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APRIL 23-24, 2004 3 IYAR 5764

Pop Quiz: On which materials could sara'at in garments possibly be found?


"The Kohen shall look at the affliction on the skin...the Kohen shall look at it and make him impure." (Vayikra 13:3)

Our perashah discusses the laws of sara'at, leprosy, at length. Rashi, in verse 2, says that there is neither impurity of sara'at nor its purification except by the word of the Kohen. Rashi, in verse 3, says that the Kohen shall say to the victim, "You are impure." We see the status of the afflicted person depends on the word of the Kohen. This might seem puzzling. Why the word of the Kohen? Why can't he just apply the rules of the signs of impurity, and if the blemish shows the signs of impurity, then the victim will be impure automatically?

We know that our Sages teach us that sara'at comes because of the abuse of the laws of lashon hara, improper speech. The Torah wants to teach us the power of a word. You think you didn't do anything wrong. You only said a word. What's a word? Here's a word. Without the word from the Kohen, the man is still pure and can go into the Bet Hamikdash. With the word, he is tameh and can't go in, and if he goes in, even by mistake, he must bring a korban.

The Hobot Halebabot brings the teaching of our Sages, that the merit of the misvot that were previously performed by a person who has spoken lashon hara about someone else will be transferred to the victim's record. Rabbenu Bahya writes that when a person's life comes to an end and he stands trial before the King of Kings, he might find misvot on his record that he never did. When he inquires as to the meaning of this apparent error, he will be told, "the misvot of all those who spoke lashon hara about you were transferred to your record, and your sins were transferred to theirs."

The great Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef, Rabbi Yehudah Sadkah, was once attending a siyum masechet (a celebration of the completion of an entire Talmud tractate) of his student. It is customary to read the Hadran, the concluding prayer, after the completion of the Gemara. When the student came to the words, "may the Torah be our trade in this world and may it remain with us in the world to come," R' Yehudah interrupted his student and asked, "What is the meaning of the plea 'May it remain with us in the world to come?' Is it not obvious that he who has toiled in Torah study his entire life will take the Torah with him to the world to come?" R' Yehudah explained that no merit is guaranteed. If one cannot control his lips from speaking lashon hara, he can lose it if he speaks about another. Therefore, at the siyum, we ask Hashem's help to prevent this from happening, and that instead we should be able to take what we learned with us for eternity. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"For the person being purified there shall be taken two live clean birds" (Vayikra 14:4)

The "leper," one who has sara'at, after going to the Kohen and determining that his condition is cured, must bring certain sacrifices to purify himself. Among these are two birds, one which is slaughtered and one which is dipped in the blood of the slaughtered one and sent away. The Rabbis tell us that the birds, which chirp all the time, symbolize the cause of his leprosy to begin with. Most people are not careful with the way they speak, and end up speaking lashon hara, gossip, which brings on leprosy. The problem with many is that not only are they not careful with words, but they just chatter away, just like birds! If one constantly and continuously prattles on, with no thought to the fact that each word must be accounted for, he's guaranteed to get leprosy! So his purification is the bringing of birds, which remind him that as a human being, he must be watchful of his words and not chatter away without control! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"This shall be the law of the leper on the day of his becoming pure, he shall be brought to the Kohen" (Vayikra 14:2)

It is necessary to form a rationale for the Torah's demand that the Kohen personally supervise all of the ritual concerning the leper. Why does the Torah emphasize this at each step of the purification process? The Talmud (Arachin 16a) lists the various reasons for the affliction of leprosy, such as haughtiness, slander, stinginess, etc. These are sins which by their very nature indicate one's pride in himself. Such an individual sins because he thinks that he controls his own destiny. He looks down on others who may have certain faults, because he does not have the sensitivity to help another fellow human being. Hashem will therefore inflict this individual with leprosy, causing him to live in seclusion. He will then have to perform certain deeds for his purification process in order to remind him and make him acknowledge his sins. This will ultimately cause him to reflect upon his life, and guide him in its proper course, so that he will be cognizant of Hashem's presence in every area of his life. Only a Kohen can demonstrate this lesson, for the Kohen does not have any possession of his own in Eress Yisrael. He is at the mercy of others, because of his being dependant upon their goodwill for his sustenance. The Kohen is one who realizes that his sustenance comes directly from Hashem, and it is through his example that the leper can be brought to repent and correct his misguided ways. (Peninim on the Torah)


Question: Why is the Sefer Torah read in Minhah of Shabbat?

Answer: For people who do not hear the weekday readings on Monday and Thursday. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"And [the person with sara'at] shall call out: 'unclean, unclean." (Vayikra 13:45)

The Shelah Hakadosh explains that this pasuk teaches that the unclean person declares that other people are unclean. In other words, rather than see the fault in himself, he projects his faults onto others. This trait prevents the person from acknowledging his fault, which makes it very unlikely that he will improve his ways.

However, the awareness of this tendency can actually be an effective tool for a person to improve himself. For example, if a person is critical of others for their stinginess, he should examine his own deeds to see if he is stingy. By being aware of which imperfections he notices in others, he can then focus on correcting that particular flaw in himself.

Question: What flaw in others seems to "get on your nerves" the most? Do you find that you also have that same shortcoming to some degree?


This week's Haftarah: Melachim II 7:3-20.

This haftarah tells about four Jewish people with leprosy who were sent out of the Jewish camp, as the law required in our perashah. At the time, the nation of Aram was at war with Israel. However, the four men, displaying the selfishness that put them in this situation in the first place, decided to turn themselves over to Aram. In the end, like the healed leper in our perashah, they learned to put the welfare of their fellow Jews ahead of their own needs, and went to inform the Jews that Aram had fled.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Wool, linen and leather.

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