Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 24   No. 26

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Zehava Lurie a"h , Boris Glassman z"l , Shimmy Schwartz z"l ,
Doreen Schwartz a"h , Pauline & Issy Chernick z"l ,
from the Glassman, Schwartz, Chernick Families
of Jerusalem, Efrat, Netanya, Johannesburg,
Toronto, Perth, New York, Harare


Parshas Tazriy'a-Metzoro

Tzora'as - and Humility

"And the Kohen will see and behold the tzsora'as has covered all of his (the stricken man's) skin. then he shall declare the plague tahor, he has turned white, he is tahor." (13:13)

A person who is stricken with the plague of tzora'as will find a small part of his body covered with a white patch of skin. The Cohen places him in quarantine for a minimum of seven days until ultimately, he is sent outside the walls of the town to live on his own, until the tzora'as disappears. If the tzora'as spreads over his entire body, then he is proclaimed "tohor" and he is permitted to return home. How strange! Surely tzora'as spread over the entire body suggests, if anything, a stronger form of plague than if it were to cover only a small part of the body? So why this peculiar leniency?

*

The Chofetz Chayim explains that, since the main purpose of tzora'as is to lower the man's pride, as the ritual of the metzora comprised a chain of humiliating experiences, culminating with his living on his own outside the town, this is all not necessary for the man whose tzora'as covers his whole body. The ordinary metzoro, he explains, needs to be convinced that he has been Divinely stricken for his sins. And so, lest he denies this, attributing his tzora'as to some natural phenomena or other, he needs to go through the whole humiliating process, eventually to sit outside the town and to reflect over his past sins.

Not so the metzoro of whom we are speaking. The tzora'as that covers his entire body is sufficient evidence to convince him that he is indeed guilty of sinning and that the plague that has enveloped him is indeed Divine retribution. Sending him outside the walls of the town will therefore serve no further purpose, for he will already have learnt his lesson - in a manner that is short but sharp - very sharp!

*

The Chofetz Chayim draws an analogy to an episode cited in Melochim 1(21), where G-d tells the prophet Eliyohu to inform the wicked king Ach'ov that in the exact location where the dogs lapped up the blood of Novos (killed on Ach'ov's orders), they will also lap up his (Ach'ov's) blood, and that his entire family will be annihilated in his lifetime. Yet the moment Ach'ov expresses regret at his evil deed, by fasting and wearing sack-cloth, G-d orders Eliyohu to return to Ach'ov and inform him that, because he has humbled himself before Him, the prophecy of his entire family's annihilation will not be realised in his lifetime, but in the lifetime of his son. A timely show of humiliation before G-d has the power to avert harsh decrees, or at least to soften them.

*

With this idea, the Maskil le'eison explains an episode in the Haftorah of Tazriya where the prophet, Elisha, sends a message to the king of Syria, that he should send the tzora'as-stricken Na'amon to him (Elisha) "and let him know that there is a G-d in Israel". Now why was it necessary for a Syrian general to know this fact more than for anyone else? He answers with a Chazal quoted by Rashi at the beginning of Metzora. Chazal states that "since the metzora had been proud like a cedar, he must make himself lowly like a hissop and a worm". If he will humble himself before G-d, the tzora'as will have served its purpose and he will promptly be cured.

Na'amon was the greatest man in Syria, second only to the king in honour and esteem. And that is precisely how he saw himself - and that is also precisely why he was stricken with tzora'as. Therefore, he was sent the message "Lower yourself - make your own way to Elisha (your arch-enemy) - he will not come to you! And for the same reason,when Na'amon eventually arrived, Elisha did not even bother to greet him, but sent a messenger to the door with the relevant instructions - to break his pride.

Na'amon, it seems, did humble himself before Elisha, and he did accept that there was a G-d in Yisroel. That is why, no sooner had he bathed seven times in the River Jordan, his tzora'as disappeared

* * *

Links -Tazriy'a and Shemini

The Ba'al ha'Turim cites a number of connections between the two Parshiyos. Perhaps the most significant of them is the first one. He writes there how at the end of the Parshah of Shemini, the Torah exhorts us to be holy, whilst this Parshah opens with an account of a woman who conceives a child. To teach us that, even at the time of intimacy, one should conduct oneself with sanctity, and not allow oneself to behave like an animal. This is inherent in the obligation to "Know Him in all your ways" (Mishlei 3:6).

*

The Ba'al ha'Turim may well have gone on to explain the pregnancy and the birth, which are also contained in this possuk.

Maybe this is because the child that is subsequently born from the above conception will be greatly influenced by the attitude and thought-process of the parents at the moment of conception. We see this clearly from Ya'akov Ovinu, who placed spotted or speckled sheep in the troughs, so that the parents of the subsequent lambs, bewildered by the strange spectacle of the peeled sticks, would transmit that image to the babies that they would subsequently conceive (see R. Bachye 12:2 and see Rashi, Bereishis 30:38).

It is precisely because the act of intimacy is tied up with the mind that the Torah describes it as "knowledge" - (e.g. And Odom knew Chavoh his wife - ibid. 4:1).

*

Rashi connects the two Parshiyos with a ma'amar Chazal: R. Simlo'i said, "Just as man was created after all the animals, beasts and birds (i.e. on the sixth day, after the animals), so too, are the laws concerning him specified only after those of the animals.

The reasons that he was created last are manifold, and are quoted in the Sifsei Chachomim from the Gemoro Sanhedrin (38a).

1. In order that no-one should be able to say that he helped G-d to create the world.

2. So that whenever he becomes proud, one will be able to point out that even the humble flea preceeded him in the creation.

3. So that he should find the world ready for him to enter into Shabbos immediately.

4. So that he would find everything ready for his benefit and enjoyment.

* There would appear to be a fifth reason for the order of the creation being the way it is.

The creation clearly follows a distinct pattern; it begins with still-life, goes on to plant-life, animals and finally mankind. The Torah is obviously moving upward in order of progression, concluding with the creation of G-d's supreme creation - man, in keeping with the principle that what one originally had in mind is what comes into being last. (See "Lecho Dodi") (Presumably, the Gemoro declines to quote this reason because it considers it to be the synthesis of all the four reasons that it gives.)

R. Bachye in his introduction to Parshas Tazriy'a, elaborates on this theme, and connects it inter alia, to a pasuk in Tehillim (138:8) "You (G-d) formed me (Odom) last and first" - i.e. last chronologically, but first in importance.

*

Anyone who separates from his wife close to her "vesses", will have sons, as it is written "to distinguish between what is tomei and what is tohor" (last pasuk in Shemini) and then the Torah writes, "A woman who conceives and gives birth to a son" (R. Chiya bar Abba in the name of R. Yochanan, Shevu'os 18b).

*

Drawing from the same juxtaposition, he also says that someone who makes Havdoloh on Motzei Shabbos, will have sons.

*

R. Binyomin bar Yefes mainatins that anyone who sanctifies himself during intimacy will have sons, since just two pesukim earlier, the Torah writes "And you shall sanctify yourselves" - and even repeats this command in the following pasuk, to follow this almost immediately with "a woman who conceives and gives birth to a son".

* * *

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