Weekly Reading Insights

Metzorah 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Metzorah
To be read on 10 Nissan 5763 (April 12)

Torah: Lev. 14:1-15:33;
Haftorah: II Kings 7:3-20 (about 4 victims of tsora'at)
Stats: Metsorah 5th Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 28th overall, contains 42 positive mitzvot and 39 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 159 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 41th out of 54 in overall length.

Metzora discusses the process of purification for a metzora (one having tzara’as), the poor metzora’s offering, tzara’as on houses, and concludes with laws about male and female discharges which cause impurity and means of attaining purification from these.* tzara’as is a discoloration appearing on skin, hair, garments, and houses, and is sometimes (inaccurately) translated as 'leprosy.'


"And I will place the plague of leprosy upon a house in the land of your possession"

One commentary states that to a certain extent a plague on a house after the Jews entered Israel was a good thing because the Amorites, who had lived in Israel previously, had hidden gold in the walls of their houses. When the Jews had to break down their walls because of the plague, they found the gold. This is a lesson for all of us. Every Jew has treasures hidden deep within. When he sins, he is neglecting the treasures that G-d has instilled within. When a Jew is given a plague, it reminds him to repent, which brings him closer to G-d. In that way, the hidden treasures are revealed.

(Likutei Sichot)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

I have previously referred to an allusion contained in the words: "A person having a blemish in his skin" (Leviticus 13:2). We can understand this in relation to the vestments for the priests which were to be "for dignity and adornment." These were to symbolize the Katunot Or, "garments of light" (the word "Or" here spelt with an Alef, meaning "light"), which Adam and Eve wore before the sin of the 'Tree of Knowledge' which they had to subsequently exchange for Katunot Or ("Or" spelt with an Ayin, meaning skin) garments of skin. While on one hand this demonstrates a fall from grace, Onkelos translates Katunot Or ("Or" spelt with Ayin), as "precious garments" (Genesis 3,21). At first glance it seems that Onkelos is mixing Katunot Or (spelt with an Alef) with Katunot Or (spelt with an Ayin). In fact, he is alluding to a mystical dimension to this comparison which is rooted in Kohelet 2,13: "as the advantage of light over darkness." The message there is that G-d makes purity emerge even out of impurity. [From the "Or", or "skin", eventually will come a spiritual benefit - what appeared to be a descent , will ultimately be an advantage).

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:28-63 Metzorah)

Chasidut says that on Shabbat Hagadol, the Shabbat before Pesach, we should be happy, because this is when the Almighty initiated the stage immediately preceding the redemption from Egypt. On a different plane, each of us is cleaning out our personal "chametz" and improving ourselves. And all is supposed to be done in haste, as it says, "In haste did our forefathers leave Egypt."

One of the priests' tasks was to determine if a sign on a person, garment, or house was, in fact, tzara'at or if it was pure. Rebbe Michel writes the priests' involvement is a hint about the tzadikim (perfectly righteous) in each generation, whose purpose it is to direct us toward better paths of teshuva. Similarly, the idea of tzara'at, a physical ailment with a spiritual root that is identified by a priest, exists today in that a tzadik can "see" our sins and can help us fix them. The purification for both tzara'at and our sins is teshuva.

Rebbe Michel goes on to explain that the most important part of teshuva is to stop doing sins and regret our negative actions. We should not fool ourselves. But this is not easy! So too in business, valuable merchandise is not only costly and difficult to obtain, but requires much effort to sell, and profit only comes at the end. However, unlike business where there is always a risk that the deal will sour, teshuva provides a guaranteed profit. Teshuva is the best of all merchandise, because any effort we make is beneficial to us. Is it any wonder that the Torah encourages us to invest in teshuva?

"And then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed, two live pure birds, cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop" ( Lev. 14:4)

Rebbe Michel phrases the verse to explain the teshuva process: "And then shall the priest command…" is the tzadik who directs us to good. "…To take for him that is to be cleansed…" means that we "take", i.e. pray for ourselves that G-d will help us move in the correct direction.

"…Two birds…"
The Hebrew word for "bird", tzipor, can also be read "tzafar", meaning "light"; the two lights that guide us are self-discipline to stop sinning, and the regret we feel.

This hints to enthusiasm.

This means that we have no ulterior motive to our actions; we simply want to return to

The Hebrew word for "wood" is "etz", which is related to the Hebrew word for "advice". We should be loyal to a tzadik, using his advice to carry us through difficulties.

The Hebrew word for "cedar" is "erez", which comes from the word raz, the Hebrew word for "secret". All of this process should be private.

In Hebrew, this term, shani tola'as, can be read as "to change the worm". This is the evil inclination that always tries to worm its way into our lives and mess things up.

In Hebrew, "hyssop" is "azov", which can also mean "he will emit".

If we do all of this teshuva process, then our evil inclination will be a constant source of blessing for us and for all of the Jewish people. Azov also refers to the person who will consistently grow and "emit" blessings and good deeds by training him or herself to always be humble and lowly. This person accredits nothing to himself and instead focuses on what else can be accomplished. Having this attitude gives a person physical and spiritually health, and hastens the redemption.

The final step of the purification process is immersion in a mikva (ritual bath). The Rebbe explains that just as a person is required to immerse his or her whole body, which can include lowering one's head, so too the inner dimension of purification includes humbling ourselves completely by immersing ourselves totally in Torah.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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