28. METSORA & SHABBAT HAGADOL 5782

FROM THE TORAH

Leviticus 14:1-15:33

Sedra Metsora continues to provide rules of treatment for the bodily and property affliction of tsara’at.  The emphasis is on purification following the affection’s full course.  In addition, symptoms of male and female discharges are described as discrete conditions of impurity.  Rules of their purification are provided. Throughout continues the pattern introduced in the two previous sedras, of a period of seven days, often followed by an eighth day of purity.

Solution for Tsara’at

PURIFICATION OF THE AFFLICTED
14:1-20

The Eternal imparts to Moses instruction for “one afflicted with tsara’at” (Metsora) at the time of his purification.  In order for him to be brought to the Kohen, the Kohen must go outside of the camp to see that the tsara’at affliction that was in him has been healed.  The Kohen shall then order on behalf of the one to be purified two pure live birds, cedar wood, scarlet material, and hyssop.

He orders the slaughtering of one of the birds over fresh water in an earthen vessel.  He then takes the living bird together with the cedar wood, scarlet material and hyssop, and dips them in the blood of the bird that was slaughtered over fresh water.  He sprinkles upon the subject seven times, to purify him, and releases the living bird over the open field.  The subject washes his clothes and shaves off all of his hair.  He bathes in water and is pure.  Afterwards he returns to the camp but dwells outside of his tent for seven days.  On the seventh day he must shave off all of his hair, including that of his head, his beard, and his eyebrows, wash his clothes, bathe in water, then he is pure.

On the eighth day (cf. Leviticus 9:1; 12:2-3) he shall take two male lambs without blemish, one female lamb of a year without blemish, and three-tenths of a measure of fine flour, a meal offering mixed with oil, and one log of oil.  The purifying Kohen shall position them with the subject before the Eternal at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.

Taking one of the male lambs as a guilt offering together with the log of oil, the Kohen shall wave them as a wave offering before the Eternal.  He shall slaughter the lamb in the holy place where he slaughters the sin offering and the burnt offering, because, like the sin offering, the guilt offering belongs to the Kohen; it is most holy.  The Kohen shall put some of its blood upon the subject’s right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe.  The Kohen shall then pour some of the log of oil upon his own left palm, then he shall dip his right finger into it and sprinkle some of the oil seven times before the Eternal.  He shall then apply some of the residue of oil from his palm upon the right ear lobe of the subject, upon his right thumb, and upon his right big toe, on top of the blood of the guilt offering.  What is left of the oil that is in the Kohen’s palm he shall put upon the head of the subject, and the Kohen shall seek atonement for him before the Eternal.  Then the Kohen shall perform the sin offering and seek atonement for the subject from his impurity, and afterwards he shall slaughter the burnt offering and offer it and the meal offering upon the Altar, seeking atonement for the subject, who shall be pure.

PURIFICATION OF THE POOR AFFLICTED
14:21-32

If he is poor and his means do not suffice, then he shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering for waving to seek atonement for him, one-tenth of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil for a meal offering, and a log of oil, and two turtledoves or two doves, to the extent that he can afford, one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering.  He shall bring them on the eighth day for his purification to the Kohen at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting before the Eternal.  The Kohen shall take the male lamb as a guilt offering together with the log of oil and wave them as a wave offering before the Eternal.  He shall slaughter the lamb for the guilt offering and apply its blood and the oil as prescribed previously for the purification of the afflicted.  Then, depending on which he can afford, one of the turtledoves or doves will be the sin offering and the other will be the burnt offering, together with the meal offering, and the Kohen will seek atonement for the one to be purified before the Eternal.

TSARA’AT OF HOUSES
14:33-53

The Eternal imparts to Moses and Aaron the following rules regarding home affections.  When you come to the land of Canaan, which I am giving to you as a possession, and I place a tsara’at-like affection in one of your houses there, the homeowner shall tell the Kohen what he sees.  The Kohen shall then order all of the possessions to be removed from the house before he inspects the affection, so that nothing in the house is then held impure.  Afterwards, the Kohen shall come to inspect the house.  If he finds that the affection consists of green-streaked or red-streaked depressions in the walls of the house, deeper than the rest of the wall, the Kohen shall go out to the entrance of the house and close the house for seven days.  Anyone who enters the house when it is thus closed shall be impure until the evening.  One who sleeps or eats in the house must wash his clothes.

