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April 17, 1999 Rosh Hodesh Iyar 5759
Day 16 of the Omer

Pop Quiz: On which parts of the mesora's body did the kohen put oil?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And the kohen shall view the blemish...and the kohen shall look at him" (Vayikra 13:3)

This week, we read two portions, Tazria and Mesora, which both discuss the plague of sara'at. Although it had physical symptoms, this sickness was caused by a person's sins. It is regrettable that we no longer have such a disease, for if we did, we would have a direct communication from Hashem when we violate certain laws of the Torah. We all would welcome this, since we all want to improve and become better Jews.

When a person receives such a blemish on his body, it must be viewed by the kohen, and if it fits certain qualifications, the victim will be tameh - spiritually impure - until the blemish goes away (with teshubah and good deeds). However, the pasuk above repeats that the kohen will look at him. Why does it say he will look twice?

The Meshech Chochmah explains that this passage is dealing with two different views. First the kohen examines the mark itself to see whether it has the signs of uncleanliness. There is, however, another kind of examination, one that is unrelated to the disease, but rather focuses on the afflicted person and the particular circumstances in which he finds himself. For example, a kohen will not declare a bridegroom unclean until after the week of Sheba Berachot. (When a Jewish couple gets married, the Torah requires seven days of celebrating with family and friends immediately after the wedding day.) Similarly, a state of impurity begins only after Yom Tob. This is because "the Torah's ways are ways of pleasantness (Mishle 3:17)."

Therefore, the second mention of the "kohen shall see" means that the kohen should look at the person, at his status and total situation in order to ascertain whether, under the circumstances, he should be declared unclean. We can learn from this that the appearance of leprosy, which at first might seem a harsh sentence, is in reality coming from a source of love and concern for the victim. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

The perashah tells us that when certain sins were committed, a plague would affect either the homes, the garments or the skin of the Jewish people. Although this seems like a severe punishment, we must realize that all punishments are merely signals to us to examine our ways and improve our conduct.

Once, the owner of a large factory wanted to hire an experienced engineer. He advertised in all the trade journals and announced the time and place to interview for the job. Many candidates turned up at the designated time, but the owner failed to appear. Hours passed. The candidates grew annoyed and began to shout in anger. Only then did the owner come out calmly from his office to address the crowd. He said, "I don't know what you are angry about. You have been waiting in vain. Two hours ago, at the exact time that I had set, I sat in my office and began tapping out signals in Morse Code indicating that anyone who understood me should come into my office for an interview. Only one of you picked up my message and entered my office. He is the one whom I have chosen for the job. The rest have failed the test."

Tens of signals are sent to us every day, some of them in the form of punishments. We must learn to interpret them correctly, thus sparing ourselves from additional "signals." Shabbat Shalom.


"When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh an intensely white spot...then he shall be brought to the kohen" (Vayikra 13:2)

The Netzib cites the Zohar, which states that the word "adam" refers to one who is dignified and respected. This statement seems enigmatic. Sara'at is an affliction visited upon one who has spoken lashon hara and slandered others. Indeed, Hazal say that the word "Torah" is written five times regarding sara'at to teach that one who speaks lashon hara transgresses the five books of the Torah! Why then would the Torah refer to this person as an "adam hashub - important person"?

Rabbi Nissan Alpert suggests the following resolution to this question. The greatness of a man is apparently not assessed by whether or not he is plagued with sara'at. Man's stature is commensurate with his ability to learn from his mistakes and to do whatever he can do to rectify his wrongdoing. One who studies proficiently, but does not change his baneful character traits achieves nothing. An "adam - man" is esteemed if, when he is stricken with a plague in his body, he goes to the kohen for guidance. One who subdues his ego and goes to the spiritual mentor of B'nei Yisrael, the kohen, manifests his own respectability. A person's response to punishment is the determining factor of its efficiency. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And [the mesora] shall call out: 'Unclean, unclean'" (Vayikra 13:45)

The Shnei Luhot Habrit wrote that this verse can be read as "'Unclean,' an unclean person says about others." That is, a person who finds fault with others is actually projecting his own faults and imperfections on others. As the Sages (Kidushin 70a) have said, "Those who try to invalidate others do so with their own blemishes."

One means of finding out your own faults is to see what faults you tend to notice in others. If you focus on certain negative aspects of others, it is possible that you have those same tendencies yourself. Also, if you know that if you tell others that someone has a certain fault they will immediately suspect you of having the same fault, you will certainly be careful before saying negative things about others. Furthermore, if someone tries to speak negatively about others in your presence, you may try saying (if appropriate), "Those who try to invalidate others really do so with their own blemishes." People will then refrain from speaking against others when you are around. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop quiz: On the right ear, the right thumb and the right big toe.

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