Take Initiative – Dvar Torah on Parshat Metzora 5776 2016

Metzora is mentioned in the Torah and is described as a skin infection which renders a person Tammey or spiritually defiled. A Kohen, and not a doctor, is instructed to determine if the person is truly infected. When the infection seems to be gone the Torah states that the individual is to be brought to the Kohen: וְהוּבָא אֶל הַכֹּהֵן, (Lev. 14,2) to determine if indeed the person has recovered and to instruct him about the method of purification. The very next verse states: וְיָצָא הַכֹּהֵן, “the Kohen shall go forth…” to the individual.

First it stated the infected person is to be brought to the Kohen. The next verse states that the Kohen is to go to the person. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein points out the contradiction and gives a very potent explanation. He maintains that the person should come to the Kohen but if he doesn’t than the Kohen should go to him. He then adds that “every teacher or person who can influence others must keep this mind and do so.”

This is extremely important for everyone to take heed. We often see how we can help someone but wait for that person to ask and hesitate to offer. Not all people will ask. We must extend ourselves and make the first move.

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Dvar Torah Tazria-Metzora 5775 2015

The Portion of Metzora relates to a person who is afflicted with a particular rash the Torah calls a Nega. In our time we are not aware of what this affliction is. Chazal, however, tell us that it comes as a punishment for speaking לשון הרע, slander.

The story is told about Rabban Gamliel that he once sent his Shamash to the market to bring him that which is the best thing. He brought him a tongue. He sent him again to bring the worst thing. Again he brought a tongue. He asked him is it possible that the tongue is both the best and the worst thing? “Yes”, he answered, “there is nothing better than a tongue that speaks honestly and nothing worse than a tongue that speaks slander and gossip”.

Today we do not have the disease of Metzora but the wrong of speaking לשון הרע, slander, is still with us. The Chafetz Chaim, the author of the “Mishna Brurah” wrote an entire book on the subject to direct us on how we must act in speaking about others and in treating them in order to avoid slander. לשון הרע slander is considered one of the most serious wrongdoings of which we can be guilty and one of the most difficult transgressions to avoid.

Dvar Torah Parshat Metzora 5774 2014

The Torah tells us: זֹאת תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת הַמְּצֹרָע, “This shall be the law of the Metzora…”.(Lev.14,2) The word מְּצֹרָע is rendered in most English translations as “leper”. This we know is not the correct meaning. The root of the word is צרע which means to strike and hence it implies some form of infection.

The Midrash tells us the word stands for: המוציא שם רע, as if it is an abbreviated form and stands for: מוציא רע, speak out evil or gossip. (Med. Rabba Lev. Metzora 16) The accepted teaching of Chazal is that one is afflicted with this disease as a punishment for לשון הרע, evil gossip.

Rabbi Moshe Alshech was one of the great Biblical scholars of the 16th century, and a member of the Rabbinic court of Rabbi Yosef Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch.

This great Rabbi asks why we don’t have people today (in his time) stricken with this disease. Does this indicate that there are no more Jews guilty of evil gossip? He concludes, on the contrary. There are so many people guilty of this wrong that if this punishment would be carried out almost everyone would be walking around distressed with this horrible infection.

This, of course, does not pardon us of this transgression. We are still warned against it and may, Heaven forbid, be dealt with by a different punishment.

Dvar Torah Parshat Tazria – Metzora 5773 2013

A Metzora is one who has developed a rash on his body. Chazal tell us this was mainly a divine punishment for speaking לשון הרע, evil talk against his fellow man. He was sent out of the camp of the Israelites and had to remain there until the illness disappeared. It is only a Kohen who can examine him and declare that he has been healed.

The Torah tells us that on the day the infection disappears וְהוּבָא אֶל הַכֹּהֵן, “…he shall be brought to the Kohen.” (Lev 14,2) The very next verse states: וְיָצָא הַכֹּהֵן אֶל מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה, “The Kohen shall go to the outside of the camp…”. He is to go to the Metzora who is outside of the Israelite camp to check him and declare his recovery. This seems to be contradictory. First we are told the Metzora is to be brought to the Kohen and then we are told the Kohen comes to him.

