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B”H 28 Nissan 5772
Shabbos mevarchim hachodesh Iyar- It will be Rosh Chodesh on Yom rishon and Yom sheini (Sunday and Monday)
Shalom uvracha from Yerushalayim the holy city,
We dedicate our learning to:
Refuah shleimah bimheira for- my mother, Sara Rivkah bas Sasha and for all our/your family and friends who need a refuah shleimah;
B’ezrat Hashem the Spring Zman – semester has begun this week. We very much look forward to your participation.
We wish you all a very Good Shabbos and ultimate Redemption … “This coming year in Yerushalayim!” Come home soon b’ezrat Hashem.
THE SEVERITY OF THE TUMAH OF THE METZORA
As is known, when a person was tamaei, he could not come into the Beit Hamikdash. There are varying degrees of tumah- rithual impurity; the tumah of the `metzora` was among the most severe, particularly in the sense that the `metzora` had to be outside all three camps*, and even outside there he had to remain isolated, as it says “badad yeishev“ – he shall stay there alone. He even could not be together with others who were tamei- he was totally outside of the holy encampment.Even other people who were tamei could not be with him….. (* The encampment of the Jews was centered around the Mishkan- this innermost domain was known as `machaneh kehunah`- the camp of the kohanim, surrounding them was the `machaneh leviah`- the camp of the Levites, and surrounding them was `machaneh Yisrael`- the camp of the twelve tribes of Israel.)
The reason for this severity as explained in a sicha by the Lubavithcher Rebbe zt“l is because, as the Talmud teaches, the cause of the `tzara`t` was the transgression of `lashon hara`- evil talk. Lashon hara is a particularly evil transgression as the Rambam states that speaking `lashon hara` leads one to speak against Hashem and even to the denial of the existence of G-d; and thereby the one
becomes completely detached from Hashem, `chas v`shalom`- may Hashem have compassion and prevent us from such transgressions.
Reb Shlomo zt“l once taught us that according to the Tree of Knowledge one would not consider that speaking lashon hara is evil. After all lashon hara by definition is the truth, and if what is being related is true, then why shouldn`t it be known? But according to the Tree of Life lashon hara is certainly evil.
This may help us to better understand the severe statement by the Rambam. One who speaks lashon is claiming that so and so did such and such and that that is his `reality`, and he will not change! (The
lashon hara that he is speaking may actually even make it harder for the individual to do tshuvah.) Thus speaking lashon hara leads one to speak against Hashem, because if indeed the individual really is bad and cannot do tshuvah and change for the better, then one might say that Hashem is responsible for this person`s behaviour, chas v`shalom! Such talk against Hashem is a denial of our belief in the
essence of Hashem, as represented by the aspect of the Tree of Life.It is a denial of the truth of renewal; it is a denial of Hashem continuously renewing life at every moment; it is a denial of our
capability of doing true and complete tshuvah.
The Lubavithcher Rebbe zt“l many years ago initiated a worldwide campaign to encourage all Jewish women to light Shabbos and Yom Tov candles. Even young girls, as soon as they were old enough to
understand to understand the meaning of lighting Shabbos and Yom Tov candles, were encouraged to light their own candles with a blessing. The Rebbe asked for this to be done even in communities where
traditionally the mothers light the candles for the family.
The Rebbe spoke about the importance of this mitzvah many times over many years and the campaign for all Jewish women to light Shabbos and Yom Tov candles continues to this day. In explaining the
importance of this mitzvah the Rebbe quoted the Rambam`s statement that “the entire Torah was given for the purpose of making Shalom-peace in the world“.
The true reality of this world is that it is G-dliness. The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, that Hashem is creating the world anew- from no-thing into some-thing at every moment. But this Divine creative energy is so utterly concealed, that one could `chas `v`shalom` think that the world is without a master, that it exists on its own. The purpose of the mitzvah candles and the light of Torah study is to thereby illuminate the truth, that there is a Master and that there is no-thing besides Him.