When the Kohen returns on the seventh day, if he sees that the affection has spread in the walls of the house, he shall order the removal of the stones that contain the affection to an impure place outside of the city.  The inside of the house shall be scraped all around, and the coating that is thus removed shall also be dumped in an impure place outside of the city.  The discarded stones and coating shall be replaced.

If then the affection returns and erupts in the house, the Kohen shall come and see it: it is a malignant tsara’at; the house is impure.  All of the house shall be demolished and removed to an impure place outside of the camp.

If the Kohen comes and sees that the affection has not spread in the house, the Kohen shall declare the house pure because the affection has healed.  He shall take two birds and cedar wood, scarlet material, and hyssop, for purification of the house.  One of the birds he shall slaughter over fresh water in an earthen vessel.  He shall take the cedar wood, the hyssop and the scarlet material, together with the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the bird that was slaughtered and the fresh water and sprinkle it on the house seven times to purify the house.  He shall then release the living bird outside of the city in open country.  The Kohen shall seek atonement for the house, and it shall be pure.

SUMMARY
14:54-57

Such is the instruction for the affection of tsara’at and for the netek (cf. Leviticus 13:29-37), for tsara’at of a garment and of a house, and for swellings, eruptions and bright spots, to distinguish between the impure and the pure.

Other Bodily Impurities

MALE DISCHARGES
15:1-18

The Eternal charges Moses and Aaron to impart to the Children of Israel the following rules:

Any man with a discharge from his flesh is impure.  Whether his discharge is running or is stopped up, any bedding on which he lies and any object on which he sits shall be impure.  Anyone who touches the man or who touches his bedding or sits upon the object shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and shall be impure until the evening.  If the man with a discharge spits upon one who is pure, the latter shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and shall be impure until the evening.  If the man with a discharge mounts a saddle, the saddle shall be impure.  Whoever touches something that was under the man with a discharge shall be impure until the evening, and whoever carries it shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be impure until the evening.  If the man with a discharge touches someone without first rinsing his hands in water, the person whom he touched shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be impure until the evening.  Any earthen vessel touched by the man with a discharge shall be broken; any wooden implement shall be rinsed with water.

When the man with a discharge becomes clear of his discharge, after seven days of clearness he shall wash his clothes and bathe his flesh in fresh water and shall be pure.  On the eighth day he shall provide two turtledoves or two doves to the Kohen before the Eternal at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.  The Kohen shall make of one of them a sin offering and of the other a burnt offering.  The Kohen shall seek atonement for him from his discharge before the Eternal.

A man who discharges semen shall bathe all of his body in water and be impure until the evening.  Cloth or leather upon which semen falls shall be washed in water and be impure until the evening.  When a man emits semen into a woman, they shall bathe in water and be impure until the evening.

FEMALE DISCHARGES
15:19-30

A woman who has a discharge of blood from her body shall be in her impurity for seven days.  Whoever touches her shall be impure until the evening, and whatever she lies upon or sits upon shall be impure.  Whoever touches her bedding and whoever touches anything that she has sat upon shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be impure until the evening.  Anyone in contact with the bedding or with the object when she sits upon it, shall be impure until the evening.  If a man should lie with her, her impurity shall be upon him: he shall be impure for seven days, and any bedding upon which he lies shall be impure.

If a woman has an untimely discharge of blood for many days or a timely discharge of blood that exceeds the usual period of her impurity, she shall be impure, as in the usual period of her impurity, for as many days as the discharge of blood lasts.  Any bedding upon which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be as the bedding during her usual period of impurity, and any object upon which she sits shall be impure as during her usual period of impurity.  Whoever touches them shall be impure: he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be impure until the evening.

