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

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Vol. 15   No. 28

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Yehuda ben R' Aharon z"l
whose Yohrzeit was on
Rosh Chodesh Nisan,
by his family

Parshas Metzora

It's on the House
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

The K'li Yakar poses a number of questions with regard to the Torah's wording in connection with the Parshah dealing with Tzara'as on the houses: 1. Why the Torah needs to introduce the Parshah with the words "When you come to the land of Cana'an", something that it does not do with regard to Tzara'as on one's body or clothes? 2. Why it then sees fit to add "which I am giving to you as an inheritance" (a fact which everybody knows already)? 3. Why, instead of saying simply 'And I will place a plague of Tzara'as on your houses', it says " on the house of the land of your possession"? True, this question (as well as the first one) is readily answered by Rashi, in whose opinion Tzara'as of the house is for the good of Yisrael, as it enabled them to discover the treasures that the Cana'anim had hidden in the walls, and which would therefore apply only to the Cana'ani houses which they took possession of, but not to the houses that they themselves built. Nevertheless, the K'li Yakar postulates, the expression "on the land of your possession" seems to clash with that of "which I am giving you" (as the one suggests land of which Yisrael took possession, and the other, land that G-d gave them)? And besides, he comments, Rashi's explanation per se requires elaboration.


To answer these questions, the K'li Yakar follows the Chazal which attributes the punishment of Tzara'as Batim to stinginess (as Chazal extrapolate from the words "And the one who owns the house shall come", which they interpret to mean 'the man who designated the house for his own personal use, and refused to allow others to benefit from it'). The reason that G-d gives a person a house full of good things (as He did when they conquered Cana'an), he explains, is in order to test him, to see whether he will benefit others from his property. For one must always remember that what one owns belongs to G-d and that what one gives away to others is from the Table of Hashem and not from one's own personal belongings at all (as the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos [3:7] teaches us).

This explains why the Torah writes "And it will be when you come to the land of Cana'an which I am giving to you as a possession" It is not by your might that you captured the land, but by Hashem's grace, Who delivered the seven nations into your hands. Consequently, there is no justification for the stinginess that prompts a person to claim that this is the wealth that he amassed with his own hands, and that there is therefore no obligation on his part to share it with others. And the Pasuk continues "and I will give a plague of Tzara'as on the house of the land of your possession" - Yes, Hashem will send Tzara'as, when one ascribes one's possessions to one's own prowess, one of the major sources of stinginess. Or perhaps the Pasuk is simply referring to one who treats his possession as if they were his own exclusive property.

Either way, that is why the Pasuk then writes "And the one to whom the house belongs shall come to the Kohen" because he considered his house to be his own, treating it as if he had built it with his own efforts, and refusing to allow others to benefit from it, as we explained.


Others ascribe Tzara'as on the house to the fact that the Cana'anim built their houses in the name of their gods. So G-d struck them (the houses) with Tzara'as and forced the new Jewish owners to tear them down.

This will also help us better understand a Yalkut that explains the Pasuk with regard to the destruction of the Beis-Hamikdash:

"And the owner of the house shall come" This refers to Hakadosh Baruch Hu ("because My house has been destroyed").

"And He will tell the Kohen" With reference to Yirmiyah ("from the Kohanim who lived in Anosos").

"like a plague I saw in the house" This refers to the filth of idols, or, as others explain, to the image that Menasheh set up in the Beis-Hamikdash.

"And the Kohen will issue a command, and they shall clear the house" With reference to the vessels of the Beis-Hamikdash that Shishak, King of Egypt, captured.

"And he shall demolish the house" The Beis-Hamikdash.

"And they shall throw its stones to (a location) outside the camp" With reference to K'lal Yisrael being cast into exile. Perhaps, the Medrash suggests, that means forever? Therefore the Pasuk continues

"And they shall take other stones" with which to rebuild the Beis-Hamikdash.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Based Mainly on the Yalkut Yitzchak)

The Two Birds

"And the Kohen shall issue a command, and he shall take two live Tahor birds" (14:4).

The two birds, says the Radvaz, are reminiscent of the two goats on Yom Kipur. The one is Shechted for the sake of Hashem and is forbidden be'Hana'ah (to benefit from), whilst the other is sent out to the desert to appease the Satan. From a Kabbalistic point of view, he says, the two issues are comparable.

See also Rashi & 'Highlights from the Ba'al ha'Turim'.


Hair, Beard and Eye-lashes

"And it shall be that on the seventh day, he shall shave off his hair, his beard and his eye-lashes " 14:9).

Why, asks the K'li Yakar, are particularly these three mentioned (despite the fact that all other body hair was included in the obligation)?

