by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS METZORA 5763 BS"D
Ch. 14, v. 2: "Zose t'h'yeh toras ha'metzora" - This shall be the law of the afflicted one - What is meant by "t'h'yeh"? We have a haughty person (see gemara Arochin 16a) who is willing to lower his stature and appear in front of a Kohein to guide him on his path back to purity and humility. The verse says, "t'h'yeh," in the future tense, to express the hope that he will remain with this attitude in the future. (Beis Yisroel of Gur)
Ch. 14, v. 2: "Ha'metzora" - The afflicted one - The gemara Arochin 16a says that one of the causes of "tzoraas" is being stingy. The word "metzora" has the numerical value of 400, equal to that of "ra ayin."
Ch. 14, v. 2: "V'huvo el haKohein" - And he shall be brought to the Kohein - We similarly find in the previous parsha 13:2, "v'huvo el Aharon haKohein." There the Ibn Ezra says that "he shall be brought" rather than "u'vo el haKohein" - and he shall come to the Kohein - teaches us that if he doesn't go of his own volition, others who see his affliction are required to bring him even against his will, because this is not just a spiritual malady but also a physical sickness that is contagious.
The Ibn Ezra on our verse says that the Torah again tells us just as it has expressed by its "companionS" (referring to 13:2 and 13:9) that when he is cured of his affliction he is to be "brought," - "v'huvo" - even against his will, because there is the likelihood that he is very reluctant to come to the Kohein with the required sacrifices, as they might cost a tidy sum. We find the same words, "v'huvo el haKohein" in 13:9, as just mentioned. There too, the Ibn Ezra says that this term is the same as "its companion," meaning verse 2. However, there he offers no explanation for "forcing" the afflicted person to appear in front of the Kohein.
Perhaps this can be explained after taking note of a slight difference between the way the Torah describes the affliction in verse 2 and verse 9. In verse 2 the Torah says that the affliction is in the "skin of his flesh," while in verse 9 the verse says that it is in the person, "ki s'h'yeh b'odom." Perhaps the difference is that in verse 2 we have a person who feels that the affliction is only skin deep, "v'ore b'soro," i.e. he does not take it seriously. He surely has to be brought to the Kohein. Verse 9 discusses someone who realizes the gravity of the matter. For him the "nega" is deeply imbedded, "ki s'h'yeh b'odom." The Torah advises that even he has to be brought, i.e. it is the responsibility of the community to make sure that he is seen by a Kohein. Had the verse only said "v'huvo" in verse 9 I might have thought that there is no point in bringing a person who is not impressed with the "nega" and is reluctant to go of his own volition to the Kohein, as it is unlikely that he will repent, and the "nega" would probably remain in spite of outside efforts.
Ch. 14, v. 4: "V'eitz erez ushni solaas v'eizove" - And cedar wood and a crimson thread and hyssop grass - Rashi (gemara Arochin 16a) says that skin afflictions are the result of being haughty (tall as a cedar tree). The remedy is (Medrash Tanchuma #3) to lower one's self esteem and bring a crimson thread and hyssop grass (lowly items). If so, why is there a need to bring the same items in the purifying ritual of an afflicted house (verse 49)? The purpose of afflicting houses with a "nega" is so that they would be razed and the hidden treasures of the Amoriim would be found (Rashi on verse 34 and M.R. Vayikroh 17:6), and has nothing to do with being haughty. The Biu'rei Mahara"i answers that this is precisely the reason that they are needed. When one finds the treasure it is likely that he will become inflated, as per the verses, "V'chesef v'zohov yarbeh loch, V'rom l'vo'vecho" (Dvorim 8:13,14).
Ch. 14, v. 4: "V'eizove" - And hyssop grass - Since the afflicted person has already knocked himself down a few pegs, as testified by the "nega's" disappearance, why is there a need for further symbols of humbleness? His earlier repenting and changing his ways were prompted by a visible skin affliction. This is insufficient as he only responded to pressure. When the "nega" has totally disappeared he must further lower himself, otherwise there is a great fear of his returning to his former bloated self-image. (Avnei Nezer)
Ch. 14, v. 36: "U'finu es habayis" - And they should empty the house - Even though the verse is discussing one person's house, we have the plural "u'finu." This teaches us that the Torah so strongly wants to avoid the person suffering even minimal monetary loss. Not only should the owner of the home empty his house, but others should join and help speed up the process, prior to the appearance of the Kohein. (Ibn Ezra)
Ch. 14, v. 36: "V'lo yitmo kol asher baboyis" - So that he not defile all that is in the house - Rashi (N'go'im 12:5) says that the Torah tells us to first empty the house to avoid earthenware vessels from being defiled and thus becoming unusable, as all other items are not seriously affected and the Torah would not bother with advising us about them. Vessels made of other materials may be immersed in a purifying ritualarium, a "mikveh," and defiled food may be eaten by a defiled person. The Biu'rei Mahara"i asks, "We can similarly say that defiled earthenware vessels may be used by a defiled person, so why bother removing them?" He answers that with foodstuffs we allow a person to store them until he is impure because they have a short shelf life. There is no fear that one will accidentally eat them when he is pure. Vessels are very durable, so there is a fear that vessels that are permanently impure will be accidentally used by a person when in a pure state. This answer is also offered by Devek Tov and Tiferes Yisroel in his commentary on N'goim 12:5 #41.
The Mishnoh Acharonoh asks that the fear of this possible mistake is of Rabbinic level so the verse cannot be forewarning it. A footnote on the Biu'rei Mahara"i offers that we have a Rabbinic level of prohibition when an item has already become defiled, but our verse advises how to avoid becoming defiled in the first place. (Since there is a great possibility that one would accidentally use an impure vessel when he is otherwise pure, not preventing impurity of an earthenware vessel might be akin to "ein m'vatlin issur l'chatchiloh," which the Ritv"o on the gemara Chulin posits is a Torah level prohibition.)
Ch. 15, v. 31: "V'hizartem es bnei Yisroel mitumossom v'lo yomusu b'tomossom b'tamom es mishkoni asher b'sochom" - And you shall warn the bnei Yisroel to avoid their defilement so that they not die through their defilement with their defiling My Sanctuary which is within them - The Chid"o writes that although the Celestial Court does not punish a person for his sins until he is at least 20 years old, this is only true when the Holy Spirit, the "Sh'chinoh," resides on high, but when it inhabits the lower earthly spheres punishment is administered even to a person who has just reached the age of majority. The Bnei Yisos'chor says that this is alluded to in our verse. "And you shall warn the bnei Yisroel," even the young "bonim" who are under the age of 20, to avoid sinning and defiling their souls, "mitumossom," and they will thus avoid being severely punished, "v'lo yomusu." Even though punishment from Above is not administered to one who is under the age of 20, but when the "Sh'chinoh" inhabits the lower spheres, "es mishkoni asher b'SOCHOM," this deferment is waived.
Ch. 15, v. 31: "B'tamom es mishkoni" - With their defiling My Sanctuary - These words allude to the two Bo'tei Mikdosh being destroyed because of defilement. "Es" has the numerical value of 401, and the first Beis Hamikdosh stood for 400 years (a difference of 1 is negligible). "Mishkoni" has the numerical value of 410, the number of years that the second Beis Hamikdosh stood. (Niflo'ose Chadoshos)
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