When she is clear of her discharge, she shall count seven days and then be purified.  On the eighth day she shall provide two turtledoves or two doves to the Kohen before the Eternal at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.  The Kohen shall make of one of them a sin offering and of the other a burnt offering.  The Kohen shall seek atonement for her from her discharge of impurity before the Eternal.

SUMMARY
15:31-33

Separate the Children of Israel from their impurity that they not die from polluting My Tabernacle that is in their midst.  Such is the instruction concerning him who has a discharge and him who has an emission of semen by which he becomes impure, concerning her who is infirm in her impurity, and concerning anyone, male or female, who has a discharge and a man who lies with an impure woman.

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Shabbat Hagadol
Malachi 3:4-24

Great Day of Judgment and Healing

The offering of Judah and Jerusalem
shall once again be pleasing to the Eternal
as it was in the past.

When I come near to you,
it shall be in judgment.
I shall be a witness
against sorcerers,
against false swearers,
against oppressors
of workers and the powerless,
of the widow and the orphan,
against those who turn away the stranger,
against those who fear Me not,
declares the Eternal of hosts!

From the days of your fathers
you have turned aside from My laws.
Turn back to Me,
and I will turn to you,
declares the Eternal of hosts!

What have we done wrong,
that we need to turn back?
you ask.

You have robbed Me,
neglecting your tithe and terumah,
depleting the store of food
in the store-house.

You have spoken
harsh words against Me:
“It is vain to serve God;
what profit is there
that we should keep
the charge of the Eternal?”
(Malachi 3:14; cf. Leviticus 8:35)

You boost the arrogant
and build up
the workers of wickedness.

But there is a book of remembrance
before the Eternal
for those who fear Him
and consider Him.
“They will be Mine
on the day that I am preparing,
My own treasure;
I shall spare them
as one spares
a faithful son.”
(Malachi 3:17)

On that day
you shall again discern
between the righteous and the wicked.

For, behold, the day is coming—
it burns as a furnace—
when all the wicked
shall be set ablaze,
leaving of them
neither root nor branch.

But on that same day,
the sun shall arise for you,
the sun of righteousness,
with healing in its wings:
you shall tread down the wicked,
and they shall be ashes
under the soles of your feet.

In all this remember
the Torah of Moses, My servant,
which I commanded him
at Horeb:
laws and ordinances!

In the meantime
I am sending you
Elijah the prophet
before the coming
of this great (Hagadol) and awesome
day of the Eternal,
before I strike the Land
with utter destruction.
He shall turn the heart
of parents to children
and the heart of
children to their parents!
(Malachi 3:23-24)

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Talmud Arachin 15b
Slander Infects the World

Resh Lakish taught: How can we understand the verse, “This shall be the teaching regarding the metsora” (Leviticus 14:2)? This shall be the teaching regarding the motsi shem ra (“one who brings out an evil name/report”)!…Whoever speaks leshon hara (“slander/gossip”) piles transgressions up to Heaven, as was said, “Those who wickedly utter oppressive words, who speak as if none were on high, they place their mouth against Heaven, the words of their tongue proceed over the earth” (Psalms 73:8-9).

Rav Chisda taught that Mar Ukba said: Of whoever speaks leshon hara, the Holy One, blessed be He, says that he and I cannot coexist in the world, as was said, “Whoever slanders his fellow in secret…him can I not endure” (Psalms 101:5)—read the word for “him” (vocalized oto) as the consonants are actually written (ito), “’with him’ can I not endure”: there is not enough room in this world for both I (the Holy One, blessed be He) and the slanderer!

Talmud Arachin 16a
Causes of Tsara’at

Rabbi Samuel bar Nachmani reported that Rabbi Yochanan taught: Negaim (generic term for “plagues,” repeatedly associated with tsara’at in our Sedra and in the preceding Sedra Tazria) occur for seven offences:

(1) Leshon Hara

“Whoever slanders his fellow in secret—him shall I smite…” (Psalms 101:5), and the verbal root which we translate here as “smite” [tsadey-mem-tav] is rendered in Aramaic by Targum Onkelos (Leviticus 25:30) with the same root [chet-lamed-tet] that is applied in Hebrew by the Talmud (Megillah 8b) to the metzora!  Therefore we may understand that one who slanders another in secret—the classic example of leshon hara—shall be smitten by God with tsara’at.