The mitzvah of lighting Shabbos and Yom Tov candles is especially powerful in enabling us to `see` the Divine reality of the world, in the world. The practical reason for lighting Shabbos and Yom Tov candles as stated in the Talmud is for the sake of Shalom Bayit- peace in the home, so that we don`t get hurt by wood or stone. The Rebbe explains that `not to stumble over wood and stone` has a spiritual implication. Wood and stone allude to idolatry as in Yirmiyahu 2:27, “those who say to the tree `father`and to the stone `you gave birth to me“.
Through the light of the holy Shabbos and Yom Tov candles we can better see, in this physical world, that the tree and the stone, like all else in the world, is under Hashem`s rule and that we are to use
all physical reality for holy matters, in holiness.
May we all be blessed that the holy light of the holy Shabbos and Yom Tov candles will illuminate our lives to see the G-dlines in all Creation, to `see` that Hashem is One and His Name is One
- that “ein od milvado“- there is nothing else but Hashem.
May the holy Shabbos and Yom Tov candles reveal the truth of the Torah, our Tree of Life and may we never again speak lashon hara. Amen!
Have a wonderful Shabbos b’ahavh ubivracha
= = = = from previous years = = = = = =
Our parsha this week is about creative efforts and continuity. We desire to be creative and we desire continuity. The question is what do we have to know about our creative desires so that we can ensure continuity? The underlying theme of this week’s parsha teachings is the importance of self-improvement in thought, speech and action, in particular the importance of not speaking badly about another, and about examining our deepest thoughts.
Concerning The ‘Tummah’ Of The Metzora And Lashon Hara:
- Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon saying: 2. When a person will have, in the skin of his flesh a spot of intense whiteness or an off-white spot, or a snow-white spot, and it forms on the skin of his body [like] the plague of ‘tzara’at’ he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen, or to one of his sons, the Kohanim. 3. The Kohen shall see the plague in the skin of the flesh … the Kohen shall see it and declare him to be ‘tamei’. Vayikra 13.
The ‘tzara’at’ that the Torah is talking about, is not the leprosy we know of today. Rather, the Talmud explains that this condition of ‘tzara’at’ was a physical manifestation of a spiritual disease. The Talmud tells us further that this ‘tzara’at’ did not occur for a very long time in history. Eventually when we became less attuned spiritually, Hashem stopped giving us such overt physical signs to mend our ways.
The Rabbis in the Talmud teach that the affliction of ‘tzara’at’ would come about because of the transgression of speaking ‘lashon harah’, evil talk about another and because ‘spilling innocent blood’ [murder, embarrassing someone in public, taking your anger out on someone]. Reish Lakish says, “read the word “Metzora” as “motzi-rah”, bringing out evil talk. [Eyrechin 15b.]
A person who spoke ‘lashon harah’ would first be afflicted with ‘tzara’at’ on the walls of his house. If he learned his lesson from this then it would stop there. But if not, then the ‘tzara’at would move to his garments, and if he continued to speak ‘lashon hara’, then it would move to his body. The consequence of being in this state of ‘tummah’ was most severe in that the “Metzora” had to remain isolated outside all three camps, as it says “Ba-dadd yeishev mi-chutz la-machaneh,” he must stay isolated outside all [three] camps; he was not even allowed to associate with other people who were tamei, until he returned to being “tahor”.
It is very interesting and very unusual that the Torah devotes two very large chapters to this topic, a total of 116 verses [out of a total of 859 verses in 'sefer Vayikra' the book of Leviticus]. The Netivot Shalom takes this as an indication that the transgression of ‘lashon harah’, speaking with an evil tongue, is much deeper than any other transgression that involves a prohibited physical ‘action’ only.
Making a firm resolution not to do them anymore can end transgressions that involve physical acts. But transgressions that emanate from ‘middot ra’ot’ – bad character traits, and involve our ‘hirhurim’ – thoughts, can only be corrected by uprooting the ‘evil root’ that they emanate from. Even if one manages to be completely ‘disciplined’ that he does not transgress in any way, nevertheless, as long as he has not yet uprooted the evil within, he has yet to accomplish his purpose in being here. So says Reb Mendele Vitebsker in his sefer “Pri Ha’aretz”.
