Friday, April 15, 2005

III-5 Metzora: The Kohen and the Metzora

14 April III-5 Metzora: The Kohen and the Metzora

Torah: Lv 14-15:32 JPS

Haftorah: Mal 5:4-24 JPS


1. Lv 14:1-12
2. Lv 14:13-20
3. Lv 14:21-32
4. Lv 14:33-53
5. Lv 14:54-15:15
6. Lv 15:16-28
7. Lv 15:29-33


The parasha continues with the themes of Tazria, examining the Metzora exiled outside the community. The Kohen is to go to the Metzora for an examination after the seventh day. If he is healed he is to make a sacrifice and return on the eighth day—the same day as brit milah or circumcision, symbolizing spiritual rebirth and re-entry into the covenant of God. The Eighth Day then is a day of redemption, of renewed commitment to God. The ritual for purificaiton of the Metzora mirrors the ritual of the consecration of the priests with the acknowledgement of rededication of life to God's laws. Man made in the image of God, reaffirms his desire to live in God's image.


" When it has been reported to the priest, the priest shall go outside the camp. If the priest sees that the leper has been healed of his scaly affection, the priest shall order two live clean birds, cedar wood, crimson stuff, and hyssop to be brought for him who is to be cleansed." Lv 14:1-4 JPS

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed: "The Lord! the Lord! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin..." Ex 34:6-7 JPS

"Moses took some of its blood and put it on the ridge of Aaron's right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toes of his right foot." Lv 8:23 JPS


The Kohen will go to the metzora (leper) who has been banned outside the camp. The word metzora is related to "motzi-ra" which means, "one spews evil from his mouth," therefore the parashas of Tazria and Metzora do not refer to the physical illness of leprousy, but a spiritual ailment associated with lashon hara. Lashon hara is generally described as evil speech or gossip. A person who goes about slandering everyone is indeed a social leper, easy to spot and shun. Equally so is a person who always find the negative in all things. No matter what happens, there is the negative slant and feedback. The child comes running home, excited that he got an 89% on his spelling test, but the parent slaps him with the deprecating remark, that 89% isn't 100%. The child, squashed by the sharp remark, no longer has any reason for pursuing success. It becomes senseless to do things well when the response is so devastating. It's true that the father probably would also have missed spelling, "athlete" or "pronunciation," but the difference is that when he sends out his emails, he hits the key for the spell-check rather than learn it correctly.

The representative of the highest level of spirituality must seek out the lowest. How many times does tht happen in life, where the mayor of the city goes along the backstreets of the town to find the most notorious offenders in an attempt to draw them back into society? Not too often.

When the metzora is declared healed, he offers two doves. One is sacrificed while the other is set free. The rite of purification is similar to that of the installation of priests. "The priest shall some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the ridge of the right ear of him who is being cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot." (Lv 14:14)

Why? Through our ears we are tempted. We hear something and we run to follow it. We are educated and indoctrinated through what we hear. Each day, we should remember that we are called to be children of God, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is One..." The exhortation is not for passive listening such as our response to schmaltzy elevator music or the din that accompanies each foray into the local Carre Four hypermarket; but demands our attention. Mhy neighbor had a rule for calling her wayward children home. After the third halooing, the switch came out as she stalked the alley. Appalled, I often watched, but she reassured me that the switch meant business. They had basic rules and protocals established for the kids which they regularly discussed with them. One of them was arriving home at dinner time and the punishment for not heeding the parental voice.

Simplistic? Yes, for a three year old, it is an immediate lesson learned by a loud swishing noise and smack, but no extended punishment. The chief purpose was to make a loud noise and instill a bit of fear for the consequences of heedless behavior. In adult life, nobody is going to bring the swatter along behind a person, but the warning still remains. When a person becomes heedless of God, the consequences occur naturally. Listening is meaningless unless we do something. We must not only hear, but do-- with our feet walking in the right direction.

