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

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Vol. 3, No. 27

Parshas Tazriy'a-Metzoro

Tzora'as - and Humility

A person who was stricken with the plague of tzora'as would find a small part of his body covered with a white patch of skin. The Cohen would place him in quarantine for a minimum of seven days until ultimately, he would be sent outside the walls of the town to live on his own, until the tzora'as disappeared.

If the tzora'as spread over his entire body, then he was proclaimed "tohor" and he was 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 was 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 was all not necessary for the man whose tzora'as covered 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 would 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 brought 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 would also lap up his (Ach'ov's) blood, and that his entire family would be annihilated in his lifetime. Yet the moment Ach'ov expressed regret at his evil deed, by fasting and wearing sack-cloth, G-d ordered Eliyohu to return to Ach'ov and inform him that, because he had humbled himself before Him, the prophecy of his entire family's annihilation would 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 presumably, it was for the same reason that 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 would appear, did humble himself before Elisha, and he did accept that there was a G-d in Yisroel. That is why, only minutes later, after bathing seven times in the River Jordan, his tzora'as disappeared.



The Ba'al ha'Turim brings 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 of course, is included 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 possuk 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 possuk 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 wrote "And you shall sanctify yourselves" - and even repeated this command in the following possuk, to follow this almost immediately with "a woman who conceives and gives birth to a son".



At the end of Parshas Tazriy'a, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out how the Torah uses an expression of "Torah" with regard to Metzoro, no less than five times. The Torah is coming to stress, he explains, the severity of loshon ho'ra. Someone who speaks loshon ho'ra, it is as if he had transgressed all five books of the Torah. Of these five times, the first is to be found in the last possuk of Tazriy'a, and the second in the opening pesukim of Metzoro.

There is however, a marked difference between them. At the end of Tazriy'a, the Torah speaks of the law of a garment stricken with tzora'as, "to make it 'tohor' or tomei", whereas in Metzoro it speaks of the "the law of a metzoro on the day that he becomes tohor".

When we speak of a garment, we can deal with its tum'ah and taharah in one breath. It is possible to proclaim it tomei one moment and tohor the next. Indeed, a very similar expression is used with regard to the tzora'as of a house (14:57), because there too, the division between the tum'oh and the taharah is a factual one. When it is tomei it is tomei and when it becomes tohor it becomes tohor - one second it is impure and the next it is pure - no time process is necessary.

With a metzoro it is different. Tzora'as only strikes a person's body as a last resort (see R. Bachye 13:58). He has been warned through tzora'as on his house and on his clothes, and it is only after many warnings that he is finally proclaimed a metzoro. By this stage, the tum'oh is intense and the taharah process is not just a physical one, but a mental one too. The metzoro must know that his tum'oh is complete, and his taharah is not imminent - as it is with a garment and a house that have tzora'as. He must first go through a process of teshuvah before he can rid himself of his tum'oh. Only then, will he be ready for taharah.

Perhaps one can also add that, as long as the person has tzora'as, he has, as we mentioned earlier, transgressed the five books of the Torah, and the Torah prefers not to use the word "Torah" (which he has rejected), in connection with him. It is only after he has done teshuvah, and reaffirmed his attachment to Torah, that the Torah writes "this is the Torah of the metzoro on the day that he becomes tohor."


It's a Boy!

The Parshah opens with the laws of a woman who gives birth. If she gives birth to a boy, then she is automatically "temei'oh" for 7 days, even if there is no blood, and this is followed by a period of 33 days of "taharah", even if there is. In the case of a girl, then the tum'ah period is doubled to 14 days, and the subsequent period of taharah to 66 days.

Chazal derive from the Torah's expressions that a giyores and a non-Jewish maidservant are also included in the above laws, whereas a gentile woman is not. A practical application of the latter statement is brought by the Torah Temimah. Quoting the Gemoro in Shabbos 135a, he explains that a baby whose mother is "temei'oh leidoh", must be circumcised at 8 days, whereas someone whose mother is not (e.g. in the case of a caesarian birth) is circumcised immediately, unless of course, there are medical objections.

Consequently, having already stated that a gentile woman does not become "temei'oh leidoh", should she indeed give birth to a baby boy, and then convert within 8 days, the baby would need to be circumcised immediately, and not specifically on the eighth day. This would not be the din in the case of a non-Jewish maidservant who gave birth to a boy. He would be circumcised only on the eighth day.

In possuk 3, the Torah writes that the baby must be circumcised on the eighth day. The previous d'var Torah will explain as to why the Torah inserts this din here, even though we know it already from Parshas Lech Lecho. The Gemoro adds the following tit-bit: "Why," asks R. Shimon bar Yochoi, in Nidah 31b, "does the Torah require a baby to be circumcised on the eighth day, why not on the first (health permitting)? From what we wrote earlier we see that, on some occasions, the Torah does require the bris miloh to be performed immediately, so the "obvious" answer - that the Torah does so out of consideration for the baby's health - is not fully acceptable.

The Gemoro however, uses the above Chazal to answer the question. The bris miloh is a cause for great joy, and this is borne out by the fact that we make a se'udah after the bris. Some even quote the source of this as Avrohom Ovinu, who made a party when Yitzchok was circumcised ("be'yom hag - 8 - mal es Yitzchok". Bereishis 21:8)

It is a day on which everyone has much reason to rejoice. Everyone that is, except for the parents of the baby. We have already learnt how they are forbidden to each other until the eighth day. Consequently, their simchah would be marred. Hashem therefore, forever sensitive towards the Jews that He loves so dearly, decreed that the bris should be delayed. Despite the importance of the mitzvah, let it wait until the eighth day, when the parents, once again permitted to "live" together, will be able to participate in the simchah with a full heart.

As far as those whose mothers are not subject to "tum'as leidoh" is concerned, there is no justifiable reason for delaying this great mitzvah, so let is be performed immediately. Why not?

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