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Vedibarta Bam And You Shall Speak of Them
Volume III Vayikra


by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
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"This shall be the law of the metzora (leper) on the day of his purification and he shall be brought to the Kohen." (14:2)

QUESTION: The words "zot tiheyeh torat hametzora" seem to be superfluous. Could the pasuk not have simply said, "ki yithar hametzorah vehuva el haKohen" "when the metzorah becomes clean he shall be brought to the Kohen"?
ANSWER: In Chovot Halevavot (Sha'ar Hachane'ah 7) it is written that when people come before the Heavenly tribunal for judgment, they are often shown that, in the Book of Records merits were recorded for them for mitzvot which they do not recall doing, and they even say, "We did not do this." They are told, "Someone who spoke evil about you has lost some of his merits and they have been added to your account." Likewise, people sometimes ask why they have not been given credit for certain good deeds, and they are told, "They were transferred to people about whom you spoke evil." Similarly, some people will find "debits" (aveirot) in their ledgers, which they never did. When they object, they are told, "The sins were removed from the people about whom you spoke evil and added to your account."

Once, when a righteous person found out that somebody spoke evil about him, he reciprocated by sending the speaker a beautiful gift with a note reading, "I learned that you sent me your merits as a gift. Consequently, I am reciprocating with the enclosed gift."

In light of the above, when a person speaks lashon hara, he loses the zechutim merits which he collected through his study of Torah and performance of mitzvot. When he repents and is cleared of his wrongdoing, then his record is again adjusted to reflect merely his own deeds. Therefore, when the Torah talks about the metzora, "beyom taharato" "on the day of his purification" it says "zot tiheyeh torat hametzora," meaning that whatever merit for Torah he has lost because of his evil talking will now revert and become his merits.

"This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing." (14:2)

QUESTION: According to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi in Midrash Rabbah (16:6), the word "Torat" "law of" is mentioned five times in regard to the leper. This teaches that one who speaks lashon hara commits a grave sin, equivalent to violating the five books of the Torah.
What is the link between lashon hara and the five books of the Torah?
ANSWER: In Chumash Bereishit the serpent encourages Chava to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by speaking lashon hara about Hashem. He tells Chava, "Hashem forbids you to eat the fruit because a craftsman hates competitors. He, too, was able to create the world, only after gaining wisdom through eating this fruit" (Rashi 3:5).

In Chumash Shemot Hashem tells Moshe to put his hand into his bosom. When he takes it out it is white as snow with leprosy. This happens to Moshe because of speaking lashon hara against the Jewish people when he says, "They will not believe me" (Rashi 4:6).

In Chumash Vayikra the Torah clearly states the prohibition of speaking lashon hara: "You shall not be a talebearer among your people" (19:16).

In Chumash Bamidbar we learn about Miriam's affliction with leprosy for talking lashon hara about Moshe (12:10).

In Chumash Devarim the Torah warns: "Take heed of the plague of leprosy... remember what Hashem did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt" (24:8-9).

Since lashon hara is alluded to in each of the five books of the Torah, the leper who speaks lashon hara is considered to have violated all of them.

"This shall be the law of the leper." (14:2)

QUESTION: Why is the leper called a "metzora"?
ANSWER: The Gemara (Arachin 15b) says that one of the ways to become a metzora is through speaking lashon hara. The word "metzora" is a combination of two words: "motzi ra" "one who brings out evil" [about another person]. The punishment for this is nega tzara'at plague of leprosy.

The Torah prohibits lashon hara by commanding: "Lo teileich rachil be'amecha" "You shall not be a talebearer among your people" (19:16). These words have the numerical value of 883, the same as the numerical value of "nega tzara'at." This shows that the sin and punishment are exactly midah keneged midah measure for measure.

The Midrash relates that Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel sent his servant to the market and said, "Bring me the best thing you can find." The servant came back with a tongue.

Another time, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said to his servant, "Go to the market and bring me the worst thing you can find." Again, the servant returned with a tongue.