And he answers that they represent the three key sins for which Tzara'as was the punishment: The hair of the head - for conceitedness (that a person always wants to be the head); the beard (the hair surrounding the mouth) - for Lashon ha'ra; and the eye-lashes - to atone for stinginess ('tzar-ayin').


Tevilah in Forty Sa'ah of Water

" and he shall bathe his flesh in water and he will become Tahor" (Ibid.)

The reason that a Tamei person must dip specifically in water, says the Radvaz, is because, just as water naturally removes a person of the physical dirt that accumulates on his body, so too, does it remove the spiritual dirt, when it makes contact with it in the form of a spiritual ritual. And the reason that forty Sa'ah is required, he says, is based on Chazal, who have given forty Sa'ah as the amount of water in which an average person can immerse himself in one go. For if one were to immerse one limb at a time, it may happen that whilst one is dipping one limb into the water, another limb (that he has already immersed) becomes Tamei.


The Remah explains that in reality, a person needs to purify both his body and his Soul. So he immerses his body in a Mikvah of forty Sa'ah (corresponding to the forty days that it took for the body to form in its mother's womb); whereas his Soul he purifies by studying Torah (also known as 'the water of life' [Mayim Chayim]), which was given in forty days. The Chesed le'Avraham comments that although man consists of the four elements, he needs to Tovel in a Mikvah of water. And he ascribes this to the fact that Tum'ah is described as 'a spirit/wind of Tum'ah', and, as is well-known, wind cannot enter water. Consequently, the moment the Tamei person enters a Mikvah, his Tum'ah departs. And that explains why he must immerse totally. Because if only one hair remains outside the water, the spirit of Tum'ah attaches itself to that hair, and spreads once more to the rest of the body the moment he emerges from the Mikvah.


The Sin of the Metzora

"And on the eighth day he shall take two unblemished male lambs, and one unblemished female lamb in its first year, and three tenths (of an Eifah) of fine flour for a Minchah, mingled with oil and one Log of oil" (14:10).

The sin of the Metzora is great, explains the Eishel Avraham, for he spoke lashon ha'ra (and even more so if his words took effect). That is why his Korban is larger than that of a Zav, a Zavah or a Yoledes (which comprise the four cases of 'Mechusrei Kaparah' - Teme'im who require Korbanos at the conclusion of their period of Tum'ah); and that is why he is forced to dig deeper into his pocket to attain atonement than they are.

And that is also why the Kohen places blood and oil on his right ear, thumb and big toe (as we shall now see).


The Three Sections of the Body

"And the Kohen shall take some of the blood of the Asham and the Kohen shall place it on the middle section of the right ear of the person who is becoming Tahor, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot " (14:14).

Man is divided into three sections, says the Eishel Avraham: The upper, the middle and the lower section. The upper section refers to the head which houses the brain; the middle, which houses the heart, and the lower section, which houses the mundane area. That is why the Kohen places the blood on the Metzora's ear (since hearing, according to Chazal, is the most vital of all the senses); on his hand (which is the most active limb that is situated in the middle part of the body), and on his foot (which likewise, is the most active limb in the lower area of the body).

Rabeinu Bachye, who explains a similar Parshah (in connection with the inauguration of the Kohanim, in Parshas Tzav) adds that the head corresponds to the world of the angels, the heart, to the world of the planets, and the lower part of the body, to our mundane world.

In any event, the Eishel Avraham concludes, when, following the Metzora's Teshuvah, the Kohen places the blood and the oil on these three sections of his body, he repairs the body that the Metzora maimed as a result of the Lashon-ha'ra that he spoke.


The Bed or Chair of a Zav

Mishkav ha'Zav is a unique stringency, in that a. the bed becomes a 'Mishkav' even though no part of the Zav actually touched it, and b. it becomes an Av ha'Tum'ah, to render whatever touches it a Rishon (even though technically, it is not a source of Tum'ah at all, but a Rishon, which ought to render food and drink exclusively, a Sheini).

* * *


The Kohen sprinkled on the one who is becoming Tahor seven times, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, corresponding to the seven sins for which Tzara'as comes to atone (see Erchin 14a).


Two birds were used to atone for the Metzora, one was sent away; the other was Shechted. One was Shechted, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, signifying that the Tzara'as had gone for good and would not return. But the other one was sent away alive, a warning that if he repeated his sin, the Tzara'as would return. Indeed, says Targum Yonasan, in the event that he did, the Tzara'as would return, and so would the bird.


"Any bed on which he (the Zav) lies will become Tamei" (15:3).

The condition of a bed becoming a Mishkav ha'Zav is that the bed (or the chair etc., which falls under the twin category of 'Moshav') only attains this status if it is designated exclusively for lying or sitting on, but not if it has other uses as well ('Amod ve'na'aseh melachteinu').

