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Parshas Metzora - Vol. 11, Issue 28
Compiled by Oizer Alport
The Magen Avrohom (Orach Chaim 60:2) quotes the Sefer HaKavanos, the teachings of the Arizal recorded by his closest disciple Rav Chaim Vital, who writes that four of the mitzvos that involve remembering an event or idea are alluded to in the blessing of Ahava Rabbah, which we say each morning just before reciting Shema. The phrase u'vanu bacharta - You chose us - refer to remembering the giving of the Torah. The word v'keiravtanu - You drew us near - corresponds to the mitzvah (Devorim 4:9-10) to remember Ma'amad Har Sinai (the Divine revelation at Mount Sinai). The expression l'shimcha ha'gadol - to Your great Name - hints to the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us (Devorim 25:17-19), as Rashi writes (Shemos 17:16) that Hashem's name will not be complete until Amalek is eradicated.
The words l'hodos lecha - to give thanks to You - allude to the mitzvah (Devorim 24:9) to remember Miriam's sin of speaking lashon hara (negative gossip) about Moshe, as our mouths were created to praise and speak positively, not to denigrate others, which is one of the primary causes of tzara'as (Arachin 16a). However, Rav Elimelech Reznik of Yeshivas Mir in Yerushalayim points out that this connection is difficult to understand, as there are many mitzvos a person can perform with his mouth, such as praying, reciting blessings, and eating matzah on Pesach, and there are also countless sins that can be done with the mouth. Why were giving thanks and speaking lashon hara specifically chosen as the diametric opposites of the mouth's capacities?
Rav Reznik explains that in order for a person to express gratitude, he must possess an ayin tova (good eye), while a person who speaks lashon hara focuses only on the negative. The most prominent example of lashon hara in the Torah is the episode of the meraglim (spies). Rav Chatzkel Levenstein explains that the primary sin of the spies was their character trait of nirganus, a term that refers to a person who is constantly full of complaints and never has anything positive to say. As a result, the meraglim interpreted everything they saw on their journey to Eretz Yisroel through negative lenses and returned with a report distorted by their biases. As we say the blessing of Ahava Rabbah each morning, we should use it as an opportunity to commit ourselves to being more positive people, seeking out the good in every life situation and utilizing it to thank and praise Hashem and those around us.
Parshas Metzora begins by discussing the three-stage purification procedure for a person afflicted with tzara'as. The first step in the process involves taking a pair of kosher birds and slaughtering one of them, while setting the other bird free in the field. The Gemora (Kiddushin 57b) rules that it is permissible to derive benefit from the living bird, explaining that if it were forbidden, there is a possibility that because it is indistinguishable from other birds, an innocent person might slaughter it and eat it, unaware of its forbidden status. Since the Torah would not command us to do something that could lead to such an error, we can deduce that benefiting from the living bird must be permissible.
However, the Gemora's proof is difficult to understand, as there is a legal concept known as bittul b'rov, which states that an item that is mixed together with other more numerous similar objects loses any legal status it may have had and takes on the status of the majority. As a result, when the metzora's bird is sent away, it becomes subsumed into the majority of other birds which are permissible. If so, how can the Gemora derive from here that benefiting from the living bird must be permitted, when it becomes battul (nullified) and may be eaten even if it was originally forbidden?
Some commentators attempt to answer this question based on another Talmudic concept (Beitzah 4b) known as ein m'vatlin issur l'chatchila - it is prohibited to intentionally mix forbidden objects with permissible objects in order to nullify their status and render them permissible. Accordingly, if it was prohibited to benefit from the metzora's bird, the Torah wouldn't instruct us to send it away and cause it to become αθμ. However, this cannot be the Gemora's reasoning, as the concept of ein m'vatlin issur l'chatchila is only Rabbinical in nature, meaning that on a Biblical level, it is indeed permissible to deliberately mix a forbidden bird with other permitted birds and cause it to lose its status.