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel was startled and asked his servant, "How is it that you brought me a tongue as the best thing you could find, and again a tongue as the worst?" The servant replied, "There is nothing better than a tongue that speaks good and nothing worse than a tongue that speaks evil."

"The Kohen shall command and for the person being purified there shall be taken two live clean birds." (14:4)

QUESTION: Why were two birds needed to purify a metzora?
ANSWER: One of the causes of leprosy is lashon hara. When someone conveys lashon hara to a person about his friend or to a husband about his wife, he replaces friendship or marital harmony with enmity and strife. The word "tzipor" "bird" has the numerical value of 376, the same numerical value as the word "shalom" "peace."

The Torah is suggesting that in order for the leper punished for lashon hara to be forgiven, he must first make peace between the friends or the husband and wife. Thus, the two birds correspond to the two estranged people who need to be reconciled.

The two birds represent the process of making peace between two partners. The numerical value of two times "tzipor" is 752. In Hebrew 752 is "zahav" "gold." Making peace between people is as valuable as gold.

"And it shall be on the seventh day, he shall shave off all his hair: his head, and his beard, and his eyebrows." (14:9)

QUESTION: Since it says "all his hair," why are three areas of hair growth singled out?
ANSWER: There are three causes for leprosy:

  1. ga'avah arrogance,

  2. lashon hara evil talk,

  3. tzarat ayin stinginess, reluctant to share with others or help them.

The shaving of the hair reminds the metzora that he must be extremely careful in specific areas to prevent the recurrence of the spiritual illness that leads to leprosy. Shaving his head reminds him never again to walk around with his head up, looking down at other people. Cutting the hair of his beard reminds him not to open his mouth to utter lashon hara. Removing the hair of his eyebrows, warns him to henceforth use his eyes to look at another Jew with kindness.

"If he is poor and his means are not sufficient." (14:21)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Yoma 41b) questions whether a rich man has fulfilled his obligation if he brings the sacrifices assigned for a poor man. However, regarding a metzorah leper everyone agrees that he has not fulfilled his obligation. Why?
ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Arachin 16a), one of the things that causes leprosy is tzarat ayin stinginess. Consequently, when a rich leper tries to fulfill his obligation by bringing sacrifices that were assigned to a poor person, he obviously has not yet been healed of stinginess and thus, cannot be pronounced clean from his leprosy.

"When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for possession, and I will place the plague of leprosy in the house of the land of your possession." (14:34)

QUESTION: Rashi writes, "This is a good tiding for the Jews that plagues will appear on their houses. The Amorites hid treasures of gold in the walls of their houses all the forty years the Jews were in the wilderness and, on account of the plague, the houses are broken down and the treasures found."
Since the pasuk says "Eretz Cana'an" "Land of Canaan" why does Rashi say "Amorites"? Moreover, why were they hiding treasures and not disposing of them, and why for forty years?
ANSWER: When Hashem told Avraham of the forthcoming Egyptian exile the Jewish people would endure, He also assured him that, "The fourth generation shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites shall not yet be full until then" (Bereishit 15:15). Though Hashem singled out the Amorites, He meant that all the Canaanite nations living in Eretz Yisrael would by that time have accumulated enough sins to deserve expulsion. The Amorites were designated because they were the mightiest among the group of nations (see Ibn Ezra and Amos 2:9).

Since Hashem specified "Ha'Amori" "the Amorites" Rashi too says that the "Amorites" hid treasures in the walls of their houses. However, in reality the reference is to all the nations dwelling in the land of Canaan.

They hid treasures for forty years because as soon as the Jews left Egypt they realized that Hashem considered their iniquities sufficient to warrant expulsion. Although according to the original plan, the Jews were to enter the land immediately, unfortunately they remained an additional forty years in the wilderness due to the sin of the meraglim spies. Unaware precisely when the Jews would arrive, the Amorites started putting away their treasures and did so for forty years until the Jews arrived.

