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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Metzora

High or Low?

"Do you want to see how great I am?"

The man is a little taken aback. He has never heard anyone brag like that.


"Watch me eat this food."

The bragger proceeds to gulp down a thick sandwich and a bottle of soft drink.

"What do you think of that? Great, isn't it?"

The man looks a little puzzled.

"My mouth chewed all that food. My esophagus carried it down to my stomach. Now my digestive juices are taking care of it, separating out the minerals that my body needs, delivering them to the right organs, and getting rid of the rest. Isn't that a great feat?"

"It is, but..." "Look at that old man over there. He can barely eat. Hey, old guy! Do you want a nice big sandwich? I'll bet you do, but you can't eat it because you're too old. Eat your heart out instead."

The onlooker is shocked. How can a person be so far out of reality? Is he really proud of his stomach? It certainly is a wondrous creation however; it has nothing to do with him. Hashem made it and gave it to him. How can he be so proud of it?

* * *

This story presents an extreme example of the type of bad middos (character traits) that bring on the plague of tsoraas. The purification process from the tumah (spiritual impurity) of tsoraas includes bringing cedar and hyssop wood. Cedar is a very tall tree, and hyssop is a very low bush. Rashi explains that the metzorah arrogantly raised himself high like a cedar tree; therefore, to become tahor (pure) he must lower himself like the hyssop.

The Sefas Emmes takes a little deeper look. Why does the metzorah have to bring cedar wood? Isn't it enough to bring hyssop, the low bush, to remind him to be humble? The Torah is teaching him a lesson. It is precisely this egotism that is so low. He was so proud of nothing. That itself is the lowliest middah. The opposite is also true. Humility, holding yourself low, is the most exalted middah. The morning prayers state, "He lowers the proud and lifts up the lowly." If Hashem is ultimately going to exalt them, why did He initially make them low? Because Hashem always wants him to retain an aspect of that lowness. He should always realize that he is ultimately nothing. All of his greatness and accomplishments come from Hashem. That is true humility. The opposite is also true. "He lowers the proud." Because of their pride, they fell low. That is the lowliest middah of all, to exaggerate your role in your accomplishments. That silly man in the story actually thought that he was responsible for his stomach working. Every act of false pride contains at least some of his type of foolishness.

Kinderlach . . .

Humility is the highest middah. Our greatest people are the most humble. How can this be? Don't they realize that they are exceptional? Of course they do. However, they do not attribute their accomplishments to themselves, rather to Hashem. They realize that The Almighty gave them everything. All of the honor is His. They consider themselves fortunate and perhaps unworthy of His wonderful kindness. Therefore, they are eternally grateful to Him. The lowest are truly high.

Over All Five

"Hello, everyone. I'm home."

"Shalom, Abba. How are you?"

"Wonderful, Chaim, Baruch Hashem. Thank you for asking. How are you? How was your day?"

"Great, Abba. We learned a very interesting Mishna today."

"That's fantastic Chaim. Tell me all about it."

"It is in Mesecta Makkos, the third chapter, the ninth Mishna. Someone can plow one furrow and commit eight sins."

"Wow. What are the sins?"

"He plows with an ox and a donkey together, which are both hekdesh (property of the Beis HaMikdash). He plows kelai hakerem (a field which has grapevines and wheat mixed together) on the shmitta year, on yom tov. The field is also a graveyard and the man plowing is both a Kohen and a nazir (who are both forbidden to enter a graveyard)."

"Chaim, that is truly fascinating. I learned something similar today. About an action which carries the weight of many sins."

"What was it Abba?"

"It was a Medrash on Parashas Metzorah. The Medrash was speaking about the plague of tsoraas, which comes from speaking Loshon Hora. The word 'Torah' is used five times in the parasha in reference to the plague of tsoraas. This is to teach us that one who speaks Loshon Hora transgresses all five books of the Torah."

"Oy vey."

"There is more, Chaim. The Tosefta in Mesecta Peah (1:2) lists sins for which a person is punished in this world, but the main punishment is reserved for the next world: idolatry, immorality, and murder. Loshon Hora is equal to all of them."

"Words are really powerful, Abba."

"That's right, Chaim. Watch what you say."

Kinderlach . . .

We are all trying to do lots of mitzvos and avoid doing any aveyros (sins). Two weeks ago we learned about the animals which are forbidden to eat. You would not dream of eating chazir (pork). It is a terrible aveyra. This week we learn that we must be just as careful about what comes out of our mouth, as we are about what goes into it. One word of Loshon Hora is a sin against the whole Torah. All 613 mitzvos! The punishment in this world is bad enough. What happens to the sinner in the next world is unspeakable. Watch what you say.

The Atonement

Sins cause terrible damage. Both in this world and in the spiritual world. However, the damage can be undone (in most cases). Firstly, the sinner must do teshuva. Then, in many cases kaporah (atonement) can be accomplished in the Beis HaMikdash. What was the kaporah for Loshon Hora? The Chofetz Chaim explains in his sefer, "Shmiras HaLoshon". Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. The Kohen Godol was the holiest of all Jews. The Beis HaMikdash was the holiest place on this earth, and the Kodesh Kodoshim (Holy of Holies) was the holiest part of the Beis HaMikdash. The Kohen Godol's first avodah (service) on Yom Kippur was to enter into the Kodesh Kodoshim and burn the ketores (incense). This was the kaporah for Loshon Hora. This tremendously concentrated power of holiness was needed to counteract and atone for the terrible physical and spiritual damage caused by Loshon Hora.

Kinderlach . . .

Yom Kippur was six months ago. Yet we all remember how we cried out to Hashem to forgive our sins. Who can forget the holiness of the day? Yet, we are lacking much of the holiness of Yom Kippur. There is a Beis HaMikdash, a Kohen Godol, and the avodah, which add even more holiness to the day. All of this awesome holiness was needed to forgive the sin of Loshon Hora. What a horrible sin it is.

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