong enough to destroy the Egyptians' idols.
G-d considered these arguments and decided to destroy the
Egyptians' idols. However, one could argue that if G-d had destroyed
their idols, but had not killed their firstborns, then those
firstborns would have had a special reason to tell others of G-d's
greatness. It was customary at that time to devote one's firstborn to
the service of the idol; with all the idols destroyed, the Egyptian
firstborn, who were no longer performing that service, would be a
testament to G-d's power. On the other hand, Pharaoh was a firstborn;
if the firstborns had not been smitten, people would say that it was
Pharaoh's merit or power which saved him and those like him.
G-d considered these arguments and decided to kill the firstborn. . .
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
Text archives from 1990 through the present may be retrieved from http://www.acoast.com/~sehc/hamaayan/.
Hamaayan needs your support! Please consider sponsoring Hamaayan in honor of a happy occasion or in memory of a loved one. Did you know that the low cost of sponsorship - only $18 - has not changed in seventeen years? Donations to HaMaayan are tax-deductible.