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 Parshas Tazria/Metzora - Vol. 5, Issue 27
Compiled by Oizer Alport


L’havdil bein hatamei uvein hatahor uvein hachaya hane’echeles uvein hachaya asher lo seiachel ... Isha ki sazria v’yalda zachar (11:47-12:2)

            When he was six years old, the Vilna Gaon was asked if he could explain the juxtaposition of the end of Parshas Shemini to the beginning of Parshas Tazria, two parshios with no immediately apparent connection. He immediately walked to the bookshelf, brought a Gemora Yoma to the table, and proceeded to open to folio 82a.

The Gemora there discusses an episode in which two women were pregnant on Yom Kippur. Both smelled a pungent aroma which caused them to be seized with an overwhelming need to eat immediately. The Sages suggested that somebody whisper in the ear of each woman a reminder that it was Yom Kippur. One woman was able to regain her senses and successfully completed the fast, while the other continued to demand food. Because it was a question of saving her life, she was permitted to eat. The Gemora concludes that the first woman gave birth to the righteous Rebbi Yochanan, while the second woman gave birth to the wicked Shabsai Otzar Peiri, who used to hoard fruits to drive up the prices, thereby causing untold suffering to the poor.

The Vilna Gaon suggested that the juxtaposition may be read as hinting to this episode. Our parsha ends by teaching that a separation between the pure and the impure will be caused by the difference between the pregnant woman (often referred to in the Gemora as “chaya”) who eats (on Yom Kippur) and the one who doesn’t, and Parshas Tazria begins by clarifying that the difference in purity will be manifested in the sons they will bear!


Ki savo’u el Eretz Canaan asher ani nosein lachem l’achuza v’nasati negah tzara’as b’veis eretz achuzaschem (14:34)

            Parshas Tazria introduced us to the laws governing the different types of tzara’as which can afflict a person’s body. Parshas Metzora begins by teaching the elaborate procedure which a stricken person must go through to purify himself. Afterward, we are introduced to a new type of tzara’as, one which afflicts a person’s home.

            Curiously, Rashi comments that in warning the people about the possibility of tzara’as striking their homes, Hashem was actually conveying good news. Because the previous Canaanite inhabitants hid their treasures in the walls of their houses, the process of scraping a house with tzara’as would actually reveal to them valuable items. This concept seems difficult to understand. Although discovering the hidden treasures would certainly lessen their pain, why did Hashem choose to give them reward in this peculiar manner?

            Rav Mordechai Kamenetzky offers an inspiring answer to our question based on the following story. After the conclusion of World War 2, Rav Eliezer Silver was active in visiting DP camps to give physical and emotional support to the survivors of the Holocaust. One day Rav Silver was organizing a minyan for Mincha, but one man refused to join.

The man explained that when he was in a concentration camp, there was a religious Jew who managed to smuggle in a siddur. He “rented out” his siddur in exchange for a person’s food rations. When this man saw how a religious Jew could take advantage of his siddur at such a time, he resolved that he would never pray again. Rav Silver gently suggested that instead of focusing on the actions of the man with the siddur, perhaps it would be more appropriate to recognize how many Jews were willing to give up their precious food rations in order to be able to pour out their hearts to Hashem in prayer.

            Rav Kamenetzky notes that one of the primary causes of tzara’as is lashon hara, which comes from focusing on the shortcomings of others. To the gossiper whose house is afflicted with tzara’as, the Torah hints to the importance of digging beneath the surface and not focusing on superficial deficiencies. Although the house may appear at first glance to be stricken with tzara’as, a deeper look will uncover the presence of valuable gems waiting to be discovered just beneath the surface. Upon contemplating this, he will come to understand that his fellow Jews are just the same.  If he only takes the time to adjust his perspective, he will be able to dig deeper and discover the beauty which lies beneath the surface.

Rashi writes (Shemos 1:1) that the Jewish people are compared to stars. The Baal Shem Tov explains that to a person looking up into the night sky, each star appears very small. However, if a person could approach a star, he would find that the closer he gets to it, the larger it appears. Similarly, when viewed from a distance, it is easy to dismiss another Jew as invaluable and worthless. At times when we are tempted to do so, we should remember the lesson of Parshas Metzora and the stars: if we allow ourselves to get a little closer and look under the surface, there are valuable treasures waiting to be discovered.


Ki savo’u el Eretz Canaan asher ani nosein lachem l’achuza v’nasati negah tzara’as b’veis eretz achuzaschem (14:34)

            Parshas Tazria introduced us to the laws about the different types of tzara’as which can afflict a person’s body. Parshas Metzora begins by teaching the elaborate procedure which a stricken person must go through to purify himself. Afterward, we are introduced to a new type of tzara’as, one which afflicts a person’s home. This concept is difficult to understand. Although a person’s body may be stricken with tzara’as to punish him for his actions, why is a house afflicted with tzara’as and destroyed if it is an inanimate object which lacks free will and which never sinned?

The Beis HaLevi explains that a person’s actions influence his physical surroundings. If a person does mitzvos and kind deeds, his environs are uplifted, and if he sins, his surroundings are negatively affected. Conversely, a person is also influenced by his environment. Noach’s generation became so wicked that they corrupted the entire world, leaving Hashem with no choice but to obliterate it and begin again anew.

In the case of the house, its owner spoke so much lashon hara that it permeated the very walls and foundation of the home, rendering it impure to its core. As if that weren’t bad enough, the house has become transformed into a place with the potential to corrupt even pure and innocent people who enter its doors. As a result, just as in the times of Noach, there is no choice but to seal it off and destroy to prevent any further damage from occurring.


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     The Gemora in Shabbos (132a) derives from 12:3 that it is permissible to circumcise an 8-day-old boy on Shabbos or Yom Tov. If a circumcision is being performed in Israel on Yom Tov Sheini, is an American mohel, who is observing the second day of Yom Tov, permitted to perform the circumcision if there is an Israeli mohel available? (Shaarei Teshuvah Orach Chaim 496:5, Birkei Yosef Orach Chaim 331:4, Yad Shaul Yoreh Deah 266:7, Yom Tov Sheini K’Hilchaso 12:1)

2)     The Torah requires a woman who has given birth to bring a sheep as a Korban Olah and a dove as a Korban Chatas (12:6). If she is poor, both sacrifices shall be birds (12:8). If she has the means, why does the Torah prescribe that she bring a dove, which is the sacrifice of the poor (see 5:7), as a Korban Chatas and not a sheep? (Meshech Chochmah)

3)     There are 7 different sins which can cause tzara’as. How many can you name? (Arachin 16a)

4)     The Torah requires (13:3) a person who suspects that he has tzara’as to show it to a Kohen for his evaluation. If a Kohen is asked to rule on the status of an affliction found on the skin of a powerful person whose retribution he fears, is he permitted to refuse to do so, or if he notices what appears to be tzara’as on the skin of somebody close to him but doesn’t want to rule him impure, may he send his friend to another Kohen, who may not come to the same conclusion, to rule on its status? (Chiddushei Rav Yosef Karo)

5)     The Torah requires (13:45-46) a metzora to dwell outside of the Jewish camp and to call out, “Tamei, tamei!” Rashi explains that he does so in order to inform other people that he is impure so that they will avoid contact with him. Are those who have other forms of impurity also supposed to announce their status to protect others from contacting them? (Toras Kohanim, Rambam Hilchos Tumas Tzara’as 10:8, Malbim)

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