Friday, April 28, 2006

Parshas Tazria-Metzora

להבדיל בין הטמא ובין הטהר ובין החיה הנאכלת ובין החיה אשר לא תאכל ...

אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר (12:2 – 11:47)

When he was six years old, the Vilna Gaon was asked if he could explain the juxtaposition of the end of Parshas Shemini with the beginning of Parshas Tazria, two parshios with no immediately apparent connection. He immediately walked to the bookshelf, brought a Gemora Yoma to the table, and proceeded to open to folio 82a.

There the Gemora discusses an episode in which two women were pregnant on Yom Kippur. Both smelled a pungent aroma which caused them to be seized with an overwhelming need to eat immediately. The Rabbis suggested to whisper in the ear of each a reminder that “Today is Yom Kippur.” One woman was able to regain her senses and successfully completed the fast, while the other continued to demand food, and because it was a question of saving her life, she was permitted to eat. The Gemora concludes that the first woman gave birth to the righteous Rav Yochanan, while the latter gave birth to the wicked Shab’sai Otzar Peiri, who used to hoard fruits in order to drive up the prices, thus causing untold suffering to the poor.

The Vilna Gaon suggested that the juxtaposition may be read as hinting to this episode. A differentiation between the pure and the impure will be caused by the difference between the pregnant woman (often referred to in the Talmud as חיה) who eats (on Yom Kippur) and the one who doesn’t, and the difference in purity will be manifested in the sons they will bear!


וראה הכהן את הנגע בעור הבשר ושער בנגע הפך לבן ומראה הנגע עמק מעור בשרו

נגע צרעת הוא וראהו הכהן וטמא אתו (13:3)

It is interesting to note that all impurities in the Torah are physical realities and immediately take effect upon contact with the impure item (e.g. a dead body, a dead animal, an impure person). On the other hand, the determination of the status of tzara’as isn’t dependent on the onset of the skin affliction or its appearance, or even upon the evaluation of the Kohen, but rather upon the verbal proclamation of the Kohen “tamei” – impure – which causes the commencement of the impurity.

A number of commentators (Dubno Maggid, Chofetz Chaim, Steipler, Zahav Sheva) explain that one of the primary causes of tzara’as is the speaking of lashon hara – evil speech, so measure for measure the status of the impurity is dependent upon the speech of the Kohen who rules upon it. Many times a person who sins by gossiping will justify himself by claiming that he didn’t take any action to harm another person, but merely spoke words which have no substantial impact. Therefore, we hint to him the significance of a person’s words and how much damage they can cause by showing him that his entire status hinges completely upon the verbal proclamation of the Kohen.


כי תבאו אל ארץ כנען אשר אני נתן לכם לאחזה ונתתי נגע צרעת בבית ארץ אחזתכם (14:34)

בשורה היא להם שהנגעים באים עליהם לפי שהטמינו אמוריים מטמוניות של זהב בקירות בתיהם

כל ארבעים שנה שהיו ישראל במדבר וע"י הנגע נותץ הבית ומוצאן (רש"י)

Rashi writes that in warning the people about the possibility of tzara’as striking their houses, Hashem was actually conveying good news. Because the previous inhabitants had hidden their treasures in the walls of their houses during the 40 years that the Jews were in the desert, the process of scraping a house with tzara’as would actually reveal to them valuable items. Nevertheless, a number of commentators question why Hashem chose to give the reward specifically in this peculiar manner.

After the conclusion of the Holocaust, Rav Eliezer Silver was very active in visiting DP camps in order to give physical and emotional support to the survivors. At one point, he was in a camp and attempted to organize a minyan for the afternoon prayers, yet one man refused to join. He explain that when he had been in a concentration camp, there was one religious Jew who had managed to smuggle in a siddur, which he would “rent out” for use in exchange for food rations. When this man saw how a religious Jew could take advantage of his siddur at such a time, he decided that he would never pray again. Rav Silver responded by noting that instead of focusing on the actions of the man with the siddur, perhaps it would be more appropriate to recognize how many Jews were willing to give up their preciously scarce food at such a time in order to be able to pour out their hearts to Hashem in prayer.

Rav Mordechai Kaminetzky notes that one of the primary causes of tzara’as is lashon hara, which comes from focusing on the shortcomings of our fellow Jews. The Torah therefore hints to such a person the importance of digging beneath the surface and not focusing on superficial deficiencies. Although the house may appear at first glance to be stricken with tzara’as, a deeper view will uncover the presence of gems waiting to be uncovered beneath the surface. Upon contemplating this, we will come to understand that our fellow Jews are just the same, and if we only take the time to alter our perspectives, we will be able to dig deeper and discover the beauty which lies beneath the surface!


כי תבאו אל ארץ כנען אשר אני נתן לכם לאחזה ונתתי נגע צרעת בבית ארץ אחזתכם (14:34)

בשורה היא להם שהנגעים באים עליהם לפי שהטמינו אמוריים מטמוניות של זהב בקירות בתיהם

כל ארבעים שנה שהיו ישראל במדבר וע"י הנגע נותץ הבית ומוצאן (רש"י)

Upon their return from examining the land of Israel, the spies returned and gave a negative report, full of details intended to scare the Jewish people and cause them to rebel against the idea of entering and conquering Israel. One of the facts that they related is that the cities were heavily fortified (Bamidbar 13:28). Rashi, however, understands that their intention was to refer to the fact that the walls of the cities were round. It is difficult to understand why the shape of the walls was relevant and what their negative intention could have been in relating such a seemingly trivial detail.