(2) Murder

“David said…’Let there fall upon the head of Joab (for his murder of Abner) and all of his father’s house that there not be lacking…a metsora…’” (II Samuel 3:29).

(3) False Oath

When the prophet Elisha cured the Aramean general Naaman of tsara’at, he accepted no reward.  But his servant Gehazi visited Naaman and, on his own, collected money and clothing from him.  Elisha asks Gehazi, “Where did you just come from?” and Gehazi lies, “Your servant went nowhere.” Elisha says to him, “But didn’t my heart go to witness where you went and what you attached; the tsara’at of Naaman shall attach to you and to your offspring for ever, and he went out from before him a metsora white as snow” (II Kings 5:25-27)!

(4) Sexual Offence

“When Abram comes to Egypt, the Egyptians see how beautiful his wife (Sarai) is..the woman is then taken to the house of Pharaoh.”  Abram had anticipated this problem and asked Sarai to say that she is his sister, because he feared that if the Egyptians knew that she is his wife, they would kill him.  “Abram fared well because of her…, and the Eternal struck Pharaoh and his house with great negaim (see above) over the affair of Sarai, wife of Abram”  (Genesis 12:14-17).

(5) Arrogance

King Uzziah developed a strong military machine, “but in his strength he became arrogant to the point of corruption, attempting to coopt the function of the Kohanim in burning Incense upon the Temple Altar.”  When Azariah and his fellow Kohanim confronted Uzziah, “tsara’at broke out upon his forehead before the Kohanim in the House of the Eternal over the Altar of Incense.”  Seeing this sign of defilement, the Kohanim thrust Uzziah out of the Temple.  (II Chronicles 26:16-20)

(6) Robbery

“When I place the nega [plural negaim,” see above] of tsara’at upon a house…, the one who owns the house shall report it to the Kohen, and the Kohen shall order that the house be emptied of its contents…” (Leviticus 14:34-36).  In explanation, an early Sage taught: He gathered wealth and possessions that were not his, so the Kohen shall come and disperse them!

(7) Envy

“When I place the nega [plural negaim,” see above] of tsara’at upon a house…that you own, the one who owns the house shall report it to the Kohen…” (Leviticus 14:34-35). Since the verse already speaks to the owner of the house (“that you own”), why does it repeat, “the one who owns the house?”  According to a teacher from the School of Ishmael, the repetition of ownership reflects the possessiveness of the owner, who regarded all that was in his house as his exclusive and absolute possession.  Therefore, the owner kept all of his possessions concealed and refused to let others use them, claiming that he did not have whatever they requested, so “the Kohen shall order that the house be emptied of its contents…” (Leviticus 14:36): The Holy One, blessed be He, thereby exposes him when the Kohen orders his house emptied (cf. Talmud Yoma 11b).

Mishnah Avot 4:4
Secret Transgressions Exposed

Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka teaches: Whoever profanes the Name of Heaven in secret is punished for it in public.

Leviticus Rabbah 16:2,6
The Elixir of Life

“The Eternal imparts to Moses Torah (instruction)
for the metsora (one afflicted with tsara’at)…”
(Leviticus 14:1-2)

“Who is one to enjoy life,
loving days, to see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking guile.
Avoid the bad
and do good;
seek peace and pursue it!”
(Psalms 34:13-15)

There was a merchant who went from town to town in the vicinity of Sepphoris, announcing as he went: Who wants to buy the elixir of life?  People would flock to him.  Rabbi Yannai was sitting, teaching Torah, when he heard the merchant deliver his offer.  He called to him: Come up here and sell it to me!  The merchant called back: Neither you nor anyone like you would need it!

But Rabbi Yannai persisted, and finally the merchant went up to him and took out for him the Book of Psalms, showing him the verse, “Who is one to enjoy life, loving days, to see good?” and then showing him what is written after it: “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile.  Avoid the bad and do good; seek peace and pursue it!”  Said Rabbi Yannai: Solomon also makes such a statement, saying “Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23)!

