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Parshas Tazria-Metzora - Vol. 12, Issue 26
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Parshas Tazria and Parshas Metzora primarily revolve around the subject of tzara'as - the different forms in which it can appear, the laws determining which afflictions are pure and which are impure, and the purification process for one who is stricken with tzara'as. The Gemora (Arachin 16a) teaches that one of the primary causes of tzara'as is speaking negatively about others. The biographical introduction at the beginning of the sefer Kochvei Ohr by Rav Yitzchok Blazer, one of the chief disciples of Rav Yisroel Salanter, records a frightening story on this topic.
Rav Blazer left clear instructions that he should not be eulogized after his death. When he passed away in 1907, Rav Shmuel Salant, who was the Rav of Yerushalayim at the time, ruled that this request must be honored. However, Rav Chaim Berlin, who also lived in Yerushalayim and was a close friend of Rav Blazer dating back to the period when he was the Chief Rabbi of Moscow and Rav Blazer was the Rav of St. Petersburg, came under pressure to eulogize Rav Blazer. He noted that that there was a precedent to disregard such instructions, as the Noda BiYehuda had done in eulogizing the P'nei Yehoshua in spite of the fact that the P'nei Yehoshua had explicitly requested not to be eulogized (Pischei Teshuvah Yoreh Deah 344:1).
Rav Berlin proceeded to give a public eulogy of Rav Blazer, which he suggested was a form of compromise. He explained his reasoning by pointing out that in recording Avrohom's response to the death of his wife Sorah, the Torah uses two different expressions, saying (Bereishis 23:2) that he came lispod l'Sorah v'livkosa - to eulogize her and to cry over her death. The nature of a eulogy is to praise the deceased, whereas crying emanates from the loss felt as a result of the death. In this case, Rav Berlin noted that Rav Blazer had only forbade eulogizing him by discussing his accomplishments and greatness, but he in no way prohibited a gathering for the purpose of crying over and mourning his loss, which Rav Berlin proceeded to do.
In a letter quoted there, Rav Berlin writes that on the following Friday night, Rav Blazer appeared to him in a dream to thank him for honoring his request and refraining from publicly praising him. Rav Berlin decided to seize the opportunity and asked Rav Blazer to tell him about the judgment in the next world.
Rav Blazer replied that Hashem's Heavenly Court is incredibly strict and harsh and is beyond the comprehension of any human in this world. He added that the area in which the judgment is the most stringent is forbidden speech, and although Torah scholars have many merits, Hashem is exceedingly strict regarding sins that involve speech. Rav Berlin asked Rav Blazer how he had fared in his own personal judgment, to which he replied that the entire week he had not been permitted to appear to Rav Berlin to thank him, until he was finally granted a reprieve on Shabbos and allowed to come, at which point he disappeared. This insight is even more powerful in light of the fact that it was conveyed by Rav Blazer, who was known to be exceptionally careful in his speech and maintained a taanis dibbur in which he completely refrained from speaking other than for Torah study and prayer every year for 40 consecutive days, from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur.
When Rav Eliyahu Lopian would repeat this story to the students in his yeshiva, he would conclude by emotionally repeating over and over חטא הלשון נורא מאד - sins of speech are incredibly severe - and there is nothing that can protect and come to the defense of somebody who sins in this area, a message which we should take to heart and remember the next time we are tempted to disparage another person or pass on a juicy piece of gossip.
Parshas Tazria discusses the laws governing an adam (person) who has tzara'as on his skin. The Zohar HaKadosh teaches that of the many Hebrew words which refer to a person, the word adam is used to connote a respected individual. Why is a person who has sinned and brought tzara'as upon himself referred to using an expression that signifies importance?
Rav Nissan Alpert explains that a person isn't measured by his mistakes. All people are human and are prone to err from time to time. Rather, a person's worth is determined by whether he learns from his mistakes. A Torah scholar who is content with the spiritual level that he has attained and has no ambitions to continue improving himself can hardly be considered a great person. On the other hand, a regular Jew who constantly works to improve himself so that he doesn't repeat his sins is certainly to be admired. In our case, although the person was stricken with tzara'as, if he comes to a Kohen to understand what he did wrong and to learn how to correct his ways, the Torah teaches us that nobody could be more important and deserving of our respect.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) A shoteh - insane person - is exempt from doing mitzvos. Which mitzvah may be performed even by a shoteh? (Rambam Hilchos Tumas Tzara'as 9:2)
2) The Torah requires (13:3) a person who may have tzara'as to show it to a Kohen. 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? (Chiddushei Rav Yosef Karo)
3) The Torah requires (13:45-46) a metzora to dwell outside of the Jewish camp and to call out, "Tamei, tamei!" The Gemora in Moed Katan (5a) explains that this done so that people will pray on his behalf that he should be healed quickly. Why is the metzora required to request other people's prayers more than any other person who is ill? (Medrash Yehonason Parshas Metzora)
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