Rashi writes that in warning the people about the possibility of tzara’as striking their houses, Hashem was actually conveying good news. Because the previous inhabitants had hidden their treasures in the walls of their houses during the 40 years that the Jews were in the desert, the process of scraping a house with tzara’as would actually reveal to them valuable items. However, Rav Moshe Yitzchok Segal notes that the Mishnah in Nega’im (12:1) derives from the twofold repetition (14:37, 39) of the phrase קירות הבית – walls of the house – that the laws of tzara’as in houses are only applicable in houses which have four walls, as each phrase refers to a minimum of two walls and the phrase is repeated twice. The spies feared that upon hearing their negative report, the people would respond with inspired faith that although the people will be strong and the battle will be difficult, it will be well worth it as they will subsequently be able to discover the valuable treasures which were left behind in the walls. They therefore emphasized that the walls are round and therefore not subject to the laws governing tzara’as in houses, so that the people will never know where to look in order to uncover any hidden treasures!


Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Rashi writes (11:2) that just as man was created after all of the animals, so too the laws pertaining to him are taught only after the rules which determine the kashrus of the animals. If the commandments are written according to the order of the creation, why does the Torah teach the laws of a woman who has given birth before those governing a man who has tzara’as even though man was created before woman? (Paneiach Raza, Sifsei Chochomim)

2) The Gemora in Shabbos (135a) derives from the juxtaposition of the mitzvah to circumcise a boy on the 8th day to the fact that a woman who gives birth to a boy is impure for seven days (12:2-3) that only a boy whose mother is rendered impure by his birth for seven days shall be circumcised on the 8th, implying that any other male baby shall be circumcised immediately. The Rosh there writes that it is a matter of dispute whether this opinion is accepted as normative halacha, and therefore we must be strict in both directions, namely that a male whose mother isn’t rendered impure by his birth (e.g. if it is done via Caeserian-section) shouldn’t be circumcised immediately but rather on the 8th day. However, if the 8th day is on Shabbos, the circumcision shouldn’t be performed as it may not be considered the required time for the circumcision. It once happened that a woman gave birth to twin boys on Shabbos, one via Caeserian-section and one via natural birth. On the 8th day, which falls out on the following Shabbos, the latter clearly must be circumcised. Should the C-section baby be circumcised then as well, as even though his birth didn’t render his mother impure, nevertheless she is impure for seven days due to the birth of his twin brother?

3) The Torah discusses the laws regarding an אדם who has tzara’as on his skin (13:2). The Netziv there quotes the Zohar HaKadosh which states that of the many words in Lashon HaKodesh to describe a person, the word אדם is used to connote an important, respected individual. Why is a person who has spoken lashon hara and brought tzara’as on himself referred to with an expression signifying importance? (Limudei Nissan by Rav Nissan Alpert, Apiryon)

4) The Gemora in Arachin (16a) lists 7 sins which can cause tzara’as. How many can you name?

5) Is tzara’as a contagious disease? (Ibn Ezra 13:2, Rabbeinu Bechaye, Derech Sicha)

6) If a Kohen is asked to rule on the status of an affliction found on the skin of a powerful person whose retribution he fears, is he permitted to refuse to do so? Similarly, if he notices what appears to be tzara’as on the skin of somebody close to him but doesn’t wish to rule him impure, may he send his friend to another Kohen to rule on its status? (Drashos Rav Yosef Karo at the end of Maggid Meishorim)

7) Is a Kohen permitted to examine and rule on skin afflictions while wearing glasses, or must he see it directly with his eyes? (Yachin Nega’im 2:18, Shu”t Shevus Yaakov 1:126, Shu”t Tzafnas Pone’ach 13, K’motzei Shalal Rav)

8) Why aren’t the laws pertaining to tzara’as of a person, house, and clothing considered applicable at present, even in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash? (Perush Mishnayos L’Rambam end of Negaim, Mareh Kohen - introduction of the Tiferes Yisroel to Nega’im – 39, Chomer B’Kodesh – introduction of the Tiferes Yisroel to Kodshim – 4:26, Radvaz Hilchos Terumos 7:9, Shu”t Yaavetz 136, K’Motzei Shalal Rav, Derech Sicha, Torah L’Daas Vol. 2)

9) Tosefos writes (Niddah 73a d.h. Tanna) that there is an importance to ending books and tractates on a positive note. If so, why do both Parshios Tazria and Metzora end with a word referring to ritual impurity? (Matamei Yaakov, Yad Av)

10) As most of the laws pertaining to a person with tzara’as are contained in Parshas Tazria, wouldn’t it be more logical to call it Parshas Metzora? Similarly, as all of the other impurities which result from bodily emissions are discussed at the end of Parshas Metzora, why isn’t the impurity of a woman who has given birth mentioned there instead of at the beginning of Parshas Tazria? (Yad Av)

11) The Talmud refers to the concept of pious individuals who ate even regular food – chullin – in a state of purity, even though they weren’t required to do so (see Rashi Chullin 35a). The halacha is that Torah scholars are to have relations with their wives on Shabbos night (Orach Chaim 240:1), an action which renders them impure at least until the end of Shabbos (15:16). On other days when they were impure, they could simply not eat until sundown, but on Shabbos day one is required to eat two meals. How did they do so while keeping the food pure? (Magen Avrohom 280:1, M’rafsin Igri)


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1 Comments:

Blogger FrumGirl said...

I must admit I havent had time to read your divrei torah... but I am so glad you are still at it... something I can rely on... I'm gonna print this and read... thanks!

Wed May 03, 12:48:00 PM  

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