Vol. 8 No. 26
This issue is sponsored by an anonymous donor
with the wish
that we will soon merit the coming of the Moshi'ach.
The plague of tzora'as as described in the Torah is not leprosy. It is a Divine-sent plague that struck a man or a woman predominantly for having transgressed the sin of Loshon ho'Ra, though it could also be the result of any one of six other sins: murder, shevu'as shov (a false oath), adultery, pride, theft or miserliness (in which case it was his house that would be afflicted).
The plague could only occur in Eretz Yisroel, presumably because, as we already explained, it was purely a Divinely-sent malaise, and Eretz Yisroel is the only country in the world over which Hashem retains full jurisdiction "from the beginning of the year to the end". It caused no physical pain, nor does it appear to have been contagious (though according to the Seforno, it was).
Tzora'as came on account of one's sins, and that is how it went. It came for having transgressed one of the above sins, and it progressed (from one house to one's clothes and from one's clothes to one's body) as one continued to ignore the Divine warnings. One had but to perform teshuvah, for the signs to diminish and disappear. And presumably, it is for the same reason that the Kohanim were chosen to handle it and control its progress. The Kohanim were the teachers in Yisroel, as the Torah writes in ve'Zos ha'B'rochoh "They will teach Your judgements to Ya'akov ... ", thereby serving as the prime example as to what sort of use a Jewish tongue should be put. And even more blatantly, the Novi writes "For the lips of the Kohen will guard knowledge" (Mal'achi 2:7).
Tzora'as was not meant to replace the official punishment of the particular sin that one had transgressed. If for example, someone had committed adultery or murdered in the presence of witnesses, and was due to receive the death sentence, then he would indeed be sentenced. It is when there were no witnesses that he would be stricken with tzora'as (see Erchin 16a).
The Divine nature of Tzora'as is clearly indicated by the fact that it first struck one's house and one's clothes, a phenomenon that can in no way be attributed to natural means by any stretch of the imagination, as the Ramban explains. Moreover, the progressive order of the strokes, first the house, then the clothes and finally the body (each stage becoming more personal) indicate a meticulously planned Divine operation. And all this is enhanced by the fact that it departed the moment the sufferer did teshuvah.
And it is as a result of the Divine nature of tzora'as that it no longer exists, explains the Ramban. Like the water of the Sotah, a stunning miracle in its own right, and Hashem's way of maintaining the moral purity of the camp of Yisroel, tzora'as was G-d's way of eliminating, first and foremost, evil speech from K'lal Yisroel. As long as Yisroel strove to retain a high level of purity in body (morality) and soul (pure speech), He helped them to attain that goal. This he did by eliminating those who were lax in these areas, or by forcing them to reassess their values, to help bring them back to their senses, using tzora'as as a lever. And it was when the nation as a whole stopped striving towards those ideals that the two miracles were (sadly) withdrawn.
Nor is it a mere coincidence that G-d chose to control specifically the two areas of morality and refined speech. For these two areas are not only the most difficult to control on one's own initiative, but they are also the keys to kedushah. It is no mere coincidence that Hashem struck two covenants with each Jew, one concerning the B'ris Milah, the other, concerning his lips. Indeed, when these two areas of one's body are fully under control, the whole body is under control. And when we lost the will to exercise control over our actions and speech, Hashem saw fit to withdraw the miracle of the Mei Sotah and of Tzora'as, leaving us to fight the Yeitzer-ho'Ra on our own.
This does not mean that we no longer have access to G-d's Divine Assistance. As Chazal have informed us, the Shechinah that went into exile with Ya'akov, also went into exile with Yisroel in the subsequent goluyos, and It is still with us today. What it does mean is that when we are on the required spiritual level, the Divine Presence is openly displayed, resulting in a direct dialogue between Hashem and Yisroel. Translated into practical terms, this means that Hashem then takes the initiative and even performs miracles when the need arises. Whereas when we drop our standards, He remains with us to protect us, but in a hidden form. When that happens, He waits for us to take the initiative, giving us access to Him through the gates of tefilah, and when we do not deserve even that, through the gates of tears, which are never closed.
May we once again to have with us the water of the Sotah and the institution of Tzora'as, that we may know that the Shechinah is with us at the highest level.
