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Metzora

Our lives are influenced by the society and environment in which we travel. People who begin to associate with the crasser elements of the public, will lose their previous sensitivity to life and culture. Conversely, those who move around in high society, over time, will have less and less tolerance for coarse behavior.

This concept shapes the attitudes of caregivers, parents and teachers towards their young charges. Children and adolescents are developing their future habits, outlook, behavior and manners. At this critical stage, exposure to the good or the bad, leaves long lasting impressions. Therefore, parents are  selective with whom their children play, and give careful consideration when choosing schools and extra-curricular activities.

The malady of Tzoras can occur on three different locales: a person’s body, clothes or house. Why is a spectrum of diseased items necessary for this Divine message?

Reb Shmuel Ben Nachmeini said in the name of Reb Yochanan: Because of seven things the plague of Tzoras is incurred: 1) Loshon Hora 2) Murder 3) Swearing falsely 4) Adultery 5) Arrogance 6) Theft 7) Stinginess. (Erchin 16a)

Tzoras signals that one of the seven heinous habits or crimes has been committed. There are many permutations of these misdemeanors; for example, one can be miserly in sharing his time to help someone, or, miserly in giving charity.

The striking of different objects indicates which domain in their life warrants correction. When Tzoras afflicts the body, it demonstrates that there is something wrong with the person himself. If their clothes are affected, the message is geared towards the treatment of their possessions – perhaps they are too stingy with their effects, or have sworn falsely for financial reasons.

What is the meaning of Tzoras on the walls of one’s house?

A person’s home is the immediate domain of his influence. Each home has a certain atmosphere which sings to the tune of its residents. The type of music, jokes, media and visitors all contribute to the ambiance and spirit within. Due to vibes emanating from hostesses and their families, we often feel at ease when walking into completely strange homes.

Tzoras on one’s dwelling, is a sign that the house i.e. the environment, needs correcting. The person may be fine, and the treatment of his and other’s possessions may be exemplary, but the atmosphere in which he lives can do with fixing. Tzoras gives that message on the walls of his domicile.

Sick in Mind and Body

Tazria

The body is a sophisticated machine with many different working parts; consequently, it is susceptible to ‎wear and tear. Age and injury will adversely affect the capabilities of this instrument. Often, people who have to ‎contend with the reality of an ailing body, descend into depression. This is a normal response upon ‎discovering they cannot function as they wish. The body is affecting the mind and its mood.‎

A psychosomatic disorder is bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance. A ‎person who suffers from anxiety will exhibit bodily symptoms which are the product of their unwholesome ‎psyche. Lower back pain and high blood pressure are examples of physical manifestations induced by stress ‎or an unhealthy mind. ‎

The human mind and body are two forces which constantly affect one another. The source of these ‎influences can originate in either realm, i.e. the mind can persuade the body or vice versa. Awareness of ‎the interactions between the two is crucial in being able to identify behavior and treat illnesses. A ‎competent healer will need to discern if the origin is physiological or psychological. ‎

The body and soul are interrelated in a similar fashion to the mind and body. Pure actions can refine the ‎soul. Conversely, the soul, can influence the body to be positive and to actively do good.‎

Avrohom – the Patriarch – was not opposed to Yitzchok marrying a girl from Aram, despite her upbringing ‎amongst heretics. But, Avrohom vehemently rejected both the local Canaanite girls and the daughter of ‎his righteous slave – Eliezer. What was the difference?

The Ran explains, that the fault of Rivkah’s family was the fact they were ‎non-believers. This failing is not by nature hereditary and would therefore have little bearing on Rivkah and ‎her future offspring. The Canaanites, however, were morally and ethically depraved. They suffered from ‎anger, vengeance, lust and lasciviousness. These traits are passed on to future generations, and thus, even ‎if the particular lady in question was in herself righteous; tragically, she was a carrier of a corrupted DNA. ‎

This is all the more understandable in light of the above i.e. the soul affects the body. The body will ‎transform and contort itself to mirror the soul. Accordingly, just as physical attributes are transferred from ‎parent to child, moral qualities which the body has internalized, are likewise transmitted to its offspring. ‎‎(Belief, however, is not hereditary, it is a purely personal issue i.e. each person is responsible for his or her ‎own beliefs.)‎

Tzoras often mis-translated as leprosy is a malady which appears on the skin of the affected. The skin of a person ‎so afflicted breaks out with a white discoloration. The Talmud explains, that this is a Heaven sent ‎disease which affects sinners. It further proceeds to list seven sins which can cause such an outbreak – ‎chief amongst them is that of Evil Speech. ‎

