APRIL 4-6, 2003 3 NISAN 5763
The perashah tells us that when certain sins were committed, a plague would affect either the homes, the garments or the skin of the Jewish people. Although this seems like a severe punishment, we must realize that all punishments are merely signals to us to examine our ways and improve our conduct.
Once, the owner of a large factory wanted to hire an experienced engineer. He advertised in all the trade journals and announced the time and place to interview for the job. Many candidates turned up at the designated time, but the owner failed to appear. Hours passed. The candidates grew annoyed and began to shout in anger. Only then did the owner come out calmly from his office to address the crowd. He said, "I don't know what you are angry about. You have been waiting in vain. Two hours ago, at the exact time that I had set, I sat in my office and began tapping out signals in Morse Code indicating that anyone who understood me should come into my office for an interview. Only one of you picked up my message and entered my office. He is the one whom I have chosen for the job. The rest have failed the test."
We know that Hashem is All-Merciful and loves us like a father loves his children. Very often, we get "signals" sent to us, some in the form of punishments. Punishments don't only mean drastic things, G-d forbid. Rather, they can also include inconveniences, minor frustrations and the regular ups and downs of everyday life. We must learn to recognize these signals from Hashem and focus on their meaning and their intent. This way we will live up to our status as the "Chosen People." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
All the days that the affliction is upon him, he shall remain contaminated...he shall dwell outside the camp." (Vayikra 13:46)
The "affliction" here refers to an affliction that resembles leprosy, but it is a Divine retribution for the sin of gossiping and other manners of callous behavior. In "Shabbat Table Talk" in this week's bulletin, we explain why it is required that this person remains outside the camp. The Torah requires that we, the "healthy ones," stay away from him. Even if, out of a feeling of mercy, we would want to visit him, like a bikur holim visit, we would not be permitted to do so. The reason would be that since he is not fully healed from his "sickness" of gossip, he might regress and have a relapse. Therefore we are held back from doing him this favor until the patient is fully healed and has repented, and can then mix in the company of others without gossiping.
There is a well known "letter" that the Vilna Gaon wrote to his family. He warned and requested that his family members should not go to shul if there is a possibility that they would gossip and violate the laws of lashon hara. Since it is a place of gathering, they might not be able to hold back the urge to gossip. Even if they would be going to perform the misvah of praying, it would be better to pray home than to gossip in shul! Of course, in our days, this might not apply because there might be the urge to gossip in the home also. In the early days, the Jewish homes were very pure, and gossiping was never done. Bottom line, we need to purify both our homes and synagogues of this illness. The way to do this is: 1) learn the laws of lashon hara, and 2) pray every day for Hashem's help. When we say the last paragraph of the amidah, it starts with "Hashem, nesor leshoni mera." The translation is: "Hashem, help me to guard my tongue from speaking bad about others." Say it with feeling and it is guaranteed that Hashem will help. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen" (Vayikra 13:2)
Why concerning leprosy in the skin does it say "vehuba" - "and he shall be brought" - while concerning an affliction on a house it says, "uba asher lo habayit" - "the one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen" (14:35)?
The afflictions of leprosy discussed in Parashiot Tazria and Mesora are not conventional diseases. Sara'at is a heavenly punishment for selfish behavior and gossip, one designed to help the afflicted person do teshubah and resolve to correct his ways. Though the Torah refers first to bodily leprosy, Hashem is merciful and a person's house is afflicted first. Afterwards, if this does not help, his garments are afflicted, and if the person still does not repent accordingly, only then does the person himself become afflicted with leprosy.
Usually, one whose house is stricken realizes that he is receiving a sign from Heaven and, therefore, "he comes to the Kohen," who is the spiritual mentor of the people, seeking his advice and guidance. However, an actual leper already has received two "reminders" from Hashem, and apparently he is stubborn in his ways and does not want to recognize the supremacy of Heaven or the authority of the Kohen; therefore, "he shall be brought to the Kohen," by his friends and relatives. (Vedibarta Bam)
"He shall dwell in isolation; his dwelling shall be outside the camp." (Vayikra 13:46)
If the kohen determines that a person has sara'at, the person is required to leave the camp, and dwell in isolation until the affliction heals. What purpose does this serve? Sara'at is not a contagious disease, so the reason cannot be that we want to prevent others from catching it from him. Why does the Torah require this person to remove himself from society?
The Sages explain that the main cause of sara'at is the speaking of lashon hara (slander). Lashon hara is very destructive in that it often creates strife between friends or family members. One who speaks or listens to lashon hara has a tendency to focus on the faults and shortcomings of others, rather than highlighting their good qualities. A person like this, the Torah teaches, should be removed from society. Since he presents a danger to the happiness of others, it is proper that he should be sent away. As with every punishment, Hashem always makes the punishment fit the crime (midah k'neged midah). This helps the person understand what he did to bring the punishment upon himself, and he can then do teshubah and be forgiven.
Question: When unfortunate things happen to you, do you try to analyze what you may have done to bring it upon yourself? Does the knowledge that Hashem always makes the punishment fit the sin help you to accept it without complaint?
Question: Normally, we end the paragraph which precedes the Amidah with "shomer et amo Yisrael la'ad." In Arbit of Shabbat, we say instead, "happores sukkat shalom alenu ve'al amo Yisrael." Why the change? Answer: On the weekdays we pray for G-d's protection ("shomer et amo Yisrael"). On Shabbat, since there is added protection due to the holiness of the day, the prayer is not neccesary. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
This Week's Haftarah: Melachim II 4:42 - 5:19.
Our perashah discusses many of the laws regarding the affliction of sara'at. This week's haftarah tells of a non-Jewish general of Aram, named Na'aman, who had sara'at and couldn't find a cure. He asked the prophet Elisha, to help him, and Elisha told him to dip seven times in the Jordan River, and he would be healed. When Na'aman followed his directions and was healed, Hashem's name was glorified, and Na'aman acknowledged that there is no other G-d in the world.
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