The Zohar classifies all creation into four levels of creation, each one being higher than the other. These are: 1. “Domeim” – the inanimate creations, such as rocks etc. 2. “Tzomeyach” – that which grows, such as plants and vegetation. 3. “Chai” – that which is alive, animals etc. 4. “Medabeyr” – the one who speaks. We are classified as the “medabeyr” in the creation schema. On the verse “and He breathed into his nostrils ‘nishmat chayim’, a breath of life”, the Targum Onkelos translates as “ruach memallelah”, a spirit that speaks. The highest expression of our essence lies in our speech.
Speaking ‘lashon harah’ is therefore very different from other transgressions; when speaking lashon harah we are transgressing with our most essential characteristic. To call our attention to this, the Torah places much emphasis on this transgression by devoting a large amount of text to its consequences.
Aspects of ‘Fixing’ Lashon Hara, Anger and Becoming Tahor:
“Netzor L’shoncha Mey-ra”–Guard Your Tongue From Speaking Evil:
To Learn The Laws of Lashon Hara
Great Rabbis in our generation have taught that the most powerful spiritual tool for improving ourselves and for improving our relationships with others and with Hashem is the daily study of the laws of ‘lashon harah’. The Chafeytz Chayim wrote a great book called “Shmirat Halashon”, which is also available in English as Guard Your Tongue, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin.
Don’t Speak Lashon Hara – Even About Yourself: A story.
Reb Yisrael Meir Hakohen of Radin, known as “the Chafeytz Chayim” *, was on the train back home to Radin. Opposite him sat an elderly simple yiddeleh. The Chafeytz Chayim asked him whereto he was traveling. “I’m traveling to Radin to meet the ‘tzaddik hador’ – the greatest tzaddik of our generation.” “Who is this great tzaddik that lives in Radin? I live in Radin; I didn’t know that the ‘tzaddik hador’ is living in Radin!” said Reb Yisrael Meir. “Why, it is the Chafeytz Chayim, Reb Yisrael Meir Hakohen is the tzaddik hador,” said the yiddeleh. “Listen, I know this man personally and I can certainly tell you that he isn’t such a great tzaddik,” said the Chafeytz Chayim.
Hearing such a brazen remark our simple yiddeleh immediately slapped the Chafeytz Chayim across the face and said, “How dare you talk thus about the holiest man of our generation!” The Chafeytz Chayim accepted what happened and didn’t reply; he remained quietly in his seat for the rest of the journey.
The next day our holy little yiddeleh came to the house of the Chafeytz Chayim to visit the tzaddik hador. As soon as he saw the tzaddik he fainted, realizing that this was the very same man that he had slapped yesterday on the train! When they revived him he cried and begged to be forgiven. “But,” the Chafeytz Chayim said, “you don’t need to be forgiven, and indeed I need to thank you for teaching me a very important lesson.”
“I taught you an important lesson?” He was astonished. “Yes, you taught me that one should not speak lashon harah even about one’s self!”
- Reb Yisrael Meir became known as The Chafeytz Chayim, the one who desires life, because of the book he wrote on the Laws of Lashon Hara, entitled Shmirat Halashon – The Guarding Of The Tongue. This sefer was widely accepted and we study it unto this very day. King David said, “Mi ha-ish h’chafeytz chayim, oheyv yamim lir-ot tov? Netzor leshoncha meyrah, usfatecha midabeyr mirmah.” (Psalms 34) “Who is the person who desires life, who loves the days and wants to see good? Guard your tongue from speaking evil, and your lips from speaking falsehood.”
Developing A Good Eye
The Ishbitzer teaches that the ‘Metzora’ could have become leprous because of problems with anger. The best advice for this is to develop an ‘ayin tovah’, a good eye!
There are three levels in developing an ‘ayin tovah’: First, he should desire that Hashem should bring down a flow of goodness to the world and to all of Israel. Second, even if as a result of his friend receiving abundant blessings, he himself might have less, nevertheless he should have a ‘good eye’. Third, even if Hashem were to bring blessings to his friend only, and he himself would net get any part of it, nevertheless he should find peace and tranquility in that Hashem is blessing his friend.