The Yad HaMelech (Hilchos Ma'achalos Assuros 15:25) brilliantly explains the Gemora's reasoning based on a chiddush (novel insight) of the Taz, who writes (Orach Chaim 588:5) that the Sages may not make a decree forbidding something which the Torah explicitly allows. According to this idea, the Yad HaMelech explains that if in fact the metzora's bird was prohibited, the Torah's command to take it and send it out amongst other birds, thereby rendering it battul and permissible, would be tantamount to an explicit instruction to intentionally nullify an item's forbidden status. Since the Taz writes that the Sages cannot enact a Rabbinical prohibition against something explicitly permitted by the Torah, the very fact that there is a Rabbinical decree of ein m'vatlin issur l'chatchila is itself a proof that the metzora's bird must be permissible, just as the Gemora rules.
The Haftorah for Parshas Metzora, which is not read this year since we instead read the special Haftorah for Shabbos HaGadol, records an incident involving four men who were stricken with tzara'as and sent outside of the city. Rashi explains that this was done in fulfillment of the Torah's commandment (13:46) that a metzora must dwell alone outside of the Jewish camp. After the Jewish people emerged from their encampments in the wilderness, this law applied to sending a metzora outside of a walled city.
However, in his commentary on Mishnayos (Keilim 1:7), Rav Akiva Eiger points out that the obligation to expel a metzora from a walled city only applies to cities whose walls date back to the times of Yehoshua. The Haftorah records (Melochim 2 7:1, 18) that the four men with tzara'as were outside of the gates of the city of Shomron. Shomron was the capital city of the northern kingdom of the 10 tribes, and it was built by Omri the father of Achav (Melochim 1 16:24). If Shomron did not exist in the days of Yehoshua, why were the men sent outside of its walls, when this requirement seemingly was not applicable to their city? Rav Akiva Eiger posits that perhaps the city of Shomron existed previously in the times of Yehoshua, and Omri merely expanded it. However, the Shu"t Binyan Tzion (2:60) maintains that this suggestion cannot be correct. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (102b) teaches that the reason Omri merited to be king was because he added the city of Shomron to Eretz Yisroel, clearly indicating that the city did not exist previously and was solely and completely built by Omri.
Instead, the Binyan Tzion suggests that when the Jewish nation was split into two, with the 10 tribes in the north and the tribes of Yehuda and Binyomin in the south, the kings of the northern kingdom did not want their subjects to travel to Yerushalayim, which was in the southern kingdom. To prevent them from doing so, they built Shomron as their capital city and attempted to imbue it with the sanctity and unique status of Yerushalayim, so that none of the Jews in their kingdom would be jealous of Yerushalayim and feel a need to go there. Part of their scheme to elevate the status of Shomron was to insist on expelling any metzora found there, not because there is any legal obligation to do so, but because they must be sent out of Yerushalayim, and the kings of the northern kingdom wanted to equate the two cities as much as possible. This explains why the four men with tzara'as were sent outside of the city walls, even though there was technically no legal requirement to do so.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) May a Kohen who is a metzora assist in purifying another metzora? (Toras Kohanim, Rambam Hilchos Tumas Tzara'as 11:6, Minchas Chinuch 173:12, Afikei Yam 2:34, Ayeles HaShachar)
2) Rashi writes (14:35) that even if a Torah scholar knows with certainty that an affliction in his house is a case of tzara'as, in relating this information to the Kohen he may not say that nega - an affliction - has appeared in the house, but k'nega - something like an affliction - has appeared in the house. If he knows for sure that the affliction is a case of tzara'as, why must he speak in this imprecise manner? (Sifsei Chochomim, Tosefos Yom Tov Nega'im 12:5, Ayeles HaShachar)
3) The Gemora refers to pious individuals who ate chullin - non-holy food - in a state of purity, even though they weren't required to do so. The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chaim 240:1) that Torah scholars are required to have relations with their wives on Shabbos night, an action which renders them impure at least until the end of Shabbos (15:16). On other days when they were impure, they could simply not eat until sundown, but on Shabbos day a person must eat two meals. How did they do so while keeping the food pure? (Magen Avrohom 280:1, Pardes Yosef)
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