Tzoras is a corporeal malaise sent from Heaven to remind man to repent. But, it is so much more than just a ‎Divine wakeup call. Tzoras is a physical manifestation of a tainted neshomo. The sullied soul exhibits itself ‎on its host by bearing white blotches. It is a reflection of one’s corrupt ways, the body is radiating man’s inner ‎core. When the person mends his ways and purifies his soul – wherein lies the source of his sickness – his ‎body follows suit and the blotches disappear. ‎

Jerusalem Wasn’t Built in a Day

Tzav

Mr C. M. King was a stern man. His demeanor bore the imprint of high society; he was a cultured individual ‎and well educated. His passion for sharing guided to him to become a school headmaster. It was a good fit ‎indeed. ‎

As was fashionable in those days, he expected faultless penmanship. With his own perfect handwriting he ‎crafted practice sheets for learning cursive. Once we had mastered the basic letters, he compiled ‎sentences, idioms and epigrams, for us to imitate. I have forgotten almost all of these wise witticisms, but ‎one remains vivid in my memory:‎

Jerusalem wasn’t built in a day.‎

It was many years before I learnt that this was only an adaption from the famous adage ‘Rome wasn’t built ‎in a day’. This maxim carries an important message. It teaches us that patience is necessary in order to ‎build something large, impressive and complex. ‎

Embarking on new projects can be both formidable and exciting. In an effort to conform to the demands ‎of the endeavor, it is essential to pace one’s self appropriately to one’s capabilities. Those who undertake ‎too much too quickly, often suffer from burn-out. ‎

I treasure the following remark which I gleaned from a self-help guide. Targeting those embarking on de-‎cluttering one’s home, the author recommended the following mantra – “Your house didn’t get messy in a ‎day, and it won’t get cleaned in a day”. People are consumed by the desire to have a tidy home and in ‎desperation for the finished product they overextend themselves. This is counterproductive. A healthy dose ‎of patience, coupled with pacing oneself correctly will generate the much wanted results. ‎

On the first day of a Cohen’s active duty in the Mishkan, he brings a Flour Offering. This donation had a ‎distinct service. In contrast to standard offerings which are sacrificed all at once, half of his Mincha was ‎offered on the Altar in the morning, and the remaining half was presented that afternoon. ‎

This is the offering of Aaron and his sons … on the day when anointed: One tenth of an Ephah of fine flour … ‎half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening. (Vayikra‎‏ ‏‎ 6:13)

What a great way to induct this fresh Cohen in to his new position. Work in proportion to your capabilities ‎‎- don’t bite more than you can chew. It is not necessary to complete everything at once if you aren’t ‎capable. With the right attitude you can be a contributing member to the Temple service.

Remember, ‎Jerusalem wasn’t built in a day. ‎

Butchering Peace

Vayikra

‎Reb Chanina said: If one sees a well in a dream, he will behold peace.‎
Reb Chanan said: There are three dreams that signify peace, namely, a river, a bird, and a pot. (Berochos ‎‎56b)‎

Water is symbolic of peace. Two droplets fuse together, intermingling with one another to combine into a ‎single drop. Their previous identity is forgotten as they join together to form one united body. To enact ‎this transformation there is an exchange between the two. The drops engage in a session of give-and-take ‎until they blend. If each droplet were to stand its ground, no mixing would take place, but the nature of ‎water is to permit others to encroach on its turf. ‎

The test of a strong relationship is how well it functions when differences arise. People who can cooperate ‎and contain themselves in favor of the relationship, will find a workable solution. Those who place their ‎own wants front and foremost will likely fail. ‎

If true peace is to take root it is necessary for the parties to exercise restraint. Compromise of one’s ‎desires is the starting point of a successful union. From this core, partnerships will flourish and their ‎synergy will produce results greater than the sum of their parts. But, this is only possible if they begin by ‎limiting the self and sharing the stage. ‎

There are four main categories of Sacrifices: Sin, Guilt, Burnt and Peace. The Burnt Offering is consumed by ‎the Altar in its entirety. The Sin and Guilt Offerings are shared between the Altar and the Priests. The Peace ‎Offering is eaten by the owners, priests and the Altar, each group receives a share. In fact, it is due to its ‎wide distribution that it is named Peace Offering.‎

They are called Shlomim because they bring about harmony (Sholom), some portions of the sacrifice go to ‎the Altar, to the Kohanim, and to the owner. (Toras Kohanim 3:156)

When the Torah introduces the Peace Offering there is a subtle departure from the standard expression: ‎

‎“If his offering is a peace zevach” (Vayikra 3:1)

No other Korban is called zevach – a slaughtered animal, only the Peace Offering is referred to as a ‎butchered item. Slaughter is synonymous with the sacrificial Peace Offering (Shemos 18:12, 24:5). ‎Similarly, when Yaakov and Lavan made peace they celebrated by eating ‘slaughter’; once again this word ‎features in the context of reconciliation and creating friendship. ‎

Peace can begin if each party is prepared to slaughter i.e. people are ready to restrict and constrain ‎themselves. When their counterparts are given freedom to express their inner selves it will be possible to ‎harmonize with one another. ‎

Not 49ers

Behar

Every seven years we are instructed to leave our lands fallow. This is the year of Shmittoh when the people take a sabbatical from working the soil. After seven Shmittohs i.e. after forty-nine years, we are commanded once again to refrain from farming the land. This is known as Yovel or Jubilee year. Additionally in the Yovel year all land which had been sold since the last Jubilee is now returned to its original owner. Another novelty of this year is that all Jewish slaves are set free.

