Thursday, April 19, 2018



For the most part, parshas Tazria details the laws regarding a metzora (one afflicted with tzara’as), while parshas Metzora discusses the purification process of the metzora.
As part of that process, the Torah states: “The kohain who is purifying shall stand the man who is becoming purified and them (the two male lambs, one ewe, and flour and oil) before Hashem at the entrance of the Tent of the Meeting.”[2]
Why is the kohain here referred to as “the kohain who is purifying”; it’s obvious that his purpose here was to help the metzora become purified?
The Ben Ish Chai explains with a parable:
An impoverished scholar was walking along the road lost in Talmudic thought when unfamiliar sounds of revelry and merriment interrupted his thoughts. He looked into the window of the house in front of him and saw that the large crowd inside were gambling. The scholar was immediately filled with righteous zeal and he burst into the house and drowned out the noise with words of rebuke and chastisement. He spoke emotionally and heartfeltly about the prohibition of gambling and the severity of what they were engaged in. The assemblage was moved by his words and they immediately agreed to cease gambling. They also decided to give all the money to the impoverished rabbi to ensure that they did not have any benefit from their sinful actions.
The scholar accepted the money and went home. A few weeks went by and the money the scholar received was depleted, and he didn’t have a cent to his name. He was contemplating what he could do to make some money, when he was suddenly struck with an epiphany -  all he needed to do was to find another group gambling and to rebuke them as he had done to the first group.
It didn’t take the scholar long to find another such group. With the same religious zeal as the first time he burst onto the scene and began ranting about the sin they were committing. To his chagrin and shock however, this time they had a vastly different reaction. After screaming at him that he had no business telling them what to do, they began hitting him. Then they shoved him out and slammed the door in his face.
The confused and shamed scholar approached his rebbe for advice. He wanted to understand why the second attempt had been such an abysmal failure. After hearing the story, the rebbe explained that the first time he had acted with pure intentions. He was genuinely pained by their behavior and the rebuke he offered was with genuine care. They were able to sense his emotional connection and they responded accordingly.
The second time however, he was motivated by selfish interests. He didn’t care at all about their spiritual welfare but was only hoping for the monetary gift he had received the first time. Therefore, they replied angrily and disdainfully. 
The Ben Ish Chai explained that the kohain who offered the korbanos of the metzora recived the meat of the shelamim as well as the dough of the mincha to eat with his family. Therefore, it was particularly important that the kohain not be thinking about his own personal gain. To help the metzora achieve repentance, he had to truly care about the metzora.
Therefore, the pasuk refers to him here as “the kohain who is purifying”. It’s only if that is his primary intent that he will be able to properly assist the “man who is becoming purified”.

The kohanim have the merit to bless the nation. The beracha recited prior to birchas kohanim blesses Hashem for investing them with the sanctity of Aharon and commanding them to bless Yisroel with love.
The Mishna[3] states that one should strive to be from the disciples of Aharon who love peace and pursue peace; they love people and draw them close to Torah. It is precisely because the kohanim make it their mission to love every Jew, that they are able to help the iniquitous meztora rectify his sins.

The Zohar[4] writes that an unmarried Kohen could not serve as an agent of his fellow Jew to perform the avodah in the Bais Hamikdash.
In order to perform the avodah, a Kohen must fully develop his capacity for love and selflessness, which can only be properly attained through marriage. When married, one must share his life with another human being and must learn how to truly care for another. An unmarried person may be kind and sensitive, but he has the ability to retreat into himself when he wants to and to do things his way.
By commanding the metzora to seek out a kohain, the Torah is conveying an important idea: Before one can diagnose or pass judgement on another that he is spiritually ill and requires temporary isolation, he must make sure he truly cares for the other person. Only then can he be certain that his diagnosis is not coming from personal bias or lack of refinement, and only then can we be confident that he will do everything he can to help the meztora rehabilitate and rectify his shortcomings.  

Based on this idea, Rabbi YY Jacobson[5] makes the following poignant observation:
 “As parents, educators, spouses, employers and colleagues, we often find ourselves with the need to rebuke, denounce, criticize and sometimes penalize. Yet all-too-often these are done more as an outlet for our own anger and frustration, rather than as a tool to help these people become the best they can be. We may call it discipline and justice, but if it is not based on kindness and the desire to help the other person, they may end up being more destructive than constructive.  
“Principals and teachers at times feel the need to expel a student from the institution, just as—during biblical times—the leper was dismissed from the community. Comes the Torah and declares: If you are not a Kohen, you are forbidden from issuing forth such a verdict! If you do not genuinely care for this youngster, you have no right to expel them! If you will not lose sleep over the fact that you had no choice but to dismiss a student, then it might be you who should be dismissed from your position.
“It is easy to define somebody as "impure" if you do not understand their pain, but it is unethical. Before you punish, you must first learn how to be a Kohen, how to really care about others. When criticism, punishment and even dismissal are motivated by concern for the person rather than your own rage or incompetence, it will have a totally different effect on the person you are punishing. Your criticism will build, rather than destroy, this person's character. What is equally important, you will not cease to labor that the situation be reversed and the individual returns to his or her potential glory.
“So next time before you criticize your spouse, stop and ask yourself if you are doing it as a "Kohen," out of concern and care for them, or as a result of your stress or anger. If that is the case, you ought to remain silent until you can transcend your self-absorption and enter into the world of another human being.”

“The kohain who is purifying shall stand the man becoming purified”
“To bless His nation Yisroel with love”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Tazria-Metzira 5777
[2] Vayikra 14:11
[3] Avos 1:12
[4] vol. 3 p. 145b.
[5] Article entitled, “How to Criticize Your Husband: If You Don’t Love Me, Don’t Expel Me”; based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe from December 1984. Likkutei Sichos vol. 27 pp. 88-91.


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