Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pri Tzadik Metzora

Metzora (2)

“This shall be the law of the metzora on the day that he becomes pure, and he is brought to the cohen.” (Vayikra 14; 2).
The order is misleading because the metzora is forbidden to enter the camp (to see the cohen) before the purification ritual, and he sending away of the bird, as it says after, “The cohen shall go out of the camp … He (the metzora) shall immerse himself in purifying waters and become pure and afterward may enter the camp” (ibid 3-8).
However in the Zohar (Tazria 49b) it writes: (R’ Yossi said) In one place the verse says “Aharon the cohen”, and in every other place it simply says “the cohen”. This ‘cohen’ refers to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Rav Yitzchak said; doesn’t the verse state “When a person shall have the plague of tzara’at they shall be brought to the cohen” – according to you that refers to G-d! He (R’ Yossi) answered, that is correct, since the purification and holiness depends solely upon Him.
This is clear from the fact that we don’t find any other area of Halacha that is so dependent on the cohen. Until the cohen says that the person is impure he remains pure, and similarly the purification is dependent upon the cohen, as the Mishna states (Negaim 3; 1): They (the sages) say to him (the cohen), ‘Tell him he is impure’, and he says ‘Impure’. ‘Tell him he is pure’ and he says ‘Pure’. And similarly with tzara’at of houses the verse states, “The cohen instructs that they empty the house before the cohen comes to see…” (ibid 36). The items in the house do not become impure unless and until the cohen verbally declares the house impure, even though the house is afflicted with genuine tzara’at. Therefore the Zohar says that the ‘cohen’ refers to G-d, only that the human cohen acts as an emissary of G-d, and a person’s emissary is considered the same as they themselves. G-d sends in the mouth of the cohen to say ‘pure’ or ‘impure’, and this is why in the whole section of tzara’at it always says ‘cohen’, referring to G-d, with the exception of the beginning of Parshat Tazria, where it states “Brought to Aharon the cohen, or one of his sons the Cohanim” because the verse cannot be entirely removed from its literal meaning. It must be an actual cohen who sees the tzara’at and declares it pure or impure.
This is what the Talmud (Avoda Zara) means when it says “” (Proverbs 2). If they didn’t repent how can they attain life? Rather this is what it means; if they repent they will not attain the paths of life (but will die prematurely). About this the verse states “On the day of his purification…” It must be that he has repented from the sin, for if not he would not have been cured of the tzara’at. Then he is brought to the Cohen, who is G-d. This is like the Talmud about Rabbi Elazar ben Durdia , who placed his head between his knees, repented and died. A voice came out of heaven and declared ‘Rabbi Elazar ben Dordia is invited into the World to Come’. Through the intensity of his repentance he passed away and earned the World to Come in a single moment.
The main component of repentance is abandoning the sin, and whether that has been accomplished cannot be known to any person, only to G-d alone. The Rambam writes (Hilchot Teshuva) ‘Until the One Who Knows the secret things will testify about this person that they will never return to their sin.’
We find in the Talmud (Kiddushin 49b) that if someone gets married on the condition that they are completely righteous, even someone who is completely wicked is considered married – perhaps he thought about repentance at that moment. It is certainly talking about a case where the person continued to act wickedly, because if he had abandoned his sins, the Talmud wouldn’t use the language of ‘perhaps’, but rather would have said ‘because he did repent’. This appears to contradict what we said above. How can thinking about repentance be effective according to the Rambam’s guidelines for repentance? – this person has continued to be wicked! However the resolution is that when a person repents it must be to the extent that G-d testifies about this person that at that moment they have completely abandoned their sins, and if they would have the opportunity at that moment to sin they would not do so. This is considered complete repentance. Even if afterwards the Evil Inclination overpowers the person and they go back to their sinning ways. Nevertheless for that moment they did complete repentance. No person can ever know whether or not a person has repented completely. Even the person themselves may not realise the truth, for they may mislead themselves into thinking they have repented. Only G-d can know the validity of the repentance.
This is what the verse means “on the day that he becomes pure he is brought to the cohen”. This refers to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and the “paths of life” refers to life in the World to Come, not in this world.
This explains the Talmudic statement of “paths of life”, that it is impossible to continue to walk along the paths of life of this world and to enter the World to Come. Rather he must enter immediately into the World to Come, as the story tells, ‘a person can acquire the World to Come in a single instant’. Therefore they no longer need to be careful in this world to guard their ways because in one instant they enter the World to Come, through the earnestness of their repentance, like R’ Yossi ben Dordia.
In the Midrash Tanchuma they explain the verse “brought (huva) to the cohen” as ‘he comes’ (hu va), meaning that he must exert himself to enter. This is what R’ Yossi ben Dordia realises when he says (ibid) ‘this matter is solely dependent upon me’.
tzora’at comes for seven kinds of sin (Talmud Erechin 16a ), or for eleven (Midrash Tanchuma Metzora 10 ), but the root of all of these sins is pride, which is the way in which the serpent was able to entice Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He persuaded them to eat the fruit because of the pleasure they would receive from it, and that they would “become like G-d” (Genesis). The enticement was that they would get pleasure and become important.
This is the meaning of the verse “This is the law of the metzora on the day that he becomes pure”. He should purify himself through repentance and correct the spiritual damage done through the sin, “and be brought to the cohen”, and ‘he comes’. Like R’ Yossi ben Dordia who exerted himself to get close to G-d. Even though a person does not have to repent to the extent of R’ Yossi ben Dordia, that his soul departs his body, nevertheless a person must exert themselves to come close to G-d, and only after that will he be able to become pure and rejoin the camp of the Children of Israel.

You can also find more divrei Torah and previous parshiot at

No comments: