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Publisher's Foreword

Bereishis

Shmos

Vayikra

   Vayikra

Tzav

Shemini

Tazria

Metzora

Acharei

Kedoshim

Emor

Behar

Bechukosai

Bamidbar

Devarim

The Chassidic Dimension - Volume 5
Interpretations of the Weekly Torah Readings and the Festivals.
Based on the Talks of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.


Metzora

Compiled by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg, Edited by Sichos In English

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"See No Evil"

The Mishnah states in tractate Nega'im:[366] "If a nega, (a leprous-like lesion) appears on a choson, (a bridegroom) he, his house and his garments are granted a reprieve [i.e., the nega is not inspected to determine purity or impurity] for the duration of the Seven Days of Rejoicing. So, too, during the Festival he is granted all the days of the Festival."

The Gemara[367] quotes a dispute in a Beraisa with regard to the source of this law: "'On the day that there is seen...' -- This teaches us that there are days when you see [the nega] and there are days when you do not see [the nega]. We derive from here that if a nega appears in a choson, he, his house and his garments are granted a reprieve for the duration of the Seven Days of Rejoicing. So, too, during the Festival he is granted all the days of the Festival. This is opinion of R. Yehudah.

"Rebbe says, 'It is not necessary [to adduce this from a verse], for it already says,[368] "The priest shall give orders that the house be emptied out before a priest comes to see the nega, so that everything in the house will not become unclean." If we tarry merely to enable the person to save his common objects, we surely delay for the sake of a mitzvah.'"

Rava goes on to say that according to R. Yehudah who derives the law of reprieve from an explicit verse, when the nega appears on the choson's body the law of reprieve applies only with regard to performing a mitzvah, while according to Rebbe the law of reprieve also applies to merely permissible matters as well.

Conceptually, the difference between these two opinions is the following. "Tarrying merely for the person to save his common objects" implies that while by right the inspection should take place immediately, we temporarily put the Kohen's inspection on hold so that the person will not incur a monetary loss.

However, if the verse specifically indicates that there are days when the nega is not to be seen, the Torah is informing us that these days are intrinsically absolved from inspection. In other words, its not just pushing off the inspection, rather, during these days the very concept of inspecting a nega does not apply.

These two opinions can also be understood on a more spiritual plane by prefacing the following statement of the Rambam:[369] "This alteration [of nega'im] that affected clothing and dwellings ... was not a natural phenomenon. Rather, it was a sign and a wonder that affected the Jewish people in order to keep them from speaking Lashon HaRa, slanderous speech. For he who speaks Lashon HaRa will have the beams of his house altered [by tzora'as].

"If he repents the house becomes undefiled. If he does not ... then his vessels ... and then his clothing ... Ultimately, the person himself will become afflicted with tzora'as, and he will have to be separated from others, until he ceases occupying himself with evil speech, scoffing and Lashon HaRa."

Clearly, nega'im was an act of kindness emanating from above;[370] it was for the person's own benefit, so that he repent from his evil ways. Moreover, nega'im demonstrated G-d's love for every Jew, even the wicked, for G-d altered the natural laws and demonstrated a "sign and wonder," so that the person would change for the better.

In light of the above, we may well say that the two above-mentioned manners -- uprooting the law of inspecting a nega for the sake of performing a mitzvah, or temporarily setting aside the inspection of the nega even for the sake of mere permissible matters -- are indicative of the distinct and immutable qualities that every Jew possesses, even one afflicted by nega'im:

The fact that the Torah takes pity even on the valuables of an evil person indicates the special quality of every Jew, even the wicked. Even the wicked person is so loved by G-d that He takes pity not only on the wicked individual's body and soul, but also on his possessions -- possessions that this individual used not for the sake of a mitzvah, but for his own personal gratification.

The fact that the inspection of a nega is abolished for the sake of the performance of a mitzvah by the individual in whom there appears a nega, indicates how very precious is the performance of a mitzvah of a Jew. For this abolition for the sake of performing a mitzvah applies to the mitzvah-performance of one who has stooped so low that the affliction of his house and his garments didn't affect a change within him at all, and it became necessary for the nega to appear on his body.

Each of these instances possesses a singular quality. In the first instance, the pity taken even on the possessions of an evil person stems from the fact that he quintessentially is a Jew, and "a Jew although he sinned, remains a Jew."[371]

The second instance -- abolition of inspection for the sake of a mitzvah -- emphasizes the sanctity of the performance of a mitzvah even of such an individual, the sanctity of the mitzvah he performs is so intense that it is impossible for the impurity of nega'im to gain purchase.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXVII, pp. 37-41.

