Aliya-by-Aliya Parashat Metzora 5760

Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-count of the Sefer HaChinuch.

Kohen – first Aliya – 12 p’sukim – 14:1-12

The afflictions dealt with in Tazria are immediately dealt with by the procedures described in M’Tzora.

The main theme of M’tzora is the “ritual purification” of the one afflicted with Tzora’at. These procedures constitute a positive mitzva [173]. Two birds are to be taken, a ceremony is performed with them, one bird is offered as a sacrifice, and the other is set free. The person immerses in a mikve, he cleans his garments, and he shaves all the hair on his body [174]. The rules of ritual immersion in general, come from this context [175].

A longish SDT… The 12th and final chapter of Mishna Chulin deals with the mitzva of Shilu’ach HaKen (the sending away of the mother bird). The final mishna in that chapter deals with the situation when that mitzva might clash with the purification of the M’tzora. What if the only bird available to the M’tzora for his atoning offerings is a mother dove hovering over her nest? Do we say the positive mitzva of Taharat HaM’tzora overrides the prohibition of taking the mother bird? This would seem to fit a general rule: a positive commandment overrides a prhibition (Asei docheh lo taasei). Yet this is not the case. Even for a mitzva, and even when the bird will be released alive, as is the case of the second of the M’tzora’s two birds, one may not violate the Shilu’ach HaKen mitzva. There are technical reasons based on the wording in the text of the Torah for this rule. Yet there might be another concept afoot. Shilu’ach HaKen is a “showcase” mitzva. It is one of the rare mitzvot for which a reward is specified – Arichat Yamim (lengthening of life, the exact meaning of this is disputed, but the reward is nonetheless expressed). The mitzva defies common logic and reasoning. It contains enigmatic qualities of a CHOK – a Divine imperative, not readily explainable. And its reward is implied for many other mitzvot by reasoning of a Kal VaChomer – if this mitzva is rewarded thusly, then certainly the more difficult mitzvot must carry with them great reward. (Although we are cautioned not to act in order to receive reward, and although we cannot compare one mitzva to another since we “don’t know how G-d keeps score”, we do have a sense of the truth of the logic expressed by the mishna.) Be that as it may, we can possibly learn that the pursuit of personal improvement may not be at the expense of others, be they human or animal. [Note: this is only food for thought and should not be generalized; doing so can lead to contradictory notions.]

Levi – second Aliya – 8 p’sukim – 14:13-20

The purification process is completed after bringing various korbanot, following a seven day period and the other procedures, as mentioned above [176].

[SDT] Notice how the M’tzora is isolated from others during the time he is ritually unclean. That gives him time to examine himself, his deeds, his thoughts. But as part of the process of purification, as part of the process of having a second chance in the world, he is ministered to by a kohen who becomes the first contact in his renewal procedure. There is a significant psychological factor at work in the area of NEGA’IM.

Note the use of the blood of the korbanot as well as the oil that the purifying M’tzora brings. Many of the same things are done to both – sprinkling, dabbing the earlobe, thumb and big toe. This has been an observation with no explanation of the significance.

Sh’lishi – third Aliya – 12 p’sukim – 14:21-32

A person who cannot afford the animals for the sacrifices, is to bring one sheep and two birds as his offering. The Torah describes the rituals involved in these offerings.

It is not important how much the sacrifice is worth on a dollars and cents basis (shekels and agorot), but what is relative to the means of the atoner.

Thus ends the section of the Torah dealing with afflictions to the individual. ZOT TORAT… this is the body of law of one afflicted who cannot afford the full set of korbanot.

R’vi’i – fourth Aliya – 21 p’sukim – 14:33-53

The Torah next discusses Tzora’at that can afflict a person’s house. This can only be in the Land of Israel, in a house made of specific materials, and under specific conditions [177]. Once again, it is the kohen who makes the determination as to whether Tzora’at does exist, or a professional house painter should be consulted. In the case of a “house plague”, there are procedures to be followed and purification processes, including korbanot to be brought.

[SDT] Not only does a person’s body contain elements of spirituality, but even him home – specifically in Eretz Yisrael. Although we do not “practice” this whole topic today, the lessons of the bridge and connection between the physical world and the spiritual one cannot be overlooked. A person whose home is a meeting place for Torah scholars, a launching pad for acts of charity and kindness, a training ground for a new generation of sensitive, feeling, enthusiastic Jews, such a home cannot be infected by spiritual plague. A home devoid of spirituality is a prime target for Nig’ei HaBayit. In this case, it is not the anti-rust and anti-mold paint that makes the difference. It is the values that a Jew lives by and their effect on the next generation.

It’s worthwhile to point out that the manifestation of a NEGA and some kind of rot, mold, fungus, or whatever can be EXACTLY the same. If a kohen sees it and declares ritual impurity, then it is a NEGA HABAYIT. And if he doesn’t see it, then it isn’t. Even if a non-kohen expert in the field identifies it as a NEGA. And it is possible that a kohen was about to declare a house TAMEI and he finds out the the home-owner is a CHATAN in his first week of marriage, then he won’t make the declaration and there is no TUM’A. It is all “the way a kohen sees it”. There’s a lot to ponder here.

G’matriya based on L’ORA SHEL TORA by R. Yaakov Auerbach z”l

Our sources clearly state that the (main) cause of Tzora’at is the sin of Lashon HaRa. This idea is reflected beautifully in the following G’matriya.

The numeric value of NEGA TZORA’AT is 50 + 3 + 70 (123) + 90 + 200 + 70 + 400 (760) = 883.

