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Home » Tazria

Tazria: Food for Thought at your Dinner Table

Submitted by on March 30, 2008 – 3:33 amNo Comment | 2,939 views

Sunday: What we Eat

Nutritionists believe that the quality of our food is critical to our state of health. We are directly affected by the food we eat; heavy foods cause sluggishness and light foods boost our energy. The Torah maintains that food also affects our spiritual character. Kosher food hones our spiritual sensitivities and non kosher food dulls it.

What we eat also affects our children. Health conscious parents exercise regularly and eat healthy when pregnant to promote the child’s physical health. There is also a spiritual component: children whose parents eat kosher are predisposed to spiritual sensitivity and moral integrity. This is the message the Torah seeks to impart by placing the laws of child birth immediately after the Kosher dietary laws. Ramban (Igeres Hakodesh)

Monday:  All White

One of the signs of Tzaras (an affliction of the skin that causes ritual defilement) is a patch of white hair within a skin blemish. Yet, if the whiteness spreads to cover the entire body, the Metzora is declared pure. Why is a small blemish impure and a large blemish pure? Shouldn’t it work the other way?

Tzaras was not an ordinary illness; it was a symptom of sin. People often dismissed small blemishes considering them negligible; such patients didn’t note the severity of their sins and didn’t repent. They were therefore declared impure and isolated from others till they repented. However, when the blemish spread to the entire body the patient could no longer ignore the condition. He would surely recognize the extent of his sins and would surely repent. So confident was the Torah in his eventual repentance that he was deemed pure in advance and permitted to re-enter society. Chafetz Chayim

Tuesday: The Kohen

The Torah determines that only a Kohen, may declare a Metzora impure. Why specifically the Kohen?

Declaring a fellow Jew impure and banning him from the community for seven days is a harsh task. It should be delegated to someone that loves the patient and can communicate the disheartening news with empathy and concern. It is fitting that the Kohen, who blesses the Jewish people with love every day, be the one to convey such news.  Likutei Sichos

Wednesday: Shabbos Candles

When a Metzorah enters a Jewish home the house itself is declared impure. Rabbi Yehudah allowed a grace period for the length of time that it takes to light a candle in case a homeowner is in the midst of lighting Shabbos candles when the Metzorah enters and is unable to interrupt and ask him to leave. The odd circumstance on which this law is centered demands a deeper explanation; what is the connection between Shabbos candles and Tzaras and why do these candles counter the impurity of Tzaras?

Lashon Hara, gossip, which disturbs and often destroys peace within a family, is one of the primary sins that causes Tzaras. The purpose of the Shabbos candles is to radiate light and enhance peace in the home. It is therefore fitting that the Metzora’s impurity be countered by the light of Shabbos candles. Likutei Sichos

Thursday: Arrogance

Hair that is afflicted by Tzaras must be shaved. The Hebrew letter Gimmel of the word “VehitGalach,” which means “and he shall shave,” is written large in the Torah. What is the message of the large Gimmel?

One of the sins that cause Tzaras is arrogance. Shaving the afflicted hair, which is only a symptom, does not purify the metzorah unless he also rids himself of arrogance, the cause. Arrogance is a blight of character that should never be tolerated; however it should also not be completely removed. One should always maintain just enough for a healthy self esteem. Here we must exercise caution because the borderline between arrogance and self esteem requires great wisdom to discern. The large Gimmel of “vehitGalach,” is also the first letter of the Hebrew word Gadol, which means great, indicating that great wisdom is required in knowing just how much arrogance to shave off and how much should be left on for the purpose of self esteem. Pnei Moshe

Friday: Seven Sins

Our sages identified seven sins that cause Tzaras; taking an oath in vain, theft, gossip, murder, adultery, arrogance and the sin of begrudging others. These sins correspond to the seven forms of Tzaras listed in our Parsha.

There are three forms of skin Tzaras.

  1. “Seis,” the etymology of which is similar to the Hebrew word ‘Tisa’ – the third of the Ten Commandments – against swearing in G-d’s name in vain.
  2. “Sapachas,” which has a Hebrew connotation of wresting something away from another, corresponds to theft.
  3. “Bhaeres,” a very white blotch of skin, corresponds to gossip because our sages described gossip as something that causes the subject’s face to pale (turn white) when his or her private deeds are divulged in public.

There are four more forms of Tzaraas:

  1. Tzaras that appears on a boil, which causes unnatural heat on the flesh, is caused by murder, a sin of passion.
  2. Tzaras on a singed flesh is caused by adultery as King Solomon wrote, “As a man who walks on coals, so is one who sleeps with his fellow’s wife.” 
  3. Tzaras on the head is caused by arrogance, a sin caused by allowing our self-image to rise too high.
  4. Finally, Tzaras of the beard is caused by the sin of begrudging; in the Jewish tradition a beard frames the face in graceful respectability and our sages taught, “Those who honor others are themselves honorable,” in other words, those who begrudge others are themselves not honorable. Toras Moshe  (Alshich)

Shabbat: Spiritual Grime

Garments that are afflicted by Tzaraas must be laundered. If laundering the garment has removed the blemish then the garment is immersed in a Mikvah (ritual bath) and declared pure. The usual word for ritual immersion is Tevilah, yet in this case the Torah uses the word Vechubas which means “and it shall be laundered.” The garment has already been laundered; all it lacks is immersion, why does the Torah use a word that implies further laundering?

The Torah teaches us that Immersion is a form of spiritual laundry that removes spiritual blemishes.  This implies that a spiritual blemish ought to be as repulsive as a physical blemish; just as one would never wear a soiled garment unless it was first laundered, so should one never wear a spiritually soiled garment unless it is first immersed. Derash Mosh