This issue is co-sponsored
Vol. 12 No. 28
Hena Hitza bas Eliyahu
(Anne Dodick, mother of Risa Rotman) z"l
on the occasion of her fourth Yohrzeit
by an anonymous donor
Tum'ah and Its Sources
The Or ha'Chayim remarks on the puzzling omission of Tum'ah in Parshas Bo from the Parshah of "Zos Chukas ha'Pesach" (12:43), where, with reference to the night of Makas Bechoros, the Torah invalidates an Areil (who is uncircumcised) and a ben Neichar (who has worshipped idols) from eating the Korban Pesach, but says nothing about someone who is Tamei. True, he says, there would have been no problem with bringing and eating the Korban Pesach at that time (Bedieved), because seeing as the majority, if not all, of the people were Tamei, having just buried four fifths of the Jews who had died during the plague of darkness, it would have been a Pesach ha'bo b'Tum'ah. Yet there would have been no reason for them not to purify themselves in advance, to enable them to bring the Korban Pesach when they were all Tahor, in the way that it should be brought (Lechatchilah).
The Or ha'Chayim answers that before the Torah was given, Yisrael had the status of gentiles, who are not subject to Tum'ah, in which case no purification was necessary. That is why the Torah mentions Tum'ah (regarding the Korban Pesach) for the first time in connection with Pesach Sheini in Bechukosai, which was said after Matan Torah.
In fact, Tum'ah is not mentioned at all in the Torah until Parshas Shemini, which was said during the Shiv'as Yemei ha'Milu'im (the seven days during which Moshe erected the Mishkan, some ten months after the Torah was given).
Presumably this is because although the aspect of Isur that accompanies each of the Tum'os (such as that of T'reifus, of Tzara'as and of Nidah) applies at all times, that of Tum'ah (which the Torah is stressing here with regard to all of them) does not affect the realm of Chulin at all, only the various aspects of Kodshim. Consequently, until the Mishkan was set up, none of the Dinim of Tum'ah were relevant, since Kodshim were not practiced. So the Torah waited until after the conclusion of the Parshah of the Mishkan, including Vayikra Tzav and half of Shemini, before presenting it.
From this point on, the Torah discusses all the different levels of Tum'ah in the three consecutive Parshiyos Shemini, Tazri'a and Metzora, with the sole exception of a Tamei Meis, which we will discuss later. Such a conglomeration of Tum'os can be extremely confusing, so here's a break-down of the various types of Tum'ah, with the view to explaining the specific location of each one.
There are ten basic Tum'os, which can be divided into three sub-divisions (for our purposes). This is the order in which the Torah presents them:
Shemini - 1. Sheretz; 2. Neveilah; 3. Eiver min ha'Chai. Tazri'a - 4. Yoledes; 5. Metzora. Metzora - 6. Zav (a man who has three consecutive emissions of Zivus (which is not the same as Keri); 7. Ba'al-Keri (a man who has one emission); 8. Nidah; 9. Zavah (similar to a male Zav). Chukas - 10. Tamei Meis.
Sheretz, Neveilah and Eiver min ha'Chai all appear in the appropriate place in Shemini, immediately following the Parshah of Sheratzim and the Kasher and non-Kasher animals (which the Torah refers to as 'Tahor' and 'Tamei' animals, because the former remain Tahor once they have been Shechted, whereas the latter are Tamei (Neveilah) irrespective of how they died. Note, that no live animal is subject to Tum'ah, and that all animals that die without having been Shechted are Neveilah, and are Tamei).
These three Tum'os are light Tum'os, inasmuch as they do not emanate from one's body (giving rise to certain leniencies regarding Chalah nowadays etc.). They are only Tamei for one day and the Tum'ah is negated by merely immersing in the Mikvah (in which case one is immediately permitted to eat Ma'aser Sheini [in Yerushalayim]), and by then waiting for nightfall for a Kohen to be permitted to eat Terumah and Kodshim, and to enter the precincts of the Azarah.
