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APRIL 7-8, 2000 3 NISAN 5760

Pop Quiz: Which materials in garments can contract sara'at?

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And it will become a sara'at affliction on the skin" (Vayikra 13:2)

Many people associate the condition of sara'at with leprosy. Rabbi S. R. Hirsch uses this opportunity to dispel the mistaken notion that the laws of the Torah are rules and regulations of Moshe to enforce health and sanitary conditions. Sara'at was a favorite used by people as an example of public health. It seems the law of quarantine for sara'at implies this, but there is nothing further from the truth. He goes on to prove from the laws of sara'at that the quarantine is not to prevent the spread of the germ of leprosy. Our Sages teach us that sara'at was not a physical disease, but a physical manifestation of the person's spiritual faults. It was a condition meant to serve as a wake-up call, to tell the person it is time to mend his ways. The word "mesora" is a combination of the words "mosee ra" - one who spreads slander. Hashem rebukes his anti-social behavior by separating him, like a quarantine, to make him feel alone and experience some of the pain he has caused others.

Sometimes, lashon hara, slander, can be spread without even realizing it. Once, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was eating breakfast with a visitor to his home who had come to speak to him. There were two containers of milk on the table. Both were from reputable kosher dairies. The Rabbi picked up one container and was about to pour milk into his coffee when suddenly he stopped, put down the container and used the other one. The visitor who saw this thought there was something wrong with the kashrut of the first product. Very quickly the word spread that Rabbi Feinstein prefers the kashrut of the second. After a while, the sales of the first dairy company went down drastically. They called the Rabbi to find out what he felt was wrong with the kashrut of their product. He answered that he didn't know what they meant, that in fact that very day he had drunk their milk. When they told him about the incident of the visitor, he was shocked. He said, "I put down that container because it was empty!" We see the evil workings of lashon hara. But above all else, we see that one must use his common sense before talking. Shabbat Shalom.

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."

We know that Hashem is All-Merciful and loves us like a father loves his children. Very often, we get "signals" sent to us, some in the form of punishments. Punishments don't only mean drastic things, G-d forbid. Rather, they can also include inconveniences, minor frustrations and the regular ups and downs of everyday life. We must learn to recognize these signals from Hashem and focus on their meaning and their intent. This way we will live up to our status as the "Chosen People." Shabbat Shalom.


"On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" (Vayikra 12:3)

At a berit milah it is customary for all present to proclaim: "Just as he entered into the covenant, so may he enter into Torah, and into marriage, and into good deeds."

Why do we associate these three things with the berit?

The circumcision done at the berit is permanent. Once it is performed, it cannot be changed in any way. Those present at the berit express a threefold blessing and prayer for the child. First, as the berit is of everlasting nature, likewise his connection to Torah should be everlasting. Second, the person he marries should be his companion for life. The third and concluding blessing is that throughout his lifetime he should constantly perform good deeds.

Alternatively, the first misvah in which the child is involved is a berit. Due to his young age, his parents must take an active role in planning and preparing for the berit. When it comes to Judaism, many parents have a tendency to say, "When our child becomes older, he will make his own decisions." Therefore, all present at the berit call to the attention of the parents: Just as at the berit the parents were actively involved, so too, when the son reaches the age of Torah study, marriage and good deeds, the parents should be actively involved in all of his decisions. (Vedibarta Bam)


"If the sara'at covers all the skin of (him who has) the plague...he shall pronounce the plague clean." (Vayikra 13:12-13)

Many of the commentators question the logic of this halachah. When the whole body is covered with sara'at, the person is deemed tahor, clean.

However, when the skin begins to heal, he is then declared tameh, unclean. This law seems perplexing! The author of the Gelilei Zahab explains that the purpose of the laws of sara'at is to teach us a lesson in the moral development of a human being.

The Torah requires one who has sara'at to be quarantined. His seclusion from the people is essential for his purification. It is also necessary so that his "disease" does not "spread" to others. People who come into contact with such a person might not realize that he is a carrier of a disease that reflects an ethical impurity in his soul. Others can be infected by him. One who is completely covered by sara'at, though, clearly manifests a disease in such an advanced state that no one will go near him. The need for isolation from the community occurs only when the disease is not readily apparent, when it is hidden from public knowledge.

This serves as a lesson to us as well. Those people who exhibit signs of purity in their moral characteristics while simultaneously behaving as resha'im (wicked people) are dangerous. One must distance himself from this type of covert rasha. Such a person is more dangerous than the rasha who publicly displays his disdain for Torah and misvah observance.

The opportunity for such a person to influence others is quite limited when compared to the ability of his hypocritical counterpart, who veils his evil under a cloud of virtue. People can be cautioned to distance themselves from evil much more easily when the evil is clearly defined and acknowledged. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Wool and linen.

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