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

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Vol. 7   No. 26

Parshas Tazriy'a

The Three Sins

The Kli Yokor, after citing the Gemoro in Erchin (16a), listing the seven (deadly) sins that cause the plague of tzora'as (in its various forms), and the Medrash Rabah (Vayikro 17:3) which lists ten, adds that even though they are all hinted in pesukim, only three are clearly indicated in this parshah: 1. Loshon ho'ra, as Rashi explains 'Because tzora'as comes as a result of loshon ho'ra, which is idle chatter, that is why the purification process required birds that twitter ceaselessly' (14:4). 2. Pride, as Rashi, commenting on why they also took a piece of cedar wood and a hysop, explains: 'Because he was haughty like a cedar, he should lower himself like a hysop'. 3. Miserliness, as it is written, "And the one to whom the house belongs shall come ..." (14:35), and Tana de'Bei Rebbi Yishmoel (Erchin 16a) explains, the Torah is talking about someone who retains his house (and its contents) for himself. In fact, miserliness incorporates greed (which Chazal in Erchin, learn from Geichazi) and theft (which it discusses there too). And we have also learned in a B'raysa 'He amassed money that is not his, therefore the Kohen will come and scatter his money'. Because all three spring from the same root - greed, for greed results in theft on the one hand, and miserliness on the other.


Indeed, the Kli Yokor writes, the three major types of tzora'as are indicative of these three sins - tzora'as on the body is the punishment for loshon ho'ra; tzora'as on the clothes (which in the language of Chazal often relates to midos - see, for example, Shabbos 113a), for pride; and tzora'as on the house, for miserliness (i.e. 'keeping one's house to oneself').

He also explains with this why there is no tzora'as on silk clothes and why, unlike the two other types of tzora'as, tzora'as on clothes applies even if the plague did not spread after seven days, but remained static. It is because silk comes from a worm, which is itself a symbol of humility (as Rabeinu Bachye writes with regard to the crimson thread, whose dye is an extract from a type of worm), whereas the reason for the latter halochoh is based in Chazal, who have taught that when it comes to pride, one should avoid having anything to do with it, even to shun the middle path which they advocate with regard to other characteristics. Consequently, the plague does not need to spread to be considered Tomei.

And it explains too, why a garment with tzora'as needs to be burnt - because someone who is proud is punished by fire, as the Medrash Rabah writes in Parshas Tzav (7:6).


Explaining the order in which the three types of tzora'as appear in the Torah, the Kli Yokor describes the three objects of tzora'as (skin, clothes and a house) as three coverings: one's skin covers and protects one's body; his clothes cover and protect his skin; and his house covers and protects his skin and his clothes. Someone who is guilty of the above-mentioned sins, loses the different levels of Divine protection, and so, one by one, his protective levels are stricken.


A metzoro is obliged to shave off the hair of his head, his eyebrows and his moustache, symbolising the very three characteristics of which we have been speaking: the hair of his head - corresponding to pride; his eyebrows - to greed (what the eye doesn't see ... ); his moustache (above his mouth) - corresponding to loshon ho'ra.


Perhaps the most intriguing hint of all lies in the three mitzvos (of action) contained in the Shema - Tefillin, Tzitzis and Mezuzoh, which clearly serve as the antidote to the evil influences that result in tzora'as: Tefillin (the crown of Torah, and the Torah, as we know, is the remedy to loshon ho'ra) which prevent one from speaking loshon ho'ra (and protect one's body from being stricken); Tzitzis (symbolising the perfection of midos), which prevent one from becoming proud (and protect one's garments from contracting the plague); and Mezuzah (sanctifying the house and its contents), which prevent one from being miserly (and protect one's house from being stricken).


Parshah Pearls


Tradition - for Better or for Worse

"And on the eighth day he shall circumcise the flesh of his foreskin" (12:3).

In a B'raysa on Shabbos (130a), Rabbon Shimon ben Gamliel informs us that any mitzvah that Yisroel accepted joyfully, such as that of milah (about which Dovid ha'Melech wrote "I rejoice over your mitzvos like someone who found a great booty" - Tehilim 119:162), they still perform joyfully, whereas any mitzvah that they accepted under protest, such as that of forbidden marriages (see Rashi Beha'aloscho 11:10), they still perform reluctantly; and indeed, there is no kesubah over which there is not a dispute.


The word 'still' (adayin) implies that the reasons for the joy and for the reluctance are no longer applicable, yet they continue to perform them in the same spirit as they did originally, points out the Gro. The mitzvah of milah was given on the eighth day, the Gemoro in Nidah (31b) explains, so that the baby's parents, who are forbidden to each other (due to the seven days after giving birth that a woman is tomei), should not be precluded from the simchah. So the Torah prescribed the bris milah for the eighth day, when the mother has toveled, and the parents can participate fully in the rejoicing, together with their guests. Nowadays, even though a woman is never permitted to her husband before twelve days, the parents nevertheless continue the tradition, and rejoice over the mitzvah of their son's bris milah.

Similarly, in spite of the fact that the Anshei K'neses ha'Gedoloh prayed for the removal of the Yeitzer ho'Ra for incest (so that the cause for the original reluctance to accept this set of mitzvos no longer applies), marriage nevertheless remains the subject of bitter disputes over the monetary issues involved.


Don't Look at the Reason

When they asked the Gro whether mitzvos whose reason no longer applies still need to be observed, he replied "If that was so, then bris Milah ought not to take place on the eighth day".