Yoledes, Metzora, Zav, Ba'al-Keri, Nidah and Zavah are all stringent Tum'os that emanate from one's body. Of these, Yoledes, Metzora and Zav (and Zavah), which come to atone, are all Tamei for at least seven days, and render Tamei through Masa (carrying, without actually touching [which only Neveilah of the previous group does]), and are required to bring a Korban on the eighth. Until such time as they do, the prohibition of eating Kodshim and entering the precincts of the Beis-Hamikdash remains in place. Ba'al-Keri and Nidah are not required to bring a Korban, yet the other stringencies of the Tum'os that emanate from the body to which we alluded, apply to them too.
The reason that the Torah discusses first the Dinim of animals (incorporating the laws of Tum'ah) in Shemini and then those of man (in Tazri'a and Metzora) is because, as Chazal point out, it is merely following the pattern of the creation, where the animals were created before man.
Finally, in Parshas Chukas, the Torah discusses Tum'as Meis, which on the one hand, is an external Tum'ah which does not require a Korban, but on the other, it is unique in that a. it nevertheless lasts for seven days, and b. it renders Tamei be'Ohel (by merely being under the same roof as it, a stringency that only a Metzora shares), and c. it cannot be rectified by means of Tevilah alone, but also requires the ashes of the Parah Adumah. Indeed, the Torah introduces Tum'as Meis together with the Parshah of the parah Adumah.
What is not clear however, is why the Torah waited until this juncture to teach us about Tum'as Meis, seeing as the Parah Adumah was prepared on the second of Nisan of the second year, and it must therefore have been commanded around the same time as all the other Tum'os, during the last week of Adar. And what's more, it should logically have preceded the Parshah of Pesach Sheini (quoted in 'Beha'aloscha'), which is linked to it, as we explained earlier, and which it preceded by some six weeks!
There are a number of additional Tum'os, such as the Sa'ir ha'Mishtalei'ach and the Parah Adumah, each with its own peculiarities, each a law unto itself.
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Hashem in His Mercy
"And G-d spoke to Moshe saying ... This shall be the law of the Metzora ... " (14:1/2).
Commenting on the omission of the regular phrase 'Speak to the B'nei Yisrael', Chazal explain that G-d does not wish to implicate any creature, so He omits any mention of those who were subject to this terrible punishment (making it something impersonal). In fact, up to this point, for the same reason, the Torah did not even use the term "And Hashem spoke to Moshe", atypically addressing each issue directly, without an introduction ("When there will be Tzara'as" "When flesh will contain a plague" and so on).
Here, because it has begun to deal with the healing process, the Torah does insert "And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying", but still, in His boundless love for K'lal Yisrael, G-d (Kevayachol), cannot bring Himself to actually connect Tzara'as with Yisrael, so the phrase "Speak to the B'nei Yisrael" remains glaring in its omission (Sifsei Kohen).
The Metzora's Torah
"And this shall be the Torah of the Metzora on the day of his purification" (ibid.).
Since when, asks the Sifsei Kohen, does a Metzora have his own Torah?
Indeed he does, he explains. When the Kohen quarantined a Metzora, he would teach him how to do Teshuvah, and above all, of the importance of learning Torah (the greatest antidote against Lashon ha'Ra, the sin for which Tzara'as most commonly strikes), and the most likely cure to his ills. As a matter of fact, says the Chafetz Chayim, the Torah places the responsibility for Tzara'as in the hands of the Kohanim, precisely because they are praised for their correct use of speech (as the Pasuk writes "ki Sifsei Kohen yishm'ru da'as").
The Rambam too, explains the Pasuk "ve'al sofom ya'ateh" (that the Metzora must cover his lips as he leaves the camp of Yisrael) to mean that he must keep his lips sealed (i.e.that he is forbidden to greet people). But, he adds, he sits and learns Torah and Mishnah and expounds (Gemara). To be sure, there is no better way to make amends for his sin, just as the Kohen taught him.
The Merits of Purity
"And he shall bathe his flesh in water and become pure" (14:9).