The prohibition of gossip and “evil tongue” is LO TEILEICH RACHIL B’AMECHA, “do not be a talebearer”. Its numeric value is 30 + 1 (31) + 400 + 30 + 20 (450) + 2 + 70 + 40 + 20 (132) = 883.

Punishment for violating the 883 prohibition of Lashon HaRa is the 883 affliction of Tzora’at.

May I add that the proper way to avoid both the violation and its punishment is with MIDOT TOVOT (good personality traits) = 40 + 10 + 4+ 6 + 400 (460) + 9 + 6 + 2 + 6 + 400 (423) = 883. And if we all can avoid Lashon HaRa and its punishment by developing those good traits, then TIZKU L’GEULA SHLEIMA (you shall merit the Complete Redemption) = 400 + 7 + 20 + 6 (433) + 30 + 3 + 1 + 6 + 30 + 5 + (75) + 300 + 30 + 40 + 5 (375) = 883.

Chamishi- fifth Aliya – 19 p’sukim – 14:54-15:15

This portion begins with a summary of different types of NEGA’IM.

Smallest p’sukim in the Torah has 3 words. There are only 13 (maybe 14 if you consider a parsha break to actually split a pasuk into two p’sukim) in the whole Torah. Here in M’tzora are two 3-word p’sukim back-to-back. Is there anything special about these 3-word p’sukim? I don’t know for sure, except that in some Sidurim there is the list of the 3-word p’sukim (plus some “special” p’sukim from elsewhere in Tanach) in the Motza’ei Shabbat readings (after the Z’mirot). It is probably Kabalistic.

Next the Torah speaks of the status of a man with an “unnatural discharge” (probably a form of venereal disease). In such cases, the Torah view matters as a combination of physical symptoms with spiritual causes – in the case of “Zav” and “Zava”, most probably attributable to sexual misconduct. (As such, there is a close relationship between the different themes of the sedra. Interesting, is it not, that there are doctors and clinics today that specialize in dermatology and venereal diseases.) The one afflicted is himself “Tamei” as well as causing other people and objects to become “ritually impure” through contact, both direct and indirect [178]. The one afflicted, must bring special korbanot after a purification process [179].

Shishi- sixth Aliya – 13 p’sukim – 15:16-28

There is also a “ritual impurity” (of a lesser degree – one-day type) in cases of normal seminal emissions [180].

A menstruating woman is “ritually unclean”. This is counted as a positive mitzva [181]; its negative counterpart is in the next sedra.

A woman with an unnatural discharge has a specific set of rules. In the case of a Zava, there are differences in her status depending upon how many sightings of blood there are, and how frequent. These rules and procedures constitute a mitzva [182].

[SDT] Generally, when there is a rich man’s korban and a poor man’s korban for the same situation, if a rich man brings the less expensive version of the korban, he fulfills his obligation, after the fact. Tzora’at is an exception. If a rich man brought a poor man’s offering, he has not fulfilled his obligation. The son of the Nodeh B’Yehuda explained why beautifully.

One of the causes of Tzora’at is stinginess. Even the term in our Vidui can be seen as a play on words – TZAROT AYIN. If a rich man brings a poor person’s korban, in this case it is an indication that he hasn’t healed. The korban cannot bring atonement.

Sh’vi’i – 7th Aliya – 5 p’sukim – 15:29-33

The requirement of the korbanot at the conclusion of the period of impurity [183]. The people of Israel have a great potential for attaining spiritual heights. They have an equally great potential for descending to low levels of spiritual impurity.

The last 3 p’sukim of the sedra (which are reread for Maftir) serve as a summary to the topics of ritual purity and impurity and present the challenge to the Jewish People to rise above mundane physical existence by scrupulously avoiding “impurity”.

[SDT] Commentaries note that the laws pertaining to human beings (the sedras of Tazria and M’tzora) follow the laws pertaining to animals (Vayikra, Tzav, Shmini). This corresponds to the sequence of creation – animals were created before humans. If a person behaves in an improper manner, he is lower than an animal. And is reminded that “the mosquito preceded him”. If however, he behaves properly, keeps the Torah and mitzvot, rises to the challenge of being holy, then he is worthy of having been created in the image of G-d.

Haftara – 22+1 p’sukimMal’achi 3:4-24

Unlike recent special Shabbatot, when we read a special Maftir in a second Torah and a special Haftara, for Shabbat HaGadol that is not the case.. We use only one Torah and we read from it Parshat HaShavua. We do, however, read a special Haftara.

Some opinions say to read this haftara only when Shabbat HaGadol is Erev Pesach (a rar-ish occurrence, like next year). Other opinions say to use this haftara only when Shabbat HaGadol is NOT Erev Pesach (as is the case this year…and most years). Common practice is to read it on Shabbat HaGadol in all cases, preempting the regularly scheduled Haftara.

The haftara speaks of faithfulness to Torah and the promise of the coming of Eliyahu HaNavi as the harbinger of the Final Redemption. As such, this haftara helps us view Pesach in its proper perspective. Eliyahu HaNavi partakes of the Seder, so to speak. That G-d will send him before the Great day (of Complete Redemption) makes this Haftara the perfect expression of “Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem”. Geula of the past always looks to the Geula of the future.

Note: The penultimate (next to the last) verse is repeated as the concluding verse of the haftara. This is done to end the book of Trei-Asar on a positive note (Mal’achi being the last section of the Book).Three other books of Tanach are similarly concluded. Can you name them?