by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashios Tazria/Metzora(66)This week's double sedras deal with the laws of purity. First with those relating to a woman who gives birth, then to the various laws of the metzora (leper).
Let us look at the last Rashi-comment on parashas Tazria. The verse deals with the purifying a garment that contracted tzara'as. .
And the garment, either warp or woof, or any vessel made of leather, which you will wash, and the affliction is removed from them, then it shall be washed a second time and shall be clean.
It shall be washed a second time: Rashi: This [word "Chubas"] connotes ritual immersion. (not washing). The Targum (Aramaic translation of Onkelus) of words "kibusin" (washing) in this section are all the language of whitening (cleansing) , except for this one. Which means, not whitening, but rather immersion; therefore the Targum translated it here as "v'yitztaba" (which means immersion in a mikva).
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING ?
Rashi clarifies the meaning of a word on the basis of the Aramaic translation of Onkelus. This seems clear enough.
Notice that the verb "chubas" appears two times in this verse, once as "t'chabais" = "you shall wash" and once as 'v'chubas" = "and it shall be washed." But the first time it means "to clean" and the second time it means to immerse in a mikva.
Now do you have a question on Rashi? (and on Onkelus)
An Answer: How do they (Rashi & Onkelus) know that this second word does not also mean "to wash" as all the other times it appears in this section ? Can you think of two indications that this washing was for purification ?
Hint: Read the whole verse and compare with the previous verses.
HOW DOES RASHI KNOW
An Answer: Only in our verse does it say "and it will be pure." This indicates that this washing is for purity purposes; such washing is done in a mikva and not with soap.
Also the verse says the tzara'as was removed by the previous washing, so this second washing could only be for purification purposes.
THE MESSAGE OF TZARA'AS
While the laws of Tzara'as are complicated, their main message is clear and simple.
Both the Rambam and the Ramban tell us that tzara'as, either on a person, on his clothes or on the walls of his house, are not natural phenomenon, which can be analyzed and understood medically or chemically. These are physical manifestations of a spiritual message. The message exists only in the Land of Israel where the people, being in the palace of the King, are held to a higher moral and religious standard.
The message is clear, as we have said, for the Torah spells it out in Devarim 24:8,9. There it says:
"Beware of tzara'as affliction to be very careful and to do as all that the Kohanim and the Levites will teach you, as I have commanded them, be careful to do.
Remember what Hashem , your G-d, did to Miriam on the way when you were leaving Egypt. "
We see that the Torah connects tzara'as with Miriam's punishment. Her punishment was contracting tzara'as after she had spoken Lashon Hora against her brother Moses. (see Bamidbar 12: 1-16).
Is there any explanation why tzara'as specifically should be the punishment for speaking Loshan Hora ?
Your ideas can be as good as any. Think creatively.
An Answer: I would suggest the following. Miriam spoke about the Kushi (black) woman that Moses took for a wife. This didn't find favor in Miriam's eyes. Miriam contracted Tzara'as which was white as snow! Miriam judged a woman by her outer appearance. She was black skinned on the outside , but pure (white) on the inside - her character was good. As a punishment, Miriam became white on the outside although at this time her character (on the inside) was flawed (black).
Tzara'as is the punishment for bad-mouthing another person. We are warned to always look beyond the surface - all that you see about a person on the outside may be only half the story, or less! Appearances are deceiving; don't judge on the basis of appearances.
Or better yet - don't ever judge another - unless you are a member of a Beis Din!
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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