R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld was meticulous about maintaining a high level of Taharah. In his younger years, he would immerse every Erev Shabbos in the Mikvah next to the Shilo'ach Spring, known as the Mikvah of R. Yishmael Kohen Gadol. He even told his son (the author of the Chochmas Chayim's father), how a large wart that had grown near his eye suddenly disappeared completely following one such Tevilah.
Since the Mikvah that existed in Batei Machseh (where he lived) was literally cold as ice, and not therefore in use, he would Tovel in the Mikvah that was located underneath the Shul that bore the name 'R. Nisan Beck'. This was no mean feat on his part (presumably on account of the long distance involved), yet he never failed to achieve it, each and every Erev Shabbos. In his later years however, they built him a Mikvah near his house, which he took to using every day before Davenning.
On occasions, he would actually immerse in the ice-cold waters of the local Mikvah in Batei Machseh, and on one of these occasions it almost cost him his life. That was when he was once found lying on the ground beside the Mikvah unconscious, with his intestines spilled on the floor next to him, his life hanging on a thread.
It happened once that Rav Isar Zalman Meltzer, Rosh Yeshiivah of Eitz Chayim, came to pay R. Yosef Chayim a return visit, but found him not at home. His sons informed the Rosh Yeshivah that their father had gone to the Mikvah, following the visit of an Arab businessman who had just been to see him in connection with his son's business. For reasons of etiquette, he had found it necessary to shake his hand, and it was R. Yosef Chayim's custom to tovel after physical contact with a gentile.
It was not long before R. Yosef Chayim returned from the Mikvah, and in reply to the Rosh Yeshivah's query as to the significance of this Tevilah, he replied with the Gemara in Yevamos that even though a gentile performs the B'ris Milah, he is not a Ger until he Tovels. Now if the Tevilah has the power to transform a gentile into a Jew, it must definitely have the power to turn a good Jew into a better one still.
Poor and Conceited!
"And what remains from the oil ... to atone for him (lechaper alav)" (14:29).
This Pasuk is speaking about a poor Metzora. In connection with a Korban of a rich Metzora the Torah writes (not "le'chaper alav", but) "ve'chiper alav".
Tzara'as strikes a person mainly because of conceit (see Parshah Pearls, last week 'His Hairs Are too Long for His head'), as this is also the root of Lashon ha'Ra.
One of the things G-d cannot bear is a poor man who is conceited. A rich man, nu, he has what to be conceited about (though that doesn't absolve him from overcoming the tendency to practice it), but a poor man who is vain, say Chazal? That is unnatural and therefore unforgivable!
Now we can understand the different expression used in the two cases, says the Or Samei'ach. "ve'chiper alav" implies that his atonement has been effected, whereas "lechaper alav" suggests that it has yet to do so, a hint that a poor man's conceit is not easily atoned for.
"And I will place a plague of Tzara'as on the house of the land of your possessions" (14:34).
This was good news for Yisrael, comments Rashi. Because during the forty years that they were traveling in the Desert, the Emori'im hid their gold in the walls of their houses. When Yisrael conquered the land, they wondered where all their gold was hidden, until their houses contracted Tzara'as, and they had to be demolished. In that case, asks R. Shlomoh Kluger, why is Nig'ei Batim listed among the punishments?
Simple, he replies. Finding a treasure through a house that has Tzara'as is itself a punishment. There are after all, more honorable ways of attaining wealth.
Or let's put it this way - wouldn't it have been nice if they had found the gold and kept the house too (sort of like eating one's cake and having it)?
Plague or Windfall
Yet at the end of the day, the gold is worth far more than the house. So how can the Torah refer to it as a plague, asks the Imrei Eish?
That explains, he answers, why the man said to the Kohen, not 'I saw a plague on the house', but 'a something that resembles a plague'. Because in the event that he finds gold within the walls, it will not be a plague at all, but a windfall.
Like Father like Son
"ke'Nega nir'eh li ba'bayis" (14:34).
