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Haftarah: Melachim II 7:3-20

APRIL 8-9, 2016 1 NISAN 5776

Rosh Hodesh Nisan will be celebrated on Shabbat, April 9.


"When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male." (Vayikra 12:2)

This week we read the perashah of Tazria and next week we read the perashah of Mesora. The first discusses the ritual impurity of sara'at and the next one discusses its purification process. The name of the perashah is not a random choice, using the first word of the perashah, but rather its essential theme. In the case of these two parashiot, however, we see an interesting phenomenon. The word "Tazria" relates to birth and discusses the affliction of sara'at. The word "Mesora" means "one who has sara'at," and describes the purification of the mesora from his condition.

Rabbi Reuven Wolf asks: It seems perplexing that the portion that discusses the illness is called "Birth" while the portion that discusses the healing would be called "Mesora." Shouldn't it be the other way around?

To answer this question, we first need to take a closer look at the general idea of punishment in Jewish thought. Is Hashem a vengeful G-d who wishes to exact harsh retribution from His Creations?

This is definitely not the case. In Judaism the role of punishment is to cleanse. We have powerful and beautiful neshamot that can accomplish amazing feats on this earth, and there are great things awaiting us both in the time of Mashiah and in the Next World, but along with all they accomplish on earth our neshamot pick up some "dirt" from the obstacles they encounter along the way. Just as a dirty plate needs rinsing before we place a gourmet meal in it, so too our neshamot require cleaning before they are fit to receive the truly amazing revelation of Hashem. And this is what punishment accomplishes - it fixes and cleanses the neshamah.

This principle of productive punishment is clearly illustrated in the case of the mesora. This affliction was primarily due to lashon hara. A person would have to sit in isolation for seven days, which was a fitting atonement for the fact that he or she socialized in a corrupt manner. The illness revealed the reality that he had a spiritual flaw that required fixing. So we see that the illness itself was really the first step of the healing process. This is why the first perashah is called "Tazria" (related to birth), because the illness itself is there specifically for the sake of the person's spiritual rebirth.

This also clarifies why the second section that discusses purification is called "Mesora," because if the perashah was called "Taharah," we might assume that the healing process begins only with the first step of purification. It teaches us that with the sickness, healing begins.

This is relevant today. We are in a long exile. Sometimes it seems long and futile, but now we learn that the "illness" of the exile is the precursor of Mashiah. The Mashiah himself is referred to as a mesora! (Sanhedrin 98b). Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"When the affliction has turned white, the Kohen shall declare him tahor." (Vayikra 13:17)

The Torah stresses a number of times that if the plague of leprosy turns into white, it will become tahor, that is, no more impurity. The word lpvb (nehepach) means transforms or turns around, and the Rabbis say that if the letters of the word gdb (nega) which means plague, are turned around, it will spell out the word dbg (oneg) which means pleasure.

The lesson here is that even something so difficult as leprosy can be turned around into something constructive which will be a source of pleasure. If a person understands that the reason he has leprosy is because he spoke "lashon hara" (gossip) or some other sin, and resolves not to repeat it, he has "turned around" his life and become a new person. Even today, when we don't have leprosy, whatever happens to us should be viewed as Hashem communicating to us to improve. When we do, we then are transformed into greater people. The gdb (nega) becomes a source of dbg (oneg). May we always merit to see the good in everything that happens. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a se'et, or a sapachat." (Vayikra 13:2)

The Torah details various forms of sara'at, which is often incorrectly translated as "leprosy." It is a spiritual illness that manifests itself in the body by displaying white spots on one's skin, similar to leprosy. The Siftei Kohen posits that the words se'et and sapachat allude to two spiritual deficiencies which catalyze the sara'at. Se'et is connected to hitnasut, elevating oneself over others, raising himself above those around him. Such a person walks with an upright gait as if to "push up against the Shechinah" Who towers over everyone. Regarding a person like this, Hashem says, "I and he are not able to live together."