This is the meaning of “tov ayin hu yevorach,” – the one who possess a good eye, he shall be blessed! [Proverbs 22:9]. In other words he is blessed by having a good eye, even when he is not the recipient of the material and/or spiritual blessings. Nevertheless he will be happy that his friend was blessed according to his desires.
Joshua ben Perachya said: Provide yourself with a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend; and judge everyone favourably. Mishnah, Avot 1:6.
“There are three kinds of friends in the world. An ordinary friend sees only what you are; for that you don’t need a friend. Then there’s a friend who sees in you what you can be. But in the presence of a real holy friend you’re already are!” Reb Shlomo Carlebach ztz”l
We need good friends, friends that are striving for the best and the highest in them and in their relationships with Hashem and people. With higher and deeper levels of friendship, we are less likely to speak lashon harah, and the more we are capable of helping a friend. We are [more] open to accepting words of guidance and criticism from a good friend because we trust that hey mean well.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz”l explains why in the case of the Metzora, it was only the ‘Kohen’ who was allowed to declare whether or not the person with ‘tzara’at’ was tamei or not. The Torah allows only the Kohen, who is commanded to lovingly bless Hashem’s nation each day, to tell a fellow Jew that he is tamei and that he would have to be outside the three camps. The Kohen would also communicate to him that he truly loves him and that he would work with him to help him do his ‘tikkun’ so that he could come back home.
Shabbos And The Transition From ‘Tummah’ To ‘Taharah’
Basically our parsha is not only about people who become tamei, it is also about the transition from being in a state of ‘tummah’ to being in a state of ‘taharah’ and ‘kedushah’. ‘Tummah’ is usually translated as [a state of being] ritually impure, and ‘tahor’ is translated as [a state of being] being ritually pure. However please keep in mind that these are not the best of translations, and the inherent implications in the usage of the words, pure and impure, can be misleading. For one can become ‘tamei’ even by doing a great Mitzvah! For example, attending a funeral and attending to the needs of the deceased– ‘halvayat ha’meit’ is a very great mitzvah; nevertheless one becomes ‘tamei’ by doing it. Being ‘tamei’ means that you cannot enter the Beit Hamikdash to offer a sacrifice, until you become ‘tahor’. The Ishbitzer Rebbe in his sefer ‘Mei Hashiloach’ explains that in a state of ‘tummah’, there is some spiritual fixing that needs to take place, either between yourself and G-d, or between yourself and your Self, or between yourself and others.
The transition from ‘tummah’ to ‘taharah’, usually takes place over a seven-day period, or in multiples of seven days. The Slonimer Rebbe explains: In every seven-day period, there is one day that is Shabbos. Shabbos is “yoma d’nishmata”, the day of the soul. During the six days of the week all kinds of things can happen, but on the seventh day, on Shabbos- the day of the soul, we are restored; we can reconnect with our divine origin and self. Concerning the Shabbos day it says: “Elokim blessed the seventh day He sanctified it”. The Shabbos day is unique, not only because we rest from working on this day. It is qualitatively different by design. It is the day of the soul and for the soul. Shabbos is the soul of the week. It is the soul of the world. Gevalt! It is a holy heavenly gift!
To move from being ‘tamei’ to being ‘tahor’, one needs to have a Shabbos. In some circumstances one Shabbos is not enough, and you need two. [With the exception of certain minor states of 'tummah', one is usually 'tamei' for seven days.] During the week of ‘tummah’ especially on the Shabbos of that week, the individual fixes and restores his soul, and comes back to an even stronger and holier relationship with Hashem, with himself and with his friends.
Reb Shlomo zt”l, once explained the difference between Shabbos and the weekdays as follows: during the week 1+1=2, but on Shabbos 1+1=1, or 3, or more but not 2! [The number two represents division.] On Shabbos we re-enter into the Oneness of Hashem, and we reunite with Him and all of His creation, we enter into a different consciousness and in this way we become ‘tahor’ and ‘kadosh’ again.