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

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Vol. 18   No. 28

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Parshas Metzora

(A translation of the last Halachah
in the Rambam's Hilchos Tum'as Tzara'as)

Tzara'as is a name that incorporates many different issues that are not necessarily similar to each other, for both the white skin of a person and the falling out of some of the hair of the head or of the beard is called Tzara'as, too, and so for that matter, is the changing of colour of one's clothes or of one's house. Now the change of colour of one's clothes or house which the Torah brings into the category of Tzara'as is not a natural phenomenon; it is a signal and a wonder in Yisrael to warn them against speaking Lashon ha'Ra.

When someone speaks lashon ho'ra to the point that his house is demolished, next the walls of his house will change their appearance. If he retracts, then his house reverts to its state of Taharah; but if he continues in his wicked ways, then the leather covers in his house on which he sits and on which he lies will change colour. If he relents, then they will become Tahor; but if he still clings to his wicked ways until they have to be burned, then the clothes that he is wearing will change colour. If he repents, they will become Tahor once again, but if he continues along the path of wickedness until they too have to be burned, the next thing to change colour will be his skin. He will then be branded a Metzora; he is isolated from the community and forced to live on his own, until he stops indulging in idle chatter ... such as words of mockery and Lashon-ha'Ra.


And it is in this connection that the Torah writes "Beware of the plague of Tzara'as Remember what Hashem did to Miriam on the way !" The Torah is enjoining us here to reflect what happened to Miriam the prophetess, when she spoke about her brother, a brother who was her junior in years and whom she had cradled on her knees, and from whom she had endangered herself to save him from the sea. Neither did she speak about him in a manner that was derogatory, only that he was on a par with other prophets. Nor did he take her words to heart, as the Torah testifies (immediately afterwards) "And the man Moshe was very humble!" In spite of all this, she was immediately stricken with Tzara'as. How much more so those wicked, foolish people who speak endlessly big and 'interesting' things (about others)! It is therefore befitting for anyone who wishes to behave in the correct manner to avoid living in their vicinity and from communicating with them, so as not to get caught in the net of their evil and their foolishness.


And this is the way these evil scorners operate: Firstly, they indulge in talk that is no consequence, as the Pasuk says in Koheles (5:2) " the voice of the fool consists of many words"; this leads to speaking derogatively about Tzadikim, as the Pasuk says in Tehilim (31:19) "Let the lips of those who speak falsely become silenced, who speak about a Tzadik with arrogance".

And that in turn, causes them to become accustomed to speak against the prophets, and to mock their words, as the Pasuk writes in Divrei Hayamim (2, 36:16) "but they insulted His messengers, scorned His words and taunted His prophets". And through that they begin to speak against G-d Himself and to deny Him, as the Pasuk writes in Melachim (2, 17:9) "And the B'nei Yisrael attributed to Hashem their G-d things that He had not said". And it says in Tehilim (73:9) "They set their mouths against the Heaven and their mouths strut around on earth". What causes them to 'set their mouths against the Heaven'? The fact that 'their mouths strut around on earth'.

This is the idle chatter of the Resha'im that results in their loafing around in the streets, the gathering of ignoramuses and the sitting together in the drinking-houses of the beer-drinkers.


The talk of worthy Jews, on the other hand, is centered exclusively around words of Torah and wisdom, which is why Hakadosh Baruch Hu assists them in their endeavours and merits them in their speech, as the Pasuk states in Mal'achi (3:16) "Then those who feared G-d discussed with one another, and G-d paid attention and heard, and a Book of remembrance was written before Him, for those who fear Him and those who give thought to His Name!"

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva & the Bartenura)

To Preclude Tamei Birds
- by an Ir ha'Nidachas

" and he shall take for the man who is becoming Tahor two live Tahor birds (Tziporim) and a piece of cedar wood " (14:4).

Tahor, Rashi comments, to preclude Tamei ones. It does not come to preclude dead ones, comments the Bartenura, since we know that already from the following Pasuk, which commands to Shecht the bird.

Why do we need a Pasuk to preclude Tamei birds from the purification ceremony of a Metzora, asks the Riva, when the Torah uses the word "Tziporim", which always signifies Tahor birds?

Indeed it does, he answers, and the word "Tehoros" teaches us ('Im eino inyan' - out of context) that for the ceremony of Ir ha'Nidachas (in Shoftim) Tahor birds must be used.


What Causes Tzara'as?


Rashi explains that the birds symbolize the twittering of the Ba'al Lashon ha'Ra, the sin that causes Tzara'as.

But in his next comment, asks the Bartenura, Rashi explains that the sin that causes Tzara'as is pride, symbolized by the piece of cedar wood?