Now Rabbi Yannai reflects: All of my life I have read the same verses in Psalms, but I didn’t understand what they meant until this merchant came and made it known.  Who wants to buy the elixir of life?  “Keep your tongue from evil…!”

And it is for that reason that Moses cautions Israel by saying to them, “This shall be your Torah (your instruction, your formula, your medicine, your elixir, your prophylactic) against becoming metsora…,” for to him metsora is an abbreviation for motzi shem ra, “one who uses his tongue for evil.”  That makes him metsora (slander afflicts him with tsara’at), and this is the Torah as immunization that the Eternal imparted to Moses, the elixir of life.

Five times is “Torah” associated with metsora:

 “This is the Torah of the affliction of tsara’at…” (Leviticus 13:59)
“This shall be the Torah of the metsora…” (Leviticus 14:2)
“This is the Torah for one who has the affliction of tsara’at…” (Leviticus 14:32)
“This is the Torah for every affliction of tsara’at…” (Leviticus 14:54)
“This is the Torah of tsara’at.” (Leviticus 14:57)

Five times “Torah” teaches us:
Whoever uses his tongue for evil
transgresses the entire five books of the Torah!

Talmud Bava Batra 121b
Talmud Berachot 3a
Pesikta Rabbati 35
Pirkey d’Rabbi Eliezer 43
Vigilant Elijah

“A fiery chariot and fiery horses
came between Elijah and Elisha,
whereupon Elijah ascended
in a storm-wind to heaven.”
(II Kings 2:11)

Our Rabbis taught: Elijah is still alive!

It is taught that Rabbi Yosi recounted: One time, as I was walking, I entered one of the ruins of Jerusalem to pray.  Elijah, remembered for good, came and waited for me at the entrance until I finished my prayer.  “Peace be unto you, Rabbi,” he said to me, and I responded, “Peace be unto you, my Rabbi and Teacher!”  He asked me, “My son, why did you enter this ruin?”  I answered him, “To pray,” and he said to me, “It would have been better for you to pray on the road.”  I responded, “But I was afraid that passersby would interrupt my prayer.”  “It would have been better in that case,” he said, “to offer an abbreviated prayer.”  In that encounter I learned three things from him: I learned not to enter a ruin, I learned rather to pray on the road, and I learned that one who prays on the road should offer an abbreviated prayer.

Then he asked me, “My son, what kind of sound did you hear in the ruin?”  I said to him, “I heard a divine dove-like voice, lamenting, ‘Woe to My children for whose sins I destroyed My House and burned My Temple and whom I sent into exile among the nations!’”  And he said to me, “Be assured, by your life, that not only at this hour does the voice so lament, but every day three times a day does it so lament!  But that is not all: When Israel enter their houses of prayer and study and answer, ‘May His great Name be blessed!’ the Holy One, blessed be He, shakes His head and says, ‘Happy is the King whom they praise in His House! What more can be expected for a father who has exiled his children? And woe to those children who have been banished from the table of their father!’”

““Behold upon the mountains
the feet of one bringing happy tidings,
of one declaring peace…”
(Nahum 2:1)

“How beautiful upon the mountains
the feet of one bringing happy tidings,
of one declaring peace,
bringing tidings of good,
declaring salvation,
saying to Zion, ‘Your God shall reign!’”
(Isaiah 52:7)

When the Holy One, blessed be He, redeems Israel, three days before the Messiah comes Elijah will come and stand upon the mountains of Israel weeping and mourning over them, “O mountains of the Land of Israel, how long will you stand in ruin and desolation?” and his voice will be heard from one end of the world to the other.  After that, he will say to them, “Peace has come to the world,” as the Prophet declared, “Behold upon the mountains the feet of one bringing happy tidings, of one declaring peace” (Nahum 2:1)!  When the wicked hear his announcement, they are cheered and tell each other: Peace has come to us!  Then, on the second day Elijah will stand once again upon the mountains of Israel, and he will announce, “Good has come to the world,” as the Prophet declared, “How beautiful upon the mountains the feet of one bringing happy tidings, of one declaring peace, bringing tidings of good…” (Isaiah 52:7)!  And on the third day he will say, “Salvation has come to the world,” as the Prophet continued, “…declaring salvation…” (ibid.)!  But, seeing that the wicked are still congratulating each other over their false expectations of peace for themselves, Elijah completes the Prophet’s words, “…saying to Zion, ‘Your God shall reign’” (ibid.), thereby teaching us that salvation comes to Zion and to her children but not to the wicked!

