Friday, April 08, 2011

The Metzora's New Life

Being diagnosed with, and suffering through, tzaraas is a life changing event. One's whole life gets put on hold and everything is swept away and 'back-burnered' in order to deal with the affliction.

Upon being purified, the metzora brings a korban which involves two birds. One is slaughtered and the other is set free. Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains the significance of these birds.

The slaughtered bird is obvious – the metzora twittered like a gossiping bird and should feel remorse and seek to identify with the bird – to realize he deserves to be slaughtered for his transgression. The second bird, however, is let free – specifically to a field – not a city.

The most concrete definition of the myriad of sins (stinginess, slander, gossip, etc) that bring upon tzaraas is that these are sins against the fabric of society. Any one of these transgressions has the power to drive a wedge between Jews and cause animosity and hatred.

This is the message of the second bird. We tell the metzora that if he continues to gossip (like the bird) then his options are limited. Either slaughter – or exile. But there is no room in a positive Jewish community for any of those sins – or any tolerance.

Maybe the next time we are looking for some inspiration to help us get past a particularly difficult situation - one where we find ourselves tempted to engage in any one of the tzaraas bearing sins - we should remember this idea and realize how much we benefit from our fellow Jews – and how much we would miss the sense of community they afford. This will certainly help us steer clear of this pitfalls – and in this merit may we welcome Mashiach into our whole community speedily, in our days, amen.

Hatzlacha !

Friday, April 01, 2011

Would It Make A Sound ?

If a tree falls in the forest - right ?

Actually, one of the observances of the metzorah once he is declared impure is to call out "impure, impure" as he leaves the camp for his isolation and penance.

Why ?

Two approaches can be seen in the words of the sages.

The first, refers to the metzorah's requirement to warn others lest they be contaminated by him. This is said expicitly by the Targum Yonasan.

The second approach carries a valuable lesson. If there were no one around - he would still have to call out his status. It is not so much a warning to others as a declaration of his offensive status. It is also part of his penance. This is, perhaps, hinted at by the targum Onkelos and certainly in the Kli Yakar. The tzaraas affliction came as a result of haughty and degrading language. It is only fitting for someone who used his mouth for evil - to be forced to "drink the bitter cup" of castigation - with the same voice.

And our lesson ? When we find hat we have been deficient or lacking in an area of our service to the divine - the best way to return is toi seek ways to reverse the exact damage - with the same limbs.

Hatzlacha !!