Moreover, the pairing of the Kohen with the Metzora reflects the personal dilemma within each person, torn between our Yetzer HaTov and Yetzer Hara, our Good and Evil Inclinations. Our Good Intent often goes and begs with our Bad Bear when we are pouting in a snit at the world or contemplating doing something unethical or prohibited. Each person has the potential to reach a higher level of spirituality; but it's often easier to be the loser, the person who gives in to wrongdoing and comment, "the Devil made me do it." So much easier to equivocate rather than take responsibility for one's own actions.

Moreover, the pairing of the Kohen and the Metzora is comparable to the Tzaddik and the Baal Teshuva—the saint and the penitant. A tzaddik focuses exclusively on resources which he emlists for the service of God. He looks up and sees the glory of God in the universe. Everything else is kind of background fuzz in his vision of life. He instinctively sees and seeks the good to live in the image of God. The Baal Teshuvah looks down and sees his feet are made of clay and knows that his name is frequently spelt as Mud. He struggles with the obstacles of life to overcome them, wrestling like Jacob wrestled with the angel. We are made of conflicting interests, desires and actions. We make choices, often based on incomplete information, emotional responses or sensory perceptions. We hear and we follow. We see and we desire. Our hands reach for what we should not touch and our feet go in the direction that we should shun. We too, are invited back into the social milieu, into the community when the time of our spiritual cleansing is past, and it is God who seeks us, just as He called after Adam in the Garden. What is our response? Do we answer honestly or cover ourselves and cower. God is always in search of man, but man so often avoids the confrontation.


"Slaughter the ram, and take some of its blood and put it upon the ridge of Aaron's right ear and on the ridges of his sons' right ears, and on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet..." Ex 29:20 JPS

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Tzav: Ears, Thumbs, and Toes

Yanki Tauber, I-7 Vayeitzei A Day in the Life of a Jew
based on the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson
gives good explanation and contrast of tzaddik and baal teshuvah

Yanki Tauber, II-9 Ki Tisa: Sin and Sanctity

regarding the Tzaddik, the Baal Teshuvah and the Sinner
see halfway down the page


Rav Frand, Tazria 5761: Two Birds: One For 'Evil Speech' and One For 'Good Speech'
"Adam had the best situation imaginable. He was sitting in the Garden of Eden. Angels fed him. Nothing could be better! But then the Snake came and argued - "Nah! It's not so perfect. You do not have the Tree of Knowledge; you are not god-like!" The Snake looks at a situation that is virtually perfect and finds fault with it. He focuses on the flaw.

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Tazria: The Leprosy of Irresponsible Speech

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Metzora: Is it Basphemous to Heal People?

Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann, Olas Shabbos Tzav 5762: The Olah Offering: Minding Our Own Business

Rashi: "Eyes and heart are the two major agents for sin. The eyes see and the heart desires until one ultimately goes ahead and sins."
III-2 p55

Nr 15:39 Do not stray after your thoughts and after your eyes.
III-2 p 55

Andrea C London, Living Torah-Torah Hayim TazriaMetzora 5764:Healing is More Than Skin Deep URJ

Yanki Tauber, Knowledge and Naught

Rabbi Label Lam, Dvar Torah Tzria-Metzora 5764: The Eye of the Microscope

Rabbi Rosenfeld, Pirkei Avos 1:6

Pirkei Avos 1: 6

Pirkei Avos 1: 6 Joshua the son of Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received from them. Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man to the side of merit. (transl

Rabbi Aaron L Raskin, Tzaddik-The Baal Teshuvah from Letters of Light
"When a child is born, he is administered an oath, “Be a tzad­dik and do not be wicked.”20 From birth, every individual has the ability to become a tzaddik.21 If one constantly recalls the existence of this oath, he or she can undoubtedly bring it from potential into reality."

Yanki Tauber, Yom Kippur: Inner Dimensions- Sin in Four Dimensions
based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rabbi