(adapted mainly from the Ba'al ha'Turim)
The Dividing Line
The last posuk in Shemini speaks about dividing between what is tohor and what is tomei, whereas this week's parshah begins with the dinim of a woman who gives birth. This is a hint, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, at the Rabbinical injunction for a woman to wait three months from the time that her husband died or divorced her before remarrying. This creates a clear division between the two men, so that, should she bear a child within nine months of her being separated from her first husband, there will be no doubt as to who the father of the child is.
Going Out the Way One Comes In
The Torah prescribes seven days tum'ah for a woman who gives birth to a baby boy. Later when he leaves this world, his family mourn for him for seven days. That's what a human being is like, comments the Ba'al ha'Turim. He causes anguish when he comes into the world, and he causes anguish when he goes out.
The Three Shavers
In the parshah of tzora'as in the place of hair, the Torah writes "ve'Hisgalach" (13:33), 'And he shall shave', with a big 'gimel'. This is a hint, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, to the three people who require all the hair on their body to be shaved - a nozir, a metzora and the Levi'im (on the day that they were inaugurated).
Tens and Fives
Ten times the Torah writes the words 'nega tzo'ra'as' in the two parshiyos of Tazri'a and Metzora. A hint, comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, that nego'im (tzora'as) come as atonement for one of ten sins.
Five times the word "Toras" appears in the parshah, to teach us that speaking Loshon ho'Ra is akin to transgressing all five books of the Torah,
All in all, there are ten paragraphs dealing with nego'im, he concludes. This is to inform us that to be spared from the disease of tzora'as, one only needs to observe the Ten Commandments.
The Two birds
The Metzora took two birds for his purification ceremony. One of them he sent away to freedom, the other one was shechted. The bird that was sent away served as a hint that the tzora'as would now go away, and the one that was shechted, that it would not return. On the other hand, the bird that was sent away had the potential of returning. This is a hint that his tzora'as would return - should he revert to his evil ways (Ba'al ha'Turim).
Suffering the Consequences
The Parshah of Zivus (a male or female discharge), begins with the word 'Dabru' (in the plural, because Moshe and Aharon together were to teach the parshah to the people). That of Tzora'as, on the other hand, does not incorporate Aharon at all, says the Ba'al ha'Turim. This is because it was through the sin of the Golden Calf, which Aharon made, that Yisroel were smitten with tzora'as.
A Yoledes, a Metzora and a Zav
The sedrah 'Tazri'a' opens with the topic of a Yoledes (a woman who gave birth), then goes on to discuss Tzora'as. The sedrah 'Mezora' continues with Tzora'as, and then deals with a Zav (before ending with a Ba'al Keri [a man who had a single discharge], and a Zavah).
The sequence of the first three topics, a Yoledes, a Metzora and a Zav is significant, inasmuch as these are the only three Tum'os which require a korban to be brought after they become tohor on the eighth day.
It is interesting therefore, that the Ba'al ha'Turim finds another reason for the juxtaposition of a Zav to a Metzora. It was as a result of the snake's sin of Loshon ho'Ra, he explains, that Chavah was smitten with Zivus, and the snake itself, with tzora'as.
Eat and Drink and ...
When Yisroel heard the parshah of nego'im, they were afraid, the Medrash tells us. But Moshe reassured them. He pointed out that the nego'im are for the Kutim (gentiles). But as far as they are concerned, they would eat, drink and rejoice.
Punishment, explains the Dubner Magid, is relative; everyone receives not only the punishment that he deserves, but the punishment that he needs. Some people are unaffected by small insignificant punishments. They remain unmoved, and it takes nothing less than a major disaster to bring them to the realization that they need to mend their ways. Others are moved to repent at the minutest inconvenience. And that is what Chazal mean when they say in Erchin (16b) that if someone places his hand in his pocket to pull out three ... , and he only pulls out two, that too, is a category of suffering.
What the above Medrash therefore means is that when Yisroel heard the parshah of nego'im, they were afraid, because they thought that this was the sole path to atonement. Until Moshe assured them that this was simply not true. It was the Kutim who needed nego'im, because when they sin, they do not repent easily, and it takes nothing less than nego'im to bring them round to their senses. Not so a Jew! He has but to suffer a little in his food and drink. He needs only to be deprived of a little simchah, and he turns to Hashem to beg forgiveness for having strayed from the right path.