Since they were being expelled because of their sins, they hid the treasures rather than destroying them. They anticipated that ultimately the Jews, too, would be expelled for sinning and, at that time, they would return to their houses.

"When you come into the land of Canaan, that I give you for possession, and I will place the plague of leprosy in the house of the land of your possession." (14:34)

QUESTION: Since it already says, "Eretz Cana'an asher ani notein lachem la'achuza" "the land of Canaan which I give you as a possession" why does it repetitively go on to refer to "eretz achuzatchem" "the land of your possession"?
ANSWER: The Torah is calling our attention to something that can cause a plague in our homes in Eretz Yisrael. Jews must always remember that Eretz Yisrael was given to us by Hashem and that it is not something that we took with our own strength. Therefore, when you come to Eretz Yisrael, if you will remember that, "Ani notein lachem" "I (Hashem) give it to you" "la'achuzah" "for you to possess" there will not be any plagues, but "venatati nega tzara'at beveit" "I will place the plague of leprosy in a house" if "eretz achuzatchem" "you consider the land as something that you took for your possession."

"And I will place the plague of leprosy upon a house in the land of your possession." (14:34)

QUESTION: Rashi writes that a plague in the walls of a house is propitious for the Jews. The Amorites had hidden treasures of gold in their houses all the 40 years the Jews were in the desert, and on account of the plague, the Jews broke down the walls of the houses and found the gold.
If a plague is a punishment for sinning, why does it seem to be a reward?
ANSWER: The Torah is teaching us a very interesting lesson: Every Jew has treasures hidden deep within. When a person sins, he is neglecting and forsaking the treasures and resources that Hashem has hidden in him.

When a Jew is, G-d forbid, plagued, it awakens him to do teshuvah to become closer to Hashem and Yiddishkeit, thereby revealing the valuable treasures hidden within him.

"The one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen, saying, 'Something like a plague has appeared to me in my house.'" (14:35)

QUESTION: What is the significance of plagues on houses for contemporary times?
ANSWER: The entire discussion concerning a plague on the walls of a house can be explained as a reference to the destruction of the first and second Beit Hamikdash, and the revelation of Mashiach.

"Uva asher lo habayit" the owner of the Beit Hamikdash (Hashem) came "vehigid laKohen" and He told the Kohen, the prophet Yirmiyahu, who was a Kohen "kenega nirah li babayit" "I see a plague of idol worship in My house."

"Vetzivah haKohen" Yirmiyahu the Kohen issued a command to the Jewish people that "ufinu et habayit" they clear the Beit Hamikdash of all idols "beterem yavo haKohen before Hashem comes (Hashem is a Kohen, see Sanhedrin 39a), "velo yitma kol asher babayit" and, G-d forbid, declare the Beit Hamikdash contaminated and unsuitable for him to dwell in.

Unfortunately, they did not heed Yirmiyahu's warning and "vera'ah et hanega vehinei hanega bekirot habayit" Hashem judged the situation and found the plague of idol worship contaminating the Beit Hamikdash. He, therefore, decreed that the Beit Hamikdash be completely destroyed and the people exiled to Babylonia.

After a period of seventy years (corresponding to the seven days a plagued house is closed), Hashem saw that they had done teshuvah and allowed them to return and rebuild the Beit Hamikdash.

"Uva haKohen" Hashem came "vera'ah" and saw, "vehinei pasah hanega babayit" behold, the plague had spread also in the new Beit Hamikdash. Thus, He decreed that it, too, be destroyed.

"Velakach lechatei et habayit" in order to rectify the situation, and restore the Beit Hamikdash, Hashem prescribed that there be taken "shetei tziparim" two birds. This refers to Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David. ("tzipor" "bird" has the numerical value of 370, the same numerical value as "zeh mashiach" "this is Mashiach"). [Also to be taken were] "ve'eitz erez" "cedar wood," a reference to the talmidei chachamim "usheni tola'at" "red thread," a reference to K'lal Yisrael (Isaiah 41:14) "ve'eizov" "and grass," referring to the young children, (the "Tzivot Hashem"), "Veshachat et hatzipor ha'echat" the first Mashiach will be killed.

