By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
April 12, 2003
This Shabbat, it is customary for our Torah leaders to teach
the laws of Pesach. What sort of guidance and inspiration can we expect of
This week’s Parsha describes the process by which a Metzora ( a person
afflicted with tzara’at) is purified. After the signs of tzara’at change, and
the kohen declares the plague at an end, the purification process begins.
First, however, the kohen must inspect the afflicted person, also called a
And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: This shall be the teaching of the metzora
on the day of his becoming pure: and he shall be brought to [V’HUV AEL] the
kohen. And the kohen shall go out to the outside of the camp [V’YATZA HAKOHEN
EL MICHUTZ LAMACHANEH], and the kohen shall look and behold, the plague of
tzara’at is healed from the tzarua (Vayikra 14:1-3).
There is a linguistic difficulty in these opening verses. When the tzaru’a
seems to be cured, he shall be brought to the kohen; this suggests that the
kohen is stationary and the tzaru’a is taken whether voluntarily or against
his will, to where the kohen is found. But, this reading cannot be correct:
firstly, because at a later stage in the purification process he must remain
outside the camp; secondly, because our verses state explicitly that “the
kohen shall go out to the outside of the camp” to inspect the tzaru’a there.
Who goes to whom?
Saadia Gaon poses a fairly simple solution to this problem. He accepts the
fact that the inspection takes place outside the camp. However, he translates
V’HUVA EL HAKOHEN as:
“And [his case] shall be brought to the kohen.”
In this way there is no contradiction, but it does require an interpolation
that may seem unjustified.
Ramban, too, assumes that the metzora remains outside the camp at this stage.
The point of V’HUVA EL HAKOHEN, however, is to emphasize two elements:
1. As soon as the plague appears cured, he can begin the process of
purification immediately, without a waiting period. This is expressed in the
comment of the Midrash Torat Kohanim (also known as Sifra) on our verse:
“And he shall be brought to the kohen – that he does not wait.”
This is in contrast with the other forms of tumah discussed in our Parsha (see
15:13-10, 28-30) where the one cured of an affliction (zav or zava) must wait
seven days before beginning the purification process.
2. When the plague is cured, the metzora has no choice but to be brought
before the kohen, because there is no other method of purification. In a
sense, he is forced to go before the kohen. Ibn Ezra agrees with this reading,
and adds that, once cured, the metzora might want to avoid the purification
process because of the sacrifices he must buy. Therefore, the Torah emphasizes
that he has no choice but to turn to the kohen to become tahor.
In his comments to Vayikra 13:2, Rabbi Ovadia Sforno contends that V’HUVA and
V’YATZA do not conflict, because the word V’HUVA does not connote spatial
movement, but rather a transformation of status. He is brought for his own
benefit – to be purified. He cites a verse from Tehillim (45:15) for support:
“She shall be brought to the king in embroidered apparel; the virgins in her
train, her companions, are [also] led (MUVAOT) to you.”
In his commentary to Tehillim, Sforno explains that the connotation of MUVAOT
is “led, influenced, inspired.”
A most insightful explanation of our verses is proposed by Rabbi Zalman
Sorotzkin of Lutzk (1881-1966) in his Torah commentary Oznayim LaTorah. First,
the metzora might not have thought it important to go to the kohen. After all,
the “disease” is gone; no one visits a doctor after a sickness is cured!
However, the Torah commands that the metzora must go to the kohen, because the
issue is not about his physical health, but his spiritual state - and his
tum’ah or taharah depends entirely upon the kohen.
Rabbi Sorotzkins’s second point is to harmonize V’HUVA with V’YATZA:
Rather, the Torah teaches us that the kohen does not go to the house or to the
tent of the metzora, which is outside the encampment, but to a designated
place which is outside of the camp to which they bring the metzora.
Afterwards, the kohen goes out to the place which is outside of the camp, to
examine the plague. The reason for this is because our Sages, of blessed
memory, said that plagues are visited upon one for haughtiness (one of the
seven causes enumerated in Arachin 15 for which plagues are inflicted).
In Rabbi Sorotzkin’s reading, first the metzora V’HUVA EL HAKOHEN – is made to
go towards the kohen, and, only then V’YATZA HA KOHEN EL MICHUTZ LAMACHANEH –
does the kohen go to that “neutral zone” outside the camp. This humbling
experience is the antidote to the haughty attitude that was the real cause of
the metzora’s affliction.
Sforno may have had Rabbi Sorotzkin’s ethical message in mind in his brief
comment on our verse:
And he shall be brought to the kohen: to a nearby place outside the camp, to
which the kohen can, with honor and without much difficulty, go to examine
Once his physical sickness is cured, the metzora is still in great need of
spiritual direction. He therefore must seek out the kohen. The kohen, for his
part, “meets him halfway”, but only after the metzora has made the first
overture to become purified. The role of the kohen is to be a source of Torah:
For the lips of the kohen gaurd wisdom, and Torah shall they seek from his
mouth, for a messenger (angel) of Hashem of Hosts is he (Malachi 2:7).
When any of us needs guidance and inspiration, we too, must turn humbly to our
Torah leaders. We will then find that they are willing to help us make our way
back to spiritual wholeness.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
Parshat Metzora teaches how to cure tzara'at that has afflicted one's
home. If one would find tzara'at on one's home in Israel, one would be
instructed to dismantle the walls of the edifice and remove the bricks and
cinderblocks to outside of the camp. Rashi comments that this unique
rehabilitative process of "cleansing" the home was actually advantageous
for Bnei Yisrael. For during the forty years that Bnei Yisrael were
wandering in the wilderness, a punishment due to the sin of the spies, the
Amorites who at the time resided in the Land, were busy hiding their gems
and jewels in the walls of their homes. When the walls of an afflicted
home were demolished, the new Jewish owner would discover these gems and
Rashi's commentary requires elucidation. Not only for his deviation from
the normative approach that tzara'at is a punishment, but also for the
connection he makes between the generation of the wilderness and tzara'at-afflicted
To explain Rashi, we must remember that the Gemara explains the cause of
tzara'at to be tzarut ha-ayin, literally, a narrowness of the eye. I.e., a
supercritical, pessimistic, toxic, negative look at all that is around
Perhaps Rashi's explanation is a lesson tailored for our generation: "Ki
tavo'u el HaAretz" - After finally having the ability of living in Israel,
instead of running and embracing that miracle and opportunity, some Jews
respond with tzarut ha-ayin - a narrowness of sight. If we adopt a
critical negative, pessimistic, outlook on our actual ability to live in
the land, or a lack of desire to do so, then Hashem sadly will begin to
jeopardize our security, our hold on the land. The generation that
perished in the wilderness because of tzarut ayin, did not reach the Holy
Land, and did not earn the gems and jewels of the Amorites!
May we see more obviously the gems and jewels of the treasure of Eretz
Yisrael that is sparkling before us, without having to be subjected to the
painful anguish of additional trauma and dismantling of our foundation,
and be zocheh to build our homes, our lives, and future in Eretz Hakdoshah.
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass
Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B'Nefesh
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320