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Parshas Tazria-Metzora - Vol. 10, Issue 27
Compiled by Oizer Alport
The Torah commands a metzora to dwell outside of the Jewish camp and to announce his impure status to others by calling out, "Tamei, tamei!" The Gemora in Moed Katan (5a) explains that this is done for two reasons. When the metzora informs other people about his condition, they will pray that he should be healed quickly. Additionally, their awareness of his impure status will help them to avoid becoming defiled through contact with him. In addition to the two rationales given by Chazal, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin suggests that this requirement also serves as an essential component of the metzora's process of repentance and atonement for his sins.
The Gemora (Arachin 16a) teaches that one of the primary causes of tzara'as is speaking negatively about others. In other words, before this individual was stricken with tzara'as, whenever he would see another person approaching him, he would begin to discuss forbidden topics with him. Therefore, as part of his process of repentance, the Torah requires him to begin his conversation with every passerby with topics that are considered mitzvos, such as warning them to avoid his impurity and requesting them to pray on his behalf. This reveals that he accepts that his condition comes from Hashem and is not arbitrary and coincidental, and it can only be cured through heartfelt prayer and soul-searching.
Rav Sorotzkin recounts that he heard from Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzenski that the Chofetz Chaim had a very unique system to ensure that he would not be exposed to hearing forbidden lashon hara. Whenever somebody would approach him, he would immediately begin to discuss words of Torah and mussar with the individual until it was time for the conversation to end, and by actively filling the available time with the mitzvah of Torah study, a convenient side benefit was that there was no possibility of inappropriate gossip being shared.
Not surprisingly, it is reported that somebody staying at an inn in Europe was told that the illustrious Chofetz Chaim and Gerrer Rebbe were both passing through the inn. Excited to meet them and receive their blessings, the man perused the dining room until he saw a table with two elderly Rabbonim. Unsure about which was the Chofetz Chaim and which was the Gerrer Rebbe, the man observed the two Rabbonim for a few minutes and noticed that one of them was dominating the conversation and doing almost all of the talking.
Knowing that the Chofetz Chaim was renowned for his concern about every word that came out of his mouth, he assumed that the Rav who was listening quietly must be the Chofetz Chaim and approached the table to greet him. To his surprise, the Rav replied that he was speaking to the wrong person, as the Chofetz Chaim was seated across the table. The embarrassed man explained that he was sure that the Rav doing most of the talking couldn't possibly be the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim responded that people mistakenly assume that in order to avoid sinning in the area of forbidden speech, the only option is to refrain from talking. In reality, somebody who is fluent in the pertinent laws will know what he is permitted to say and will have no problem finding permissible subjects to discuss.
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 Moshe Feinstein explains that Hashem metes out reward and punishment in a precise manner. The individual who became rich as a result of his house being stricken with tzara'as clearly had merits that caused Hashem to decree that he should become wealthy. However, he also had sins that caused him to lose his home in the process. Had he been more righteous, he would have received the windfall in a different manner, one which wouldn't have caused him any hardship. At the same time, while the destruction of his house will surely cause him pain, the fact that the demolition of his home becomes the very mechanism which brings him unexpected wealth and treasures mitigates his overall suffering, thereby reflecting and demonstrating the precise manner in which Hashem metes out justice.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Torah teaches (12:3) that a baby boy should be circumcised on the 8th day of his life. The Toras Kohanim adds that although the circumcision may be performed at any time during the day, it is preferable to perform the mitzvah with alacrity as early in the day as possible. If there are two circumcisions to be performed, one on an 8-day-old boy and one on an older baby, which one should be done first? (Shu"t Bris Avrohom Orach Chaim 14, Dvar Avrohom 1:33 and 2:1-4)
2) The Torah mentions that part of the process of purifying the metzora involves cedar wood, crimson thread, and hyssop (14:4). Rashi explains that because one of the causes of tzara'as is a haughty spirit, the Torah is hinting that the cure for a person who has made himself arrogant like the mighty cedar is to lower himself and become humble. Why are cedar wood, crimson thread, and hyssop used when purifying a house which was stricken with tzara'as (14:49) when it is impossible for a house to be arrogant or humble? (Biurei Mahara"i quoted in Sifsei Chochomim)
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