Afterwards, the era of kibbutz galiyot ingathering of the exiles will commence, "Velakach." Hashem will gather the talmidei chachamim, K'lal Yisrael and the young children who are dispersed all over, vetoval He will immerse i.e. purify all the Jews and prepare them for the redemption.

Finally, "veshilach et hatzipor hachayah" He will send Mashiach "el penei hasadeh" out of galut to Tzion, which is referred to as a "sadeh" (Jeremiah 26:18) and "vechiper al habayit" there will be the rebuilding of the third Beit Hamikdash "vetaheir" and it will be pure forever.

"The one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen, saying, 'Something like a plague has appeared to me in my house.'" (14:35)

QUESTION: Why must the homeowner say to the Kohen "kenega" "something like a plague" and not "nega" "a plague"?
ANSWER: In the Polish city of Radin there lived the great tzaddik and gaon Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen, known as the "Chafeitz Chaim." An individual who had heard many intriguing stories about him decided to visit the city and see him personally. Upon arrival, he met an elderly bearded Jew in the street and asked him, "Could you please guide me to the home of the holy tzaddik and gaon the Chafeitz Chaim?" Graciously, the man told him to turn right at the corner and look for the first house on the second block. Then he said, "Incidentally, he is not such a tzaddik, nor is he a gaon." The visitor became enraged and slapped the elderly man across the face: "What audacity you have to speak in such a manner!"

When the visitor arrived at the home of the Chafeitz Chaim and was let into his study, he was horrified to learn that the man he had slapped earlier was the Chafeitz Chaim himself. Immediately he broke out in tears, apologized, and begged for forgiveness.

The Chafeitz Chaim smiled warmly and said, "There is no need to apologize; I deserved the admonition. I have dedicated my entire life to informing K'lal Yisrael about the terrible sin of lashon hara (slander). Today, I gained a new insight: not only is lashon hara about others prohibited, but a Jew should not even speak negatively about himself."

In light of the above, we can understand why the person says "something like a plague." When one sees a blemish in his house he should not jump to the conclusion that it is bad, but he should be patient and say, "It appears that there may be a problem" and seek a solution.

"Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house." (14:35)

QUESTION: The Ba'al Haturim writes that there are two pesukim with the words "nirah li." One is "Meirachok Hashem nirah li" "G-d appeared to me from the distance" (Jeremiah 31:3) and our pasuk is the other. What is the connection between these two pesukim?
ANSWER: Though the plague affecting the house seems superficially very distressing, in reality it contained good tidings. By breaking the walls of their houses, the Jewish owners found treasures which were hidden there by the Amorites during the forty years the Jews were in the desert (Rashi). The link between the two pesukim is that when the human eye of the Jew sees that "kenega nirah li babayit" "Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house," he should know that, "Meirachok Hashem nirah li" G-d, so to say, is appearing from the distance, and in His merciful way, He is bestowing riches upon the Jew.

Alternatively, according to the Gemara (Arachin 16a) one of the things that causes plagues is arrogance.

Regarding someone who is arrogant King David says (Psalms 138:6), "For though Hashem is exalted, He notices the lowly, but the arrogant He chastises from afar." The Gemara (Sotah 5a) says that, "Though G-d is exalted, He is close to the humble, but with the arrogant He cannot dwell together." Thus, when one sees a plague in the walls of his house, he must conclude that G-d is punishing him for his deeds and refuses to dwell with him, only becoming revealed from a distance.

"And when he is cleansed... then he shall number to himself... before G-d for his issue." (15:13-15)

QUESTION: What is the connection between these two pesukim and the 49 days of Sefirat HaOmer?
ANSWER: When the Jews were in Egypt, they sunk into the 49th level of impurity (Zohar Chadash, Shemot 31a). Upon leaving Egypt, they began to elevate themselves. Between Pesach and Shavuot they were cleansed of all impurity and were worthy of receiving the Torah.

