Parshiot Tazria & Metzorah
By Rabbi Raymond Beyda
"If a tsaraat affliction will be in a person, he shall be brought to the
Kohen. The Kohen shall look and behold...it is a tsaraat of the skin ...
the Kohen shall declare him contaminated.
In the times when the Temple stood and Hashem's presence amongst His
people was more apparent the people were privy to an unusual communication
from G-d. When one transgressed certain commandments, particularly lashon
hara -- negative speech about others --, the perpetrator was afflicted
with a physical manifestation of a spiritual malady. A discoloration of
the skin called tsaraat struck the individual. The person then approached
the Kohen who had to make a final determination. Should the Kohen decide
that the skin disease was in fact spiritually originated then he would
declare the person a metzora and the confinement and atonement process
would begin. It was not the physical condition and its signs that made the
final determination it was the declaration of the Kohen that made the
What would happen if the afflicted himself were a Kohen? The Kohen then
had to go to another Kohen to make the decision and the declaration of
status. The reason is because the Talmud says: "A person sees all flaws --
except for his own" [Negaim 2].
A person sees another’s faults -- even ones that are minute or
questionable -- very clearly, yet has a hard time admitting to oneself of
any wrongdoing. The only solution is an outside opinion -- someone who
cares enough to tell you the truth for your own benefit. The Gemara
reveals to us that Rebbi Yohanan ben Nuri testified that the great Rebbi
Akiba suffered lashes many times because Rebbi Yohanan himself had
reproved Rebbi Akiba in front of Rabban Gamliel. Rebbi Akiba's reaction is
a lesson to all. Rebbi Akiba increased his love of Rebbi Yohanan ben Nuri
more and more each time Rebbi Yohanan reproved him. In Mishle it
says: "Reprove not a scorner lest he hate you; reprove a wise man and he
will love you."[Mishle 9:8] A fool dislikes one who shows him his faults
but a wise person appreciates the ultimate good the criticism will yield --
an eternal life in the World to Come. The great holy scholar, the Gaon
from Vilna, hired the renowned Maggid MiDubno, to reprove him on a regular
basis. He actually PAID to be criticized.
Rebbi Yisrael Salanter tells of a G-d-fearing cantor who was engaged to
perform the services on the High Holy Days. As he stood singing from his
heart the beautiful melodies he began to feel little sparks of
conceit. "How beautiful my voice is today. How moving my songs are", he
thought to himself as he prayed. "They all must be moved by my
supplications and they are all probably staring at the pulpit in
admiration and awe," he imagined. In opposition to these thoughts prompted
by his evil inclination his good inclination screamed at his
subconscious, "You are acting conceited. How can you do such a thing on
the in the Days of Awe!" The cries of the good inclination were drowned in
the sound of the waves of haughtiness and honor. There is only one
solution advised Rabbi Salanter. This cantor should have removed the
Taleet from his head and looked around the congregation. He would not see
looks of admiration rather he would have seen faces of impatience and
scoffing. That would have brought him down to size.
The Torah commands that every person grow and improve in observance of
misvot and in character development. Vital to one's success in this
lifelong task is an ability to accept criticism and see past the shields
of false pride erected by one's evil inclination. Even the Kohen had to go
to another Kohen to get a clear picture of his personal status.
TABLE TALK -- QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION AT THE SHABBAT TABLE
Why does the metzora bring two birds as part of his offerings at the time
of purification? Also, why is it that one is slaughtered and one is set
In Tehillim David Hamelekh said: "Can your silence be justified at a time
when righteousness you should speak--when with equity you should judge the
sons of man?
Rebbi Yitzhak explained: "What is man's trade in the world? He should act
as a mute. Should you think that you should also not speak words of Torah -
- the verse commands "Righteousness you should speak" [Hulin 89a]
The Sages have taught that at the time a person brings an offering to the
Temple and sees the Kohen slaughter it and offer it on the alter the
person should contemplate that the animal or bird is being offered in his
or her place and contemplate thoughts of repentance [teshubah]. The
affliction of biblical tsara-at came upon a person because of the sin of
lashon hara. When the bird was slaughtered the person would think about
the bad use to which he or she put his or her mouth and resolve to be
silent. Since there are positive, constructive ways to speak, the Torah
commanded that the metzora also bring a second bird, whose chirping would
remind him or her that there is a good speech which could console,
encourage, praise and advise others, as well as, speak words of Torah.
This bird was set free to encourage the proper use of the gift of speech.
Speech can bring death and speech can give life -- choose life. [Based on
Aperion, Rav Shelomo Ganzfried zt'l]
DID YOU KNOW THAT
One who launders a garment on Shabbat violates a Torah prohibition.
Therefore, if there is a stain on a garment it is forbidden to clean it
with water even though one does not thereby clean the entire garment.
Cleaning with talc or other substance other than water is also forbidden.
Should someone wish to clean off a garment one may rub LIGHTLY with one's
hand or with a dry cloth --but one should be careful not to rub the dirt
vigorously. One is also forbidden to wring out liquid from a garment.
[Source Yalkut Yosef, Volume4, Shabbat 2, Siman 302:1]
Raymond J Beyda
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Torah.org.