The obvious explanation is that the Metzora goes to the edge of the camp and the Kohen comes there to meet him. However, The Midrash Torat Kohanim extracts an additional teaching from this seeming contradiction. It tells us that the Metzora must make contact with the Kohan to receive all the instructions about the ritual he must follow on the day of his purification as a thanks to the Almighty for curing him. Then the Kohen can declare him cured.

Today when a person has suffered an illness and recovered he must be ever grateful to Hashem and must surely express his appreciation in a meaningful fashion. If the sickness was a very serious one there is a special Beracha of thanks known as הגומל which is recited in the presence of a Minyan of ten men.

Dvar Torah Parshat Tazria-Metzora 5772 2012

The Torah tells us that a house can have a נֶגַע, an affliction, and the wall upon which it is found has to be destroyed. Chazal give us many reasons why a house can have a נֶגַע. All the reasons are based on the one belief that the owner has committed Lashon Harah, slander, or some similar transgression.

The one who has to declare it a נֶגַע can only be a Kohen who is an expert in this field. The procedure prescribed in the Torah is that the individual who has a נֶגַע on the wall in his house must go to the Kohen and say: כְּנֶגַע נִרְאָה לִי בַּבָּיִת, “…Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house.” (Lev. 14,35)

Why doesn’t the owner of the house simply say, “נֶגַע נִרְאָה לִי בַּבָּיִת, I see a נֶגַע in my house; come and check it out”?

There is an Halachic rule that a person may not admit that he is a Rasha, or an evil person. Hence, if he came and said he has a נֶגַע in his house he would be admitting that he has transgressed by speaking slander. He thus says that it appears to be like a נֶגַע and the Kohen should check it out. The Kohen determines if it is indeed a נֶגַע and only then the home owner must atone for his wrongdoing.

Dvar Torah Parshat Metzora 5771 2011

It is a well known fact that our Sages of the Talmud recognized that the affliction of METZORA is due to a spiritual deficiency, mainly evil gossip. The person suffering from this malady is to be sent out of the camp of the Israelites until he recovers. The opening verses of this week’s Portion deals with the time that the symptoms’ disappear and the person is ready to return to the community.

The Torah says: VEHUVA EL HAKOHEN, “…he shall be brought to the Kohen.” (Lev. 14,2) This, of course, is for the Kohen to examine him since the Kohen was given the responsibility of determining whether the person is still afflicted or cured.

The very next verse creates a problem. It states: VEYATZA HAKOHEN EL MICHUTZ LAMACHANEH, “The Kohen shall go forth out of the camp…”. One verse tells us that the afflicted one is to be brought to the Kohen and the next few words tell us the Kohen goes to him.

Implied here is a serious teaching for every Rabbi, teacher or leader. If the person who suffers from the spiritual deficiency comes on his own to the Kohen for help, then good and well. If he has not reached that stage through his own initiative, then the Kohen must go to him. Every leader who deals with people must reach out to help those people who need help. The good leader is one who can help the needy individual to find his way. One must not always wait for someone to come and seek your help but often we must volunteer and extend a helping hand where we see it is warranted.

Dvar Torah Parshat Tazria – Metzora 2009 5769 דבר תורה פרשת תזריע מצורע

One of the duties of the Kohanim, we read in today’s Sidra, is to examine what appears as a NEGA or an affliction on the skin of an individual. This is obviously a menial task. Moshe realized this and according to the Midrash said to Hashem, “Is this an honorable task for my brother Aharon, to inspect the NEGA of people?” (Lev. Rab. 15;8)

The response he received from Hashem was that as a Kohen he also receives all the gifts from the people. In effect what Moshe was being told is that there is good and bad in everything. All benefits carry with them drawbacks.

When a person is appointed or elected to a high position it is indeed an honor. He must realize, however, that with this honor come responsibilities. Often we seek a job or position that seems to be a most desirable and attractive status only to find that with it comes many unwanted and boring and monotonous tasks.

The point is that there is good and not so good in everything and it is up to us to make the best of every situation.