The Chayei Odom (the Gro's nephew), who happened to be present when the question was asked, suggested that the Gro was referring to the Gemoro in Shabbos which we just discussed (and the fact that we still perform the milah on the eighth day, proves that even when the known reason for a mitzvah no longer applies, the mitzvah nevertheless remains intact). The Gro nodded in agreement.


In A Nutshell

The order of the parshiyos contained in Shemini, Tazriy'a and Metzoro is easy to remember when one bears in mind that once the Mishkon was completed, entering its precincts in a state of tum'ah incurred Koreis (excision, a premature death at the hand of G-d, and the obligation to bring a sin-offering, if one tansgressed by mistake). That is why, immediately after the inauguration of the Mishkon, the Torah deals with the laws of Kashrus, because all the non-kosher species of animals are the ones that transmit tum'ah after their death, even if they have been shechted, which is why they are called 'tomei animals'.

Then comes the parshah of the eight sh'rotzim (creepy-crawlies), which is followed by the way different kinds of vessels and food are affected by the various tum'os, as well as a mikveh, seeds and the Tum'oh of a neveilah (a kosher animal that died without shechitah).


The parshah of Tazriy'a deals with the tum'ah of a yoledes (a woman who gives birth), and with the tum'ah of tzora'as.

Chazal have already explained that the Torah deals with the animals first and then with humans, because it is merely following the pattern that Hashem set at the Creation. And this explains why the Torah deals first with the tomei animals, and only then, with tomei people. And finally, in Metzoro, the Torah first describes the purification process of a Metzoro, and then the laws of the third type of tzora'as - that of the house. And Tum'as tzora'as is followed by Tum'as zov (to which it is similar, inasmuch as they both require a Korban, before their purification is complete (as is the case by a yoledes which appears in Tazriy'a, which we saw earlier). And the Torah concludes with the dinim of a zovoh and a nidoh.

All of these are liable to receive Koreis for entering the Mishkon before having completed the prescribed purification process, or to bring a sin-offering for doing so by mistake.



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

59. Not to take collateral for one's loan by force - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:10) "Do not come to his house to take a security".

One may only take a security (against the debtor's will) with the sanction of Beis-din. Even the Sh'li'ach of Beis-din (the bailiff) is not permitted to enter the debtor's house. He must wait outside, as it is written "You shall wait outside, whilst the debtor brings the object (of his choice) outside to you".

One is however, permitted to take collateral from the guarantor by force, and to enter his house to do so, as it is written in Mishlei (27:13) "Take his garment, because he, a stanger, is a guarantor".

And the same applies to someone who is owed, not a loan, but wages, rent or rental. Unless one transfers the money into a loan, in which case, the din of a loan will prevail.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


60. Not to take the garment of a widow as collateral - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:17) "And do not take the garment of a widow as security for one's loan". It makes no difference whether she is rich or poor, whether one takes it at the time of the loan or afterwards, and even through the hand of Beis-din; all of these are forbidden.

In the event that one did take a security from a widow, one is obliged to return it, and is not therefore subject to Malkos. If however, he loses the article, he is no longer able to return it, in which case Malkos will become applicable.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


61. Not to withhold a security from the owner when he needs it - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:12) "Do not sleep with his security", meaning that he should not go to sleep if his debtor's security is with him (and the debtor needs it).

(See Mitzvos Asei 63)

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


62. Not to be tough and shut one's hand when a poor man asks for help - as the Torah writes in Re'ei (15:7) "Do not harden your heart and do not shut your hand against your needy brother". (See Mitzvos Asei 38)

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


63. Not to curse a Dayan - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (22:27) "Do not curse a judge". Someone who curses a Dayan using the four letter Name of Hashem or one of His other Names, receives two sets of Malkos, one for cursing a Dayan and the other for cursing a Jew (a separate la'av).

This posuk also incorporates cursing G-d Himself (as the word "Elokim" implies both). Consequently, someone who curses G-d using one of His other Names, receives Malkos (because for cursing Him using the four-letter Name, the punishment is death by stoning - see Kedoshim 24:16). This is one of the few cases where retracting from one's statement, even if he does so immediately, will not absolve him from his punishment.

Nowadays, when there is no death-sentence, one places a cherem on someone who transgresses this particular branch of the la'av, and keeps way from him.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


About the Mitzvos

Love and Fear

The Ramban writes that all the Mitzvos Asei are based on love (Ahavas Hashem) and the Mitzvos Lo Sa'asei, on fear (Yir'as Shomayim). This means that each time a person performs a Mitzvas Asei, he is performing an act of love towards Hashem, and that, to the extent that he performs the mitzvah with feeling, his love of Hashem increases. And each time a person desists from contravening a Lo Sa'aseh, he is exercising an act of Yir'as Hashem, and that his Yir'as Shomayim will increase commensurate with the devotion that he applied in desisting from the transgression.


With this principle, the Ramban explains, we can understand why it is that, generally speaking, an Asei overrides a Lo Sa'asei, as we find by tzitzis, which overrides the Lo Sa'asei of not wearing Sha'atnez - because loving G-d is on a higher plane than fearing Him. So it takes precedence over it.

Otherwise, we would have a problem in understanding why the Asei should take precedence. Considering that, in view of the principle (when in doubt) 'It is better to desist than to act', one would have thought that, when an Asei clashes with a Lo Sa'aseh, it would be better to avoid performing an action that contravenes G-d's orders.


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