Retribution

The Torah portion Metzora speaks about the ritual impurity imparted by a woman in the niddah state. Our Sages explain[372] that this impurity came as a result of G-d's imprecation after the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge. This implies that the niddah state is not a natural phenomenon, but a result of transgression.

A deeper appreciation of this concept can be gained by understanding the nature of divine retribution. Consider another punishment humanity suffered because of the above sin: our expulsion from Gan Eden.

This punishment was not merely the penalty meted out for the sin, but instead -- as are all expressions of divine retribution[373] -- a direct result of the sin itself.

The Garden of Eden was a place that was so holy that it could not bear the existence of evil. By eating from the Tree of Knowledge, man internalized evil within his being. In this state he could no longer remain in the Garden.

Similarly, with regard to divine retribution as a whole, it is written:[374] "Your evil will chastise you," i.e., the suffering visited upon man is a natural consequence of sin.

This principle also applies to the punishment Chavah received, the niddah state. This punishment is a direct result of the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge. The evil created through the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge becomes the blood that renders a woman a niddah. Therefore the woman becomes ritually impure.

The Jewish people are a "holy nation";[375] each individual is entirely good. This applies not only to the G-dly soul, but to the animal soul as well.

By nature, the animal soul has no desire for forbidden things; its inherent desires are merely for permissible matters. Therefore, as soon as bodily evil becomes a significant entity, a Jewish body cannot contain it within itself and discharges it.

Nevertheless, the very fact that evil exists within a Jewish body is a sign that something is lacking. Therefore, even after its expulsion, the person is deemed impure.

There is a debate among the Rabbis as to whether the prohibition against marital relations while a woman is in the niddah state is a side effect of her impure status or a separate prohibition. There is strong support for the second approach.[376]

Man and woman, all the elements of their being and all the laws applying to them, are a manifestation of the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people.[377] For man and woman, like every other entity in this world, are an echo of their spiritual source.

Extending the above analogy, the niddah state refers to Jews in a state of sin, when they are banished from their natural home.[378] While in this state, there are aspects that relate to the concept of impurity.

Nevertheless, with regard to establishing a connection with G-d -- the fundamental desire of every Jew[379] and the objective of his observance of the Torah and its commandments -- the obstacle is not one of impurity, but rather a prohibition.

The distinction between a prohibition and impurity can be explained as follows: Prohibitions guard against evil that can be appreciated by mortal intellect or emotion. For example, forbidden foods dull the sensitivity of the heart and mind.[380]

Impurity, by contrast, refers to a dimension of evil that cannot be appreciated by mere mortals. Instead, it is as the Midrash states:[381] "It is a statute which I (G-d) ordained, a decree that I instituted."

This is so, for the evil associated with a prohibition can be appreciated more readily than the evil associated with impurity. Thus, there is a more severe dimension associated with impurity:

Since the evil associated with impurity is not easily discerned, one will not eradicate it through repentance as quickly as one would correct error involving those matters specifically forbidden by the Torah.[382]

Moreover, as reflected by the fact that ritual impurity is a quality that cannot be grasped by mortal intellect, it mars the levels of soul that transcend reason and understanding.[383]

In this context, it is explained that with regard to the relationship between Jews and G-d, the evil generated through sin is comparable to a prohibition and not to a matter of impurity. Which is to say, it affects our conscious powers, and not the essential powers of the soul. The essence of the soul steadfastly remains vigorously united with G-d.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, pp. 983-986.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) 3:2.

  2. (Back to text) Moed Katan 7b.

  3. (Back to text) Vayikra 14:36.

  4. (Back to text) Conclusion of Hilchos Tumas Tzora'as. See also his Pirush HaMishnayos on Nega'im 12:5; Moreh Nevuchim III, conclusion of ch. 47.

  5. (Back to text) See also Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXII, p. 72ff.

  6. (Back to text) Sanhedrin 44a.

  7. (Back to text) Eruvin 100b.

  8. (Back to text) See the introduction to the section Beis Acharon in the Sheloh, where this subject is discussed.

  9. (Back to text) Yirmeyahu 2:19.

  10. (Back to text) Shmos 19:6.

  11. (Back to text) See Asvin d'Oraisa, sec. 21. See also Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Yoreh De'ah, sec. 183.

  12. (Back to text) See our Sages' interpretations of Shir HaShirim.

  13. (Back to text) This is reflected in the word niddah, which relates to the term nad, meaning "wander."

  14. (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 41.

  15. (Back to text) See commentary of the Ramban to Vayikra 11:13, and Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 73.

  16. (Back to text) Bamidbar Rabbah, beginning of Chukas; see also Rambam, conclusion of Hilchos Mikvaos.

  17. (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, Parshas Vayikra.

  18. (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Devarim, p. 43c, and the conclusion of Parshas Acharei.


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