Question

Why do we have both a Yovel and a Shmittoh year? True Yovel has a new dimension in freeing slaves and terminating all leased land, but why should the soil remain barren for another year? What does the Jubilee rest accomplish over and above that of the frequently occurring Sabbatical?

Answer

Taking a look at another area of Halachah where we see a similar year differential, will help shed light on this question. We find in the contexts of the Mezuzah mitzvah a similar set of seven and fifty. The Mezuzah stands outside exposed to the elements and over long periods of time it is likely to be affected by sun, rain and humidity. Ink has a limited serviceable life and in due course the letters will fade or become erased. A Mezuzah that is missing even one letter is rendered invalid. At what point does a person have to be concerned that perhaps his doorpost no longer supports a kosher Mezuzah? The Talmud provides us with a definitive guideline:

The mezuzah of an individual requires examining twice in seven years. The mezuzah of the community requires examining twice n fifty years. (Yoma 11a)

From this law we can extrapolate a non-Halachic inference and herein we have the key to our answer; public versus private. The mezuzah inspection which scans for cracks, omissions and defects has one scale for the personal home and another for the municipal building.

Everyone needs to take stock of themselves regularly. Mesillas Yeshorim recommends that this monitoring take place daily, comparing it to inspecting scales for weighing gold. However sometimes changes and drifts develop undetected because the incremental difference is too minute to be observed. A long range diagnosis can often give interesting differing results. For example answering “how am I different from seven years ago?” or “how would I like to look in seven years from now?” is very different from answering “how am I different from yesterday?” and “how would I like to look tomorrow?”.

The same is true for the community. A similar comprehensive observance of many years may yield hitherto unnoticed transformations. The Torah commands us to abstain from working the field every seven years. A year free from work presented the people with the opportunity to take an internal scrutinization of themselves. Looking back over seven years they could observe how they had progressed or digressed. A similar prospect was engineered for the community; however changes in society take decades to develop and a larger time frame is necessary. Therefore every fifty years the Torah provided an additional year off work so that as a group they too could chart their growth and development.

Fiery Response

Emor

Cohanim are our designated agents, presenting the fire-offerings of the people to Hashem. Coupled with this hallowed employment they are charged with specific laws to further and protect their holiness. Their particular regulations fall into two main categories; avoiding contact with the human dead and a list of women whom they may not marry. The Cohen Godol is further elevated and thus further limited in these two spheres.

Question

In the midst of these instructions it states “If a Cohen’s daughter becomes desecrated through adultery she desecrates her father; she shall be burned in fire”. This is a departure from the standard applied to the rest of the nation; their daughters are not burned. Everyone is exhorted to avoid adultery, it is such a central concept that it was prominently engraved on the two tablets, but why is the Cohen’s daughter singled out for a different punishment? Additionally in what way does this impact her father’s priesthood “she desecrates her father”? Why is this an impeachment against his Cehunah?

Answer

All Jews are enjoined to emulate Hashem and be holy (Vayikra 19:2). So how does one become holy, what is the method to inject holiness into one’s life and interactions? Rashi, (ibid) notices a sequence and uncovers a pattern which carries holiness in its wake. This leads him to make the following statement.

“Wherever one finds a barrier against sexual immorality, one finds holiness”

Rashi marshals three proofs to this theory, to quote one as an example:

“a woman who is a prostitute or one who was profane [they shall not marry] I, the Lord, Who sanctifies you” (Vayikra 21:7-8).

Distancing from licentiousness is the starting point for Kedusha. All development in holiness must originate by taming one’s voluptuous craving. But it doesn’t just begin there. All further development in Kedusha is measured by control in this area. The power one exerts over the sensual is the yardstick with which to measure how truly holy is one’s life. More abstention and control translates into more Kedusha.

The Cohen is the divinely appointed agent of the people. He is nominated to be the minister who “offers up the food offering of your G-d”. Because of his sublime celestial duties he is expected to attain a higher level of holiness than the man of the street. In light of the above this is to be interpreted that the Cohen is supposed to be further distanced from sexual immorality.

