OU Torah Insights Project
this weeks parshah, Miriam
is punished with tzaraat for
speaking lashon hara about
Moshe Rabbeinu. As the Torah dictates that one who is inflicted with tzaraat must remain outside the camp until the blemish clears,
The people did not journey until Miriam was brought in.
was time for Bnei Yisrael to
move on toward Eretz Yisrael,
but they were told to wait for Miriam. This gesture, Rashi
explains, came in order to honor Miriam for an act of chessed
performed many years earlier, as a young girl in Egypt.
Moshe was three months old, their mother had no choice but to put him in
a basket in the river. If the authorities had found him, they would have
killed him instantly. Miriam waited a short time by the riverbank to see
how he would survive. For that short time that she waited by her
brothers side, Hashem
honored her, measure for measure, by enjoining all of Bnei
Yisrael to wait by her side at her time of need.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, ztl,
asks, why did her reward come at this time, following her sin?
Rabbeinu asked Hashem a question that continues to be asked today: Why
do righteous people suffer? The Talmud tells us Hashems response.
Only a perfect tzaddik
does not suffer; but one who is not perfect may suffer.
lived her life as a perfect tzaddeiket.
She never deserved even the slightest bit of pain. However, as King
Shlomo tells us in Kohelet,
no one goes through an entire lifetime without some sort of sin.
Miriams flaw, as small as it was, came many years into her
illustrious life. She was now imperfect, and deserved some sort of
retribution, which came in the form of tzaraat.
would be the low point of her life. The entire nation became aware of
her private conversation, and must have lost some of their great respect
for her. She is just like us; shes imperfect. Hashem had to act
to clear things up.
chacham sins at night, our Sages inform us, dont think
ill of him in the morning, for he certainly did teshuvah.
Miriam repented immediately for her error. The sin was erased. However,
the laws of tzaraat mandated that she wait the minimum seven days.
with her the Bnei Yisrael
were therefore told. She is not away from the camp because of her
sin, for it no longer exists. She is away to fulfill the Torahs laws
as Miriam had waited for her brother, who was left alone through no
fault of his own, she too was to be waited on in her isolation for a sin
she was no longer responsible for. Had she still been tainted, she would
not have been deserving of such honor.
was the greatest form of respect possible, returning her to the status
of a perfect tzaddeiket in
this most public showing of honor.
Mandel is rabbi of Congregation Ahavath
Yisrael in Morristown, New Jersey.