Hence the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, the Gematriyah of "yishkav alav" (on which he lies), is equivalent to that of 'Zeh meyuchad li'yeshivah' (This is exclusively for lying on).


"And any vessel on which he sits becomes Tamei" (Ibid.)

It is bearing in mind that whereas vessels made of metal, wood or earthenware are subject to Tum'ah, but those made of stone are not, that the Ba'al ha'Turim comments that the Gematriyah of "ve'chol ha'K'li" is equivalent to that of 'Aval lo ha'even' (but not of stone).


"Ve'rochatz ba'mayim es kol besoro (and he [the Zav] shall bathe all his flesh in water)" (15:16).

The Gematriyah of this phrase, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is equivalent to that of 've'Lo yehei chatzitzah b'vesoro ve'sa'aro' (and there shall not be a chatzitah [something that prevents contact with the water] on his flesh or in his hair).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 173
To Purify Tzara'as Using the Items Prescribed by the Torah

It is a Mitzvah, when purifying Tzara'as, irrespective of whether it is the Tzara'as of a person, of a garment or of a house, to use a piece of cedar wood, a twig of hyssop, crimson thread, two birds and spring water, and that one then proceeds to do with it what the Torah prescribes, as the Torah writes in Metzora (14:a) "This shall be the law of the Metzora on the day of his purification ". Three different kinds of Taharah are mentioned in the Torah; 1. Water, which is used to purify all kinds of Tum'ah (i.e. the only way of purifying something that is Tamei is through water); 2. Water of purification, (Mei Chatas) which is used specifically in the purification of a Tamei Meis; 3. A piece of cedar wood, a hyssop-twig and a crimson thread, two birds and spring-water, items that are confined to Tzara'as. All this comes in the form of hint that, as Chazal have said, to fix in the mind of the Metzora, that if, prior to the onset of the sickness, he was haughty, like a cedar, which is among the tallest of the trees, he should lower himself like a (lowly) hyssop (bush). As for the birds, well, he twittered like a bird, with his excessive words of Lashon-ha'ra; so let him bring birds, which twitt constantly. And although the author does not know for sure the reason for the crimson thread, he suggests that maybe it is a play on the word ('tola'as', which besides thread, can also mean a worm), which like the hyssop-twig, reminds the Metzora to lower himself.

He also suggests that the reason that water purifies all those who are Tamei is to prompt a person to see himself after Toveling as if he has just been created at that moment, for the initial state of the world, before man was created, was entirely water, as the Torah writes "and the Spirit of G-d hovered over the surface of the water (Bereishis 1:2). And that in turn, will prompt him to think that just as his body has been created afresh, so too, should he renew his deeds for the good, so that his actions are correct and he goes in the ways of Hashem. Therefore, the Chachamim said that Tevilah is not valid in water that is inside a vessel, only in spring water or in water that is gathered in a hole in the ground; to imagine that the entire earth is covered in water, and that he has just been created from the water from which he emerged, as we explained. Because if the water was in a vessel, or even if it passed over a vessel, this thought would be lost to him, for every vessel, in that it is man-made, is limited by a border, rendering impossible the thought that the whole is water, and that he has just been created from it.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah describing the purification ceremony of a Metzora, Chazal explain that the Kohen brings a new earthenware bowl into which one places a Revi'is (of a Lug) of spring water that is fit to sanctify Mei Chatas (of a Parah Adumah) - the amount is mi'de'Rabbanan. One then brings two live Kasher birds, specifically for this purpose (as the Torah writes "And he shall take for the person who is becoming Tahor "), Shechts the better-quality bird over the water that is in the earthenware bowl and proceeds to squeeze it until the blood becomes discernable in the water. After that, he follows the tradition of digging a hole and burying the Shechted bird in it Then he takes a. a piece of cedar wood, which should be one Amah long, and as thick as a quarter of the leg of a bed (which presumably had a standard thickness at that time); b. the twig of a regular hyssop (not one with a descriptive title), that is not less than a Tefach in length, and c. a piece of crimson thread whose weight is equivalent to that of a Shekel. The dye becomes invalid if it is tasted, just like the Techeiles that is used for the manufacture of Tzitzis. All of the above measurements are Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai. One then takes the live bird together with the above three species.

Each of these four species is crucial to the Mitzvah, and if the cedar-wood or the hyssop is peeled it is invalid. The Kohen ties the two latter species with a 'tongue' of red thread and holds the tips of the two wings and of the tail of the live bird close to the bundle, dips all four into the water containing the blood and sprinkles seven times on to the back of the hand of the Metzora, before sending the bird away. How does he send it away? He stands inside the town and sends it outside the walls of the city (i.e. he faces the desert-land outside the city), as the Torah writes "towards the outside of the city towards the fields". In the event that he sends it and it returns, he must send it away again, even a hundred times.

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