If the daughter of a regular Jew were to commit adultery, she has demonstrated poor execution of her free will. This is also a blot on her family, how could she possibly have developed into a harlot growing up in an atmosphere where this should be seen as an impossibility. Some minute flaw has been exposed. If the daughter of a Cohen is to commit adultery, it is far worse. Not only is this a stain on his household but this is a blemish on his priesthood. His life’s occupation professes holiness and abstention from lasciviousness and now his very own child has dabbled in the contrary.She has desecrated her father.

Talmudic Tidbit

Reb Yehuda the Prince, also known as Rebbi, is famous for documenting the oral law and as editor of the Mishnah. Tradition has a singularly reserved honor for this legendary personage and he is reverently referred as Rabbenu Hakodosh – the Holy Teacher. How did Rebbi merit this accolade? The Gemorah (Shabbos 118b) explores this topic.

Rebbi himself had an exchange with his students regarding this very issue. His very own students asked Rebbi “Why do they call you Rabbenu Hakodosh – our Holy Teacher?”

He dutifully replied “In all of my days I have never stared at my Milah”.

The Talmud challenges this basis. Reb Yosi too was extremely modest and could similarly testify about himself that he had never stared at his Milah. Now if this was true of Reb Yosi, he too, like Rebbi, should have been called “Hakodosh”.

Answers the Gemara, Reb Yehuda the Prince had an additional practice. In all of his days he had never placed his hand below his belt. That is why he was known for posterity as Rabbeinu Hakodesh – our Holy Teacher.

Pyromania

Acharei Mos

Some sins are so severe that they result in horrifying consequences. The Torah compiles a list of transgressions which are capable of inducing a most bitter after-effect; eviction from Eretz Yisroel. The intrinsic sanctity of the Land cannot tolerate immoral behavior, and self- purges by vomiting wayward inhabitants. This phenomenon actually aided the Jewish people in their initial conquest of the Land. The previous residents were so morally degenerate, they had lost the right to inhabit Eretz Yisroel and the spiritual forces attributed to this Land assisted in bringing about their downfall.

Question

The Torah tabulates the crimes that engender expulsion and virtually every single wrongdoing is of a sexual nature; adultery, incest, homosexuality and bestiality. There is one offense listed which doesn’t seem to be in concord with the rest, it stands apart by not being sensual – Molech. What is Molech?

This was a hollow idol that was divided into seven compartments, in one of which they put flour, in the second turtle-doves, the third a ewe, fourth a ram, fifth a calf, sixth an ox, and in the seventh a child, which were all burned together by heating the statue inside. (Yalkut Shimoni)

Rashi, (Yirmiyohu 7:31) provides additional information:

This contraption was made of copper; and they heated the idol from his lower parts; with his hands being stretched out, and made hot. They put the child between his hands, and it was burnt vehemently crying out. The priests beat a drum, so that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.

Molech was a form of idolatry in one of its most evil forms. It disregarded murder and convinced its followers to commit hideous acts. It turned loving parents against their children going so far as to convince and condone infanticide. It is no surprise that its service is regarded with abhorrence. But why is this worse than other forms of idolatry. All foreign worship is repugnant to G-d and certainly murder is the biggest antithesis to civilization, yet these crimes individually or cumulatively do not cause the Land to exile us. Why is Molech different? Is it perhaps the synergistic effect of murder and idolatry?

Answer

Remarkably the devotion expressed to Molech could persuade parents to kill their own children. A father or mother could overcome their own passionate filial love that Hashem instills in family relationships. It still begs the question, how can a father stoop to infanticide? Even the priests develped methods to avert the father’s ears from hearing his son’s cries; they knew that a small whimper would suffice to stir his seemingly stout heart. But had the father really lost his mind and reason, can he not fathom that tomorrow morning his son’s bed will be empty, does he not contemplate the reality that his child in whom he invested so much effort has been put to death. How could a parent be so callous?

This insensitive behavior had its roots in an immoral sexual lifestyle. If his marriage does not have an element of increasing Kovod Shemayim and no holiness is attached to matrimony, a pure technical arrangement, then the offspring of this union can be viewed as mundane by-products. Even worse sometimes parents may view children as a necessary nuisance in gratifying their erotic desires. It is no revelation that in societies where intimacy is chiefly a medium of pleasure, their promiscuous lifestyle are precursor to pro-choice decisions. To maintain their lifestyle abortion is freely sanctioned. Not that it is even possible to engage in marriage solely for the sake of Heaven but at least this should be a contributing element. A parent who has the wrong attitude to matrimony and conjugal relations, a person who views it as an opportunity for lascivious indulgence could be persuaded to offer his child to Molech in order to manipulate the celestial bodies.

Ultimately the root of Molech is in line with the other transgressions which result in exile. It may be less directly related to sexual immorality but the nucleus of this flaw is no different, it too stems from a voluptuous craving. Just as improper sexual activity was the harbinger of expulsion, Molech which had its source in sexual indifference could G-d forbid have a similar consequence.