At the end of this week’s Sedra Hashem commands Moshe Rabeinu ‘והזהרתם מטמאתם” וכו.” Generally this would be translated as and “you should warn them (Klal-Yisroel) regarding their contaminations” etc. The Targumim and Mefarshim, however, explain otherwise. They translate it as: “and you should separate Klal-Yisroel from their contaminations” – in other words, Moshe Rabeinu is to instruct Klal-Yisroel to distance themselves from becoming Tamei. The Meforshim offer different explanations as to why it makes sense to translate the phrase in this manner, but they still seem far from the simple explanation.
The obvious question is: why do the Meforshim and Targumim find it necessary to depart from the usual and simple translation, especially as the simple translation seems to make sense?
The end of the aforementioned Passuk states “and they should not die through their contaminations by contaminating my Mishkan that is in their midst”. How does the end of the Passuk make sense according to the Meforshim? Moshe Rabeinu commanding Klal-Yisroel to distance themselves from becoming contaminated suggests that there is some sort of personal problem for the contaminated individual. Yet, the end of the Passuk implies that the problem is that the Mishkan may become Tamei?
The Torah has reiterated many times in these past two Parshios (Taazria and Metzora) the fact that when an individual becomes Tamei that person must distance himself from the Mishkan and the holy camps of Klal-Yisroel. When a person is Tamei there is a gap created between that individual and holy things. The person in question is so to speak held apart from Hashem.
Our Passuk is made up of two components: the underlying issue and the cause and effect – or put slightly differently, the consequences that can result from the underlying issue. Moshe Rabeinu is instructed to relay to Klal-Yisroel the need to distance oneself from Tumah. We must distance ourselves from that which keeps us apart from Hashem. Someone who doesn’t realize the importance of not becoming Tamei is lacking sensitivity to Tumah and the gap it forges between us and Hashem. Such a person is thus likely to actually contaminate the Mishkan by failing to realize the distance created by Tumah that sets him apart from Hashem. We must distance ourselves from that which will distance ourselves from Hashem.
This week’s Haftorah is named “the Four Metzoraim”. It is obvious that this Haftorah was chosen to be read because it discusses Metzoraim, the topic of this week’s Sedra. At first glance, the Haftorah seems not to have a real lesson for us. In Melachim (II Kings) this anecdote has a clear lesson, but we read it as an abstract clip out of context. Yet even in its context there seems to be little to be learned from the fact that some of the main characters were Metzoraim.
When we look at the story (both isolated and in context), we are told a tale of four metzoraim who were outside the camp because of their affliction. The persecutor of Israel at the time was Aram, and its king, Ben-haddad had laid siege to Samaria, causing large scale famine. The four Metzoraim consequently did not have what to eat. They went to the scout out the enemy camp of Aram in search of food. As they approached Hashem made a miracle. Hashem caused a great roaring sound that induced the armed camp of Aram to believe a large scale battle was upon them. This caused the entire camp to panic and flee for their lives. The Metzoraim were then able to come into the now deserted encampment and find food. Upon realizing the miraculous victory and the sudden source and availability of food – they ran to share the news with the entire Malchus Yisroel. Through their announcement of the good news Malchus-Yisroel witnessed Yeshuas Hashem.
The Metzoraim were at a low point in their lives. Not only were they suffering from famine like the rest of the nation, they were also suffering from being quarantined from the rest of the people. Nonetheless they did not give up. They persevered, found food, and eventually ended up saving Malchus-Yisroel.
The plague of Tzaraas seems overwhelmingly depressing. It is extremely disheartening to imagine being excommunicated in such an embarrassing way. The Haftorah tells us otherwise: the Haftorah tells us that there is no such thing as being cut off even temporarily. The Haftorah is telling us that sometimes even a Metzora can be the hero.
We all have a tendency to write ourselves off as being insignificant when it comes to the ultimate well-being of Am-Yisroel. Our Haftorah tells us otherwise – our Haftorah tells us that even at our lowest point we can still be Hashem’s emissary to save Am-Yisroel.