One who is arrogant eventually belittles himself and, in time, loses his distinction. Se'et usapachat; one who raises himself up ultimately become nifchat, diminished. Horav Yaakov Galinsky, zl, relates a conversation he had with the Ponevezer Rav, Horav Yosef Kahaneman, zl. The Rav was a close student of the Hafess Hayim, zl. One day, the Hafess Hayim turned to his student, "You know, of course, that Hashem loves each and every Jew, despite the circumstances in which he finds himself. Once Harav Chaim Volozhiner, zl, was learning the Sefer Tanna D'Bei Eliyahu, and he came across a passage in which the author cites the many attributes of Hashem. Among them he includes, sameach b'chelko, being happy with his lot/portion. He questioned this quality. Being satisfied with one's lot applies to a human being who, despite wanting more, settles for less and is happy with what he has. It will suffice. Hashem, however, does not have to settle. He can create anything that He wants. The concept of "settling" is foreign regarding Hashem. He either has it - or He will make it. This question so thoroughly troubled Rav Chaim that he decided to travel to Vilna to speak it over with his Rebbe, the Gaon, zl, m'Vilna.

The Gaon explained that Hashem's portion is Klal Yisrael. Yes, we are Hashem's portion. The Almighty wants His portion to be as perfect as possible, so that both the collective nation and each Jew individually should strive to be the paragon of perfection. Alas, it is not all in the hands of Heaven. Hazal teach: "Everything is in the hands of Heaven - except for fear of Heaven!" This is one quality that Hashem has given over to us. We are in control of our spiritual health. If a Jew reneges his opportunity to be a yarei Hashem, G-d-fearing Jew, he will not be compelled by Heaven to be observant. It is his choice. Therefore, Hashem is sameach b'chelko, is "pleased"/"accepts" each and every Jew as he is. Even when we were exiled from our own home, when we lost the Bet Hamikdash, Hashem accompanied us throughout the millennia. From adversity to misfortune; from degradation to humiliation; from the spiritual high of Yerushalayim with the Bet Hamikdash, to the spiritual impurity in which we have been subjected to make our home - Hashem came along with us.

"If this is the case," asked the Hafess Hayim, "if Hashem tolerates our degradation and does not forsake His commitment to us, despite our wallowing in the filth of spiritual impurity, why is it that He has zero tolerance for the arrogant person? What makes the sin of arrogance so egregious that it stands out above/below all of the rest?

The Ponevezer Rav was stumped. The Hafess Hayim explained, "Hashem resides among the one who is tameh, spiritually contaminated, because for him there is hope; he can immerse himself in pure water and become purified. Likewise, the rasha, wicked person, can wake up, introspect, and realize that he has spent his life wallowing in the mire of sin; his life has been one big waste. This will impress him to get his act together, make spiritual amends and repent. For him, too, there is hope."

"The ba'al ga'avah is a tipesh, fool." The Hafess Hayim quotes the Ramban in his Iggeret, "'With what should the heart of man arrogate itself?' If because of wealth - Hashem determines who should be poor and who should be wealthy. Is it because of his glory? Glory comes from G-d (Only He has true glory). Is it in his wisdom? Hashem can easily change that. In other words, whatever the ba'al ga'avah thinks he is really comes from Hashem. He, actually, has nothing. Why is he arrogant? Obviously, he is a fool. For a fool, there is no hope!" (Peninim on the Torah)


There is usually more than one way to look at things. We all know that there are two sides to every story. But in the bigger picture, people usually have an outlook on life, a prism through which they view the world and all that happens. It's their personal spin.

Some people believe that the world owes them a living. This, they feel, gives them the right to demand everything from everyone. Madison Avenue preaches, "You deserve the best," and such individuals swallow the advertising bait whole. The problem is that when people feel this way, whatever they receive does not satisfy.

Others look at life from a different vantage point. "All that I have is a kindness - hesed - from Hashem. I don't deserve much and I am happy with whatever I do have" is their spin on things.

Esav proudly told his brother, Ya'akob Abinu, "I've got plenty," intimating that he still wanted more (Beresheet 33:9). Ya'akob answered, "I have it all," meaning he was satisfied with whatever blessings Hashem had showered upon him (Beresheet 33:11). When what you receive falls short of satisfying, ask yourself, "Is this an isolated incident when something isn't really enough to satisfy, or is it my spin on life that doesn't allow me to feel satisfaction?" Then do a spinning exercise by counting your blessings or maybe measuring how little you really deserve. Satisfaction comes easily when you appreciate what you have and do not dwell on what you are missing. (One Minute with Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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