There is however, another way of understanding this Medrash. If we take into consideration that the root of the sins for which a person is stricken with tzora'as is pride (see Rashi 14:4), which is synonymous with distancing oneself from Hashem, we can explain it in the following way. Perhaps what the Medrash is saying is that whereas a Kuti requires nego'im to arrive at the realization that G-d is his Master, a Jew can achieve that through eating and drinking and being be'simchah. This itself brings him close to Hashem, like we find on Yom-tov. What Moshe is therefore saying is that it is possible to circumvent the need for nego'im completely, by eating and drinking. Because, whereas a gentile tends to forget Hashem when he becomes happy, a Jew who is satisfied and happy is capable of reaching great spiritual heights, and of coming so close to Hashem, that his own ego dissipates, and the need for nego'im becomes obsolete.
THE DINIM OF SH'MITAH
Adapted from 'Mitvos ha'T'luyos bo'Oretz'
by R' Kalman Kahana z.l., based on the rulings of the Chazon Ish
The New Year for Sh'mitah,
The Dates that Divide Between One Year and the Next
and the Din of T'rumos and Ma'asros in the Sh'mitah Year
91. The New Year for the Sh'mitah-year, for all species of produce and regarding all the dinim of Sh'mitah, is the first of Tishri.
92. Fruit is considered sixth, seventh or eighth year produce according to various stages in their ripening. This means that if these stages arrived before Rosh Hashonoh of the Sh'mitah year, they are considered sixth-year fruit; if they arrive after Rosh Hashonoh, they are considered to be Sh'mitah produce, and if they arrive only after the following Rosh Hashonoh, they are considered eighth-year produce. Whereas the Dinim of these stages differ from one species to another.
93. Produce and legumes which reached one third of their growth in the sixth year (meaning that the grains reached one third of their regular size), are not considered to be Sh'mitah produce, and are therefore subject to Terumos and Ma'asros just like any other sixth-year fruit.
94. Fruit of a tree that ripened before Rosh Hashonoh of the seventh year, is considered sixth-year fruit, and does therefore not have the din of Sh'mitah produce. With regard to olives and grapes, the definition of 'ripening' is a third of their growth. With regard to other species, according to the Rambam, it coincides with the season of Ma'asering (which is also approximately a third of its growth), whereas according to Tosfos, it corresponds to the 's'modar' (the blossoming), after the flowers have fallen, and the fruit is recognizable.
95. An esrog that was picked in the Sh'mitah year, has kedushas Shevi'is according to the Rambam, but is nevertheless subject to T'rumos and Ma'asros. It is only if it ripened in the Sh'mitah year that it is exempt from T'rumos and Ma'asros.
The other poskim however, maintain that it does not have kedushas Shevi'is unless it ripened in the seventh year.
96. With regard to citrus fruits, one can rely on the opinion of Tosfos, who equates the ripening with the blossoming (see para. 94). Consequently, should this take place in the sixth year, it is considered a sixth year fruit.
It transpires that, as far as citrus fruits are concerned, the din of Shevi'is applies to fruit that is picked in the eight year. Fruit that is picked in the seventh year, has the din of sixth year fruit (though there are some species of lemons that are picked in the seventh year even though they ripened in the same year).
97. Vegetables that grew in the sixth year, are not subject to s'fichim, irrespective of whether their growth was completed in the sixth year and they were picked in the seventh, or their growth was completed and they were also picked in the seventh year.
Vegetables that are picked in the Sh'mitah year however, are subject to kedushas Shevi'is and are exempt from T'rumos and Ma'asros.
98. Species of vegetables whose seeds do not rot (such as cultivated onions), which entered from the sixth year into the seventh, which are not subject to s'fichim, are not subject to kedushas Shevi'is either, provided the majority of those that are for eating grew in the sixth year. But if the majority grew in the seventh year, then they are considered Sh'mitah produce. Similarly, if the majority grew in the eighth year, then they will be considered eighth year produce. This halochoh is confined to vegetables that are not subject to s'fichim.
99. Rice, millet and sesame-seeds that grew in the sixth year, but were completed in the seventh, are not subject to s'fichim, but do have kedushas Shevi'is.
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