And he answers that both sins, in fact, bring Tzara'as in their wake. And he cites Miri'am, on the one hand, who was stricken because she spoke Lashon ha'Ra against her brother Moshe, and King Uziyahu, on the other, who was stricken due to his pride (as the Pasuk in Melachim specifically writes).

(I would suggest that the two are really one and the same, since it is a vain person who constantly finds faults in others and then discusses them. Someone who is humble is too busy examining his own faults to concern himself with the faults of others!)


A P'rat that leaves the K'lal to Teach Something New

" He shall Shecht the lamb (of the Asham) in the same location as he will Shecht the Chatas and the Olah because the Asham is like the Chatas" (14:13).

Rashi explains that this refers to the north side of the Mizbei'ach. But why is it necessary to mention this? Have we not already learned in Parshas Tzav, that the Asham (like all Kodshei Kodshim) is Shechted in the north?

And he answers that it is indeed necessary to mention it, since this Asham left the realm of regular Ashamos in that it is stood together with the Metzora, at the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed. We would therefore have thought that it must be Shechted there where it was stood. Therefore the Torah found it necessary to teach us that this Asham, like all Ashamos, must be Shechted on the north side of the Mizbei'ach.

In other words, this falls into the category of the principle (of the thirteen principles of Rebbi Yishmael) 'Anything that was part of a 'K'lal' and left the K'lal to teach something new, does not return to its K'lal until the Torah specifically returns it'.

How do we know, asks the Riva, not to apply the principle there that 'Anything that was part of a 'K'lal and left the K'lal to teach something new, is not confined to itself, but extends to the entire K'lal'. In that case, he points out, the Din of standing the Asham Metzora (and the subsequent placing of its blood ought to apply to all Ashamos?

And he replies that we only say that when the new P'rat is similar to the K'lal (i.e. is applicable to it) such as burning a fire on Shabbos, which was part of the K'lal of "Do not do work on Shabbos", and which the Torah then mentions separately, to teach us that one is Chayav for each Melachah individually. It cannot be applied here, since standing the Asham Metzora has no connection with the other Ashamos. Consequently, we apply the principle 'Anything that was part of a 'K'lal' and left the K'lal to teach something new, does not return to its K'lal until the Torah specifically returns it'.


Tzora'as Batim - In Eretz Yisrael

"When you come to the land of Cana'an then I will place the plague of Tzara'as on the house " (14:33).

The Riva explains why the Torah connects this Mitzvah to their arrival in the land, simply because in the desert they lived in tents, which are not subject to Tzara'as. Tzara'as Adam applied there (as we find with Miri'am), and so did Tzara'as Begadim, since there was no reason why they should not. But not Tum'as Batim!


The Order Seems Wrong

"Whoever enters the (stricken) house shall be Tamei until the evening whoever lies down in the house shall wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house shall wash his clothes (14: 46/47).

Surely, the Bartenura observes, the order ought to have been 1. "Whoever enters the house "; 2. Whoever eats in the house"; 3. "Whoever sleeps in the house" - following the progressive order of the time spent in the house. Why then, he asks, does the Torah invert the order, presenting the case of someone who sleeps in the house before that of someone who eats in it?

The reason for this, he explains, is because the person who eats in the house only becomes Tamei if he reclines in it (as that is how they used to eat in those days). Hence the Toras Kohanim states - 'The time it takes to eat wheat (and not barley) bread, reclining, with condiments (each item slightly increasing the time that one needs to be in the house before one actually becomes Tamei).


Earthenware Vessels

"And earthenware vessels which the Zav touches shall be broken" (15:12).

See Rashi, who quotes the opening and closing words of the Toras Kohanim.

The Bartenura cites it in its entirety: 'I might have thought that even if the Zav touched the earthenware vessel on the outside, it becomes Tamei; Not at all, he replies! It is a Kal va'Chomer from a Meis (corpse), which is stringent (in that it renders Tamei through Ohel), yet it does not render earthenware vessels Tamei from the outside, how much more so a Zav, which is lenient (since Tum'as Ohel does not apply to it). The Toras Kohanim rejects the 'Kal va'Chomer' from Meis however, on the grounds that a Meis has a lenient side to it, in that it does not make a 'Mishkav and Moshav' (that renders Tamei something that lies or sits on it even though it does not actually touch), whereas a Zav does.

Therefore, the Toras Kohanim concludes, we learn from a Gezeirah-Shavah (similar words) Kol asher yiga Bo ha'Zav" (here) and "asher tevushal Bo" (in Tzav, in connection with a metal pot in which a Chatas was cooked). Just as there the Torah is speaking about the inside of the pot, so too here, is it speaking about the inside of the earthenware vessel.

Finally, the Toras Kohanim asks why the Pasuk then uses the expression "asher yiga bo", implying (by virtue of its translation) that the Zav touched the earthenware vessel from the outside?