The Ba'al ha'Turim comments that the same words "nir'eh li" appear in one other place in Yirmiyah, where the Navi writes (31:3) "me'rochok nir'eh li".
The Seifer ha'D'rash ve'ha'Iyun explains that it is often the case (though by no means always) that when children (from one's own house) go off the path ("ke'nega nir'eh li ba'bayis"), it is because they saw that the Avodas Hashem of their parents was shallow, Because they were not truly close to G-d ("me'rochok Hashem nir'eh li").
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Tzara'as on One's Clothes
It is a Mitzvah to carry out the laws of Tzara'as on one's clothes as prescribed by the Torah, as the Torah writes in Tazri'a (13:47) "And the garment which will have on it a plague ... ". This Mitzvah incorporates both how the garment becomes Tamei and how it becomes Tahor once again, to ascertain whether a garment needs to be quarantined or rent, whether it needs to be burned or washed and declared Tahor.
A reason for the Mitvzah is that G-d in His abundant goodness wishes to chastise us, as the Torah writes in Eikev (8:5) "Because just like a man chastises his son, Hashem ... chastises you". For Tzara'as is not a natural phenomenon, but a Divine wonder pertaining exclusively to G-d's holy nation, which prompts them to learn the appropriate lesson, when the clothes that they are wearing mysteriously change colour. And it pertains specifically to wool and linen garments, since they are the garments that are most commonly worn. Tzara'as on one's clothes will cause a person to repent from his evil ways, before the plague strikes his body.
Some of the Halachos of the Mitzvah, what Chazal have said ... that it is confined to (white) wool and linen clothes, and that the Shi'ur of Tum'ah on clothes is a 'ki'G'ris' (the size of a large species of bean), like Tzara'as of a person ... There are three signs of Tzara'as Begadim - a fresh green or red patch, or if the existing patch spreads ... 'Green' refers to the brightest of greens, and 'red' to the brightest of reds ... the Din of spreading ... green that turned red when it spread and vice-versa ... that all garments are subject to Tum'as Nega'im, even if they are not subject to Medras ha'Zav (such as sails of a ship, curtains, veils attached to a woman's head-covering, cloths that are used to cover Sefarim, belts and shoe-laces [provided they are as wide as a G'ris], and suchlike), not to mention pillows and blankets ... as well as all the other details, are all explained in Taharos, mainly in Maseches Nega'im (and in the Rambam, Perek 12 of Hilchos Tum'as Tzara'as).
This Mitzvah applies to men's and women's clothes alike. Anyone who contravenes it and who fails to follow the Torah's instructions as specified in the Parshah, has transgressed an Asei.
Tzara'as on One's House
It is a Mitzvah to declare Tamei a stricken house (or room), as the Torah writes in Metzora (14:35) "And the one who owns the house shall come ... ". This means that one is obligated to do with it everything that the Torah prescribes, and to declare Tamei anyone who enters it, as the Pasuk writes there "and whoever enters the house is Tamei". This Mitzvah incorporates everything to do with the Tum'ah of the house, to ascertain whether it needs to be quarantined or demolished, whether some of the walls must be knocked down or all of them. Tzara'as Batim is not a natural phenomenon, but a Divine wonder, which sometimes comes on the houses of Yisrael as a sign of rebuke, because out of G-d's love for them, He chastises them first on their belongings, to prompt them to do Teshuvah before they reach a stage where they deserve being smitten bodily. In fact, there is a middle stage, because He will first strike their clothes (see previous Mitzvah), and it is only if they fail to take the double hint that He will deliver the final stroke - Tzara'as on their bodies.
Furthermore, our sages have taught that when Yisrael conquered Eretz Yisrael, Hashem struck some of the houses with Tzara'as, not as a punishment, but for their good, so that after demolishing the house, they would find there the treasures that the Emori'im had hidden in the walls before they arrived. True, G-d could have informed them of the whereabouts of the treasures through a Navi, the Chinuch observes. But, it is well-known, that He prefers to perform miracles in a hidden way (without the accompanying fanfare).
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