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Metzora 5776

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

This week’s Torah portion, Metsora, discusses the laws of various forms of Tumah [spiritual defilement] that result from certain discolorations on the body, clothing, or one’s home, as well as certain discharges.

Removing the impurity is not always a simple matter; it is a long process, and immediate success is not guaranteed.

Though these impurities are spiritual and not subject to the laws of nature, one cannot help but wonder why it is so difficult to remove them. As they are hardly visible to the human eye, why is this extensive effort needed to purify oneself?

Furthermore, Tsaraat was a miraculous occurrence. It only happened to the Bnei Yisrael and only whilst in Israel.

Surely if G-d Almighty cherishes us as His people there are more efficient and easier ways to show it? Why such a tough punishment?

Imagine a person that supplies precious metals to his customers. These are not the typical gold, silver, or platinum; they are ultra-refined metals and far more valuable. His clients are mainly the US military who requires these metals for top-secret projects, NASA, and others involved in specialized research. A single item can run in excess of $300,000 and only a few orders are needed each year to maintain profitability. The primary expense lies in refining the metal to such a degree that no amount of impurity can be detected.

Usually, this process is exacting but smooth. But one day, disaster strikes. One of his workers, a highly-trained employee, accidentally allowed the tip of one finger to come in contact with the two-inch strip of metal being prepared. This was an emergency. Immediately, the owner rented out a special lab and hired an expert in removing all traces of impurity. The expert toiled for two weeks attempting to remove all traces of human contact. Special chemicals and equipment were required. The total bill for the repair was $75,000.

Finally the owner was assured that the product was ready for delivery. Unwilling to risk shipping it via a third party, he hand-delivered the item to his client in Washington and returned home with the promise of payment as soon as the product cleared quality control. When two weeks passed and payment was still not forthcoming, he phoned his client to inquire about the delay. The response he received was, “We’re sorry to inform you that we are still unable to forward payment. It seems that quality control detected a slight trace of human contamination and we’re unsure whether this item will be acceptable for our purposes.” It took another few weeks of agonizing before the client accepted the metal and forwarded payment.

If incidental human contact that lasted less than a single second required such superhuman intervention to be removed, it should come as no surprise to us that spiritual contamination, too, cannot so easily be removed. The Neshamah (Jewish soul) is a highly precious entity that must maintain an elevated degree of purity in order to achieve its pure goals.

The small sin stains it, and only with an intensive cleansing process can it truly be removed.

Sometimes we think the sin is small, but it can leave everlasting contamination on our soul.

We can conceptualise this idea through the spiritual disease Tsarat.

At times we are faced with challenges and tend to speak of others in a derogatory way. Through a simple act of speech a person can build or destroy worlds.

Our sages offer a fascinating insight from King David.

When King David (Tehilim 36:7) sang the praise of Hashem he said:

“Tzidkascha K’har’ray Kel” – Your righteousness (unbounded kindness) is like the mightiest of mountains.

“Mishpatecha K’t’home Rabbah” – your judgment is like the vast deep waters”.

Strangely, Rav Papa applies this verse to Tsaraat!

“Your righteousness is like the mightiest of mountains” –that refers to the one week period for man.

“Your judgment is like the vast deep waters”–that refers to the three week period for houses.

Rashi explains that it’s a show of kindness that man is only left ‘hanging’ for a week.

The Maharsha explains that the kindness to man is that Hashem vents his judgments against the houses.

However, as Rabbi Isaac Sher asks, the entire world is saturated with Hashem’s kindness and is scrutinized by Hashem’s probing judgment. Is there no greater example of Hashem’s kindness and judgment than leprosy!?

Rabbi Sher explains in the following manner. The Torah is revealing to us that we are the dearest, most beloved children of Hashem. At the same time, realize that the same love that He has for you, He also has for others.

It is because Hashem cherishes us so dear that we are commanded not to speak badly of anyone else.

Our parsha shows just how careful we must treat every child of Hashem.

Realize the lengths that the Father is going to in order to deal with the child that bad-mouthed His other children. To try to correct and guide that child. This clearly shows the love and confidence that the Father has in that child. The same love that Hashem has for others, He also has for him. Even after his having done what he did, the Father wants nothing more than for the son to return.

What an incredible gift for a person. Such “Tzidkascha”! Within the span of a week, to recognize and learn from the mistake he made and thereby be restored from death to life. In the place of the “Mishpatecha k’t’home rabbah ” for his belittling one of Hashem’s beloved children, comes the “Tzidkascha k’har’ray el” with the realization that he too is a beloved child of Hashem.

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