In these three pesukim there are 49 words, which may be a remez (hint) to the 49 days of Sefirah, during which the Jewish people elevate and purify themselves. The Torah is teaching us that "Vechi yithar" the way to accomplish purification and spiritual elevation is through "vesafar" "counting" (sefirah). The words "vesafor" or "usefartem" derive from the root word of "sapir" brilliance and brightness. During Sefirah one is to refine each day one of the seven emotion-traits (midot), and each attribute contains elements of the other seven, a combination of 49 in total.

The 29th day of Sefirah is Pesach Sheini, and the 29th word of these pesukim is "Hashem." The reason for this is that when the Jews were impure and unable to offer the karban Pesach, they came to Moshe and asked him what they could do. Moshe's reply was: "Imdu ve'eshme'ah mah yetzaveh Hashem" "Wait, so that I may hear what Hashem will command." Then Hashem told Moshe about Pesach Sheini (Bamidbar 9:8).

The 33rd word in these pesukim is "mo'eid," which also means "holiday," alluding to the 33rd day of Sefirah, Lag BaOmer.

"He shall bathe his entire flesh in water." (15:16)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Eruvin 4b) explains that this refers to a mikveh of at least 40 se'ah of water (approx. 120 gal.).
What rationale can be given for mikveh purification?
ANSWER: A gentile woman considered becoming a giyoret (convert to Judaism). She contacted a Rabbi, who informed her of the requirements and also mentioned immersion in a mikveh. She was ready to do everything except for the mikveh ritual, which she found difficult to comprehend. He advised her to write her dilemma to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. She received the following response: According to the Gemara (Yevamot 22a), a person who undergoes conversion is considered a newborn. When an embryo is formed in the mother's womb, it is in a placenta surrounded by water on all sides. Similarly, the convert immerses himself entirely in the waters of the mikveh and emerges a newborn person.

The Rebbe's reply provides an insight into mikveh purification in general. Every person has a pure neshamah at birth. Afterwards he may do things which defile his soul. Immersion in the mikveh is a form of rebirth and through it he returns to his original state of purity.

The Shelah writes: "When one immerses in the mikveh, he should recite the pasuk, 'Leiv tahor bera li Elokim' 'A pure heart create for me, O G-d' (Psalms 51:12), because through immersion he becomes a newly created person.

Also, the first letters of the words "tahor b'ra li 'pure create for me' spell out the word 'taval' 'to immerse.'"

According to an interpretation of the Kesef Mishneh (Avot Hatumah 7:16, see Pardes Yosef 14:8), a person who immerses in a mikveh becomes pure when he first emerges from the water and not while he is actually immersed. This ruling may reflect the spiritual correspondence between immersing in a mikveh and birth, for a child is considered born when his forehead emerges from his mother's womb.

"He shall bathe his entire flesh in water." (15:16)


  1. Since it says, "he shall bathe his entire flesh," is not the word "bamayim" "in water" superfluous?

  2. The Gemara (Eruvin 4b) explains that this refers to a mikveh of at least 40 se'ah of water (approx. 120 gal.). The Rabbis derive this figure by estimating the amount of water needed to cover the entire body. Is there any Biblical support for this figure?

ANSWER: A hint in the Torah for the 40 se'ah of a mikveh occurs in this pasuk: "Verachatz" "he shall immerse" "bamayim" can be a juxtaposition of "bemei mem." "Mem" has the numerical value of 40. Thus, "bemei mem" means "in water consisting of 40 (se'ah)."

The famous Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Karliner, once said, "Mikveh (for men) is not a mitzvah, and atzvut sadness, melancholy is not an aveira. However, atzvut can cause the individual more harm than some of the most serious aveirot, and mikveh can accomplish for the individual more than some of the greatest mitzvot."

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