And it answers that it does indeed incorporate where the Zav touched it from the outside, but it speaks where he also moved it (known as Tum'as Heset), which it describes as 'touching in a way that effects the entire vessel', which is stronger than merely touching it.

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out how this is hinted in the Gematriyah of "Yiga", which is equivalent to that of the word 'hesit'.

* * *


"And he shall be brought to the Kohen (ve'huvo el ha'Kohen" (14:2).

One should read it "Hu bo el ha'Kohen" - and he shall come to the Kohen", says the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei ha'Tosfos. It may well be that the Torah requires him to be brought to the Kohen. However, nobody will be willing to perform the task, since everyone shuns him, in which case he has to go by himself.


"And he shall Shecht the one bird (whereas the other bird is sent away)" 14:5.

The reason that they Shecht one bird and send away the other (i.e. that they don't Shecht both birds), the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. explains, is to hint to the Metzora that if he does Teshuvah, then, like the second bird, his Tzara'as will 'fly away', and not return.


"Then I will place a plague of Tzara'as on the house " (14:34).

Ha'Kadosh Baruch Hu said to Yisrael - See the difference between you and the nations of the world! When the nations of the world sin, I first strike them and then their houses, as the Torah writes in Parshas Lech-L'cha 12:17) "And G-d plagued Par'oh and his house". But when you sin, I first strike your houses, as the Pasuk writes "And when you come to Eretz Yisrael, I will place a plague of Tzara'as on the house !" What did the wood and stones do wrong? It must therefore be in order that Yisrael see and take Musar. And so we find when Yisrael sinned and G-d wanted to send them into exile, what did He do? He first sent Sancheriv to punish the nations, so that Yisrael should see and take Musar from it (as the Navi writes in Tzefanyah, 3:6). So Hashem warns man by first striking his house; if he does Teshuvah (See main article).


Everlasting Taharah
(Adapted from the Rosh)

Rebbi Levi, citing a (Medrash Tanchuma) said that when Yisrael were in Egypt, the women did not see Dam Tum'ah, because they were constantly in fear of the Egyptians; When they were in the Desert, they did not see Dam Tum'ah either, because the Shechinah was constantly with them. This was because, like the men, they accepted the Torah, as G-d said to Moshe "So you shall say to the House of Ya'akov" (i.e. the women).

Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu subsequently said to them 'In this world you (experienced an ongoing cycle; you purified yourselves and then you became Tamei again. But in time to come, I will purify you permanently, as the Navi Yechezkel said (36:25) " I will cast on you pure water, and you will become purified from all your Tum'os ,,, ".

* * *

(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 484:
Not to Shear the Wool of a Kodshim Animal

One may not shear the wool of a Kodshim animal, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (15:19). We learn all other Kodshim from B'chor regarding this prohibition. The basic Dinim regarding this Isur are equivalent to those of the Isur of working with Kodshim (i.e. the previous Isur). Consequently, there is no point in elaborating any further here. The author dealt with some of the details that are specific to shearing together with the Dinim of Avodah.


Mitzvah 189:
The Mitzvah of Removing the Ashes from the Mizbei'ach

The Kohen is obligated to remove the ashes from day to day from on the Mizbei'ach. This is called 'T'rumas ha'Deshen', as the Torah writes in Parshas Tzav "And the Kohen shall wear his size linen garments and he shall remove the ashes ". A reason for the Mitzvah as the author already wrote earlier is to enhance the honour of the Beis-Hamikdash and to beautify it as much as we can, as he explained there. And it enhances the Mizbei'ach to clear away the spent ashes each day from the location where one is about to light the new fire. Moreover, the new fire will burn better if there are no ashes underneath it.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah As Chazal have said, T'rumas ha'Deshen is an Avodah, which requires the Kohen to wear Bigdei Kehunah. However, the Begadim which the Kohen wears to remove the ashes are inferior to those that he wears when performing any other Avodah, as the Torah writes there "And he shall remove his Begadim and put on other ones ". And although this Pasuk is written in connection with the Mitzvah of taking the ashes outside the Camp (which is not performed on a daily basis [only when the Mizbei'ach is full]), logic dictates that it extends to that of T'rumas ha'Deshen (which entails taking a shovelful of ashes from the Mizbei'ach and depositing it on the floor beside the Mizbei'ach) as well. In fact, the Chachamim gave a Mashal to describe it - 'A servant should not wear the same clothes which he wore to cook his master's food, when pouring out the wine' The time for Terumas ha'Deshen, Chazal teach us, is: throughout the year - immediately after dawn-break; on Yom-Tov - at the beginning of the last third of the night, and on Yom-Kipur - from midnight and onwards


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