“I am sending you
Elijah the prophet
before the coming
of this great (Hagadol) and awesome
day of the Eternal…
He shall turn [heshiv] the heart
of parents to [al] children
and the heart of
children [al] to their parents!”
(Malachi 3:23-24)

Rabbi Judah taught: Israel will be redeemed only if they repent of their sins, and that will happen only as a result of their suffering, yet their repentance [teshuvah] will not be complete until the coming of Elijah, as the Prophet said:

“I am sending you
Elijah the prophet
before the coming
of this great (Hagadol) and awesome
day of the Eternal…
He shall cause repentance [heshiv] in the heart
of parents concerning [al] children
and in the heart of
children concerning [al] their parents!”
(Malachi 3:23-24)

Pesikta Rabbati 44
God Awaits our Return

“Return, O Israel,
towards
the Eternal your God…”
(Hosea 14:2)

This may be compared to a prince who was distant from his father the king by a journey of a hundred days.  His supporters encouraged him: “Return, to be close to your father!”  “How can I?” he objected.  His father sent word to him: Come back to me as close as is within your power; then I will meet you the rest of the way!  Thus said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Israel:

“Turn back to Me,
and I will turn to you,
declares the Eternal of hosts!”
(Malachi 3:7)

Pesikta Rabbati 41
The Day is Near

“Those who are distant from You
will perish;
You annihilate
whoever is untrue to You.
But as for me
nearness to God is my good;
I have made the Lord God
my Refuge
to tell of all Your works (malachotecha).”
(Psalms 73:27-28)

What does he mean by “as for me?”

Both Balaam and the Prophets of Israel were asked the question: When will salvation come?

Balaam said it is far off: “I see it but not now; I behold it, but it is not close” (Numbers 24:17).  He put off the end of days.

But when they asked the Prophets of Israel, they said:  It is close!  “Their day of disaster is close” (Deuteronomy 32:35)!

When Isaiah came, he said: “Cry aloud, for the day of the Eternal is near” (Isaiah 13:6)!

When Malachi came, he said: It is near, “for, behold, the day is coming—it burns as a furnace—when all the wicked shall be set ablaze, leaving of them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 3:19)!

When Joel came, he spoke like them: “Blow a shofar in Zion, sound the alarm on My holy mountain, that all earth’s dwellers may be shaken, for the day of the Eternal is coming, it is close” (Joel 2:1)!

When David said, “Those who are distant from You will perish…” (Psalms 73:27a), he was referring to Balaam and his company, who, delaying the end of days, perished from the world: “…You annihilate whoever is untrue to You” (Psalms 73:27b)!  But, in contrast, You were good to the Prophets of Israel, as they held near the end of days.  So also will You be good to me, hopes David, as I have held near the end of days like them: “But as for me, the nearness of God shall be my good: I have indeed established my Lord God to be my Refuge—to tell (thereby through me) of all of Your prophets/messengers (malachecha)” (Psalms 73:28b)!

But if we read the verse as it is written:

“…to tell of all Your works.”
(Psalms 73:28b)

Said Rabbi Pinchas in the name of Rabbi Acha:  Although the Holy One, blessed be He, finished Creation and rested from all of His work, what is written can be read, “God completed on the seventh day (only) His work which He had done, and He refrained on the seventh day from the rest of His work, which He will surely do” (Genesis 2:2)!  That is to say, He has at least two unfinished tasks, “…to tell of the rest of Your works” (Psalms 73:28b): To “tell” (determine) the punishment of the wicked and to “tell” (determine) the reward of the righteous!

SHABBAT SHALOM!

Copyright © 2022 Eric H. Hoffman

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