Parshios Tazria & Metzorah
The Torah Rewards Faithfulness
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 677 – Tallis Koton – Wool or Cotton? Good Shabbos!
When a woman finishes the purification period following childbirth, she brings a year old sheep as a burnt offering and a type of bird (a young dove or a turtledove) as a sin offering. The Baal HaTurim points out that on every other occasion when this option of bird offerings are mentioned in the Torah, the turtledove (tor) always precedes the young dove (ben yonah). Only here do we find the ‘ben yonah’ mentioned before the ‘tor’.
The implication, says the Baal HaTurim, is that in this case, for some reason, it is preferable to bring a ‘ben yonah’ rather than a ‘tor’. Why?
The Baal HaTurim offers a fantastic insight. Normally, when birds are brought as sacrifices, the person is obligated to bring a pair of birds. Childbirth is an exception, as only a single bird is required. Turtledoves (torim) always live in pairs. They always mate for life with the same partner. Therefore, if a person would take a single ‘tor’ as his sacrifice, he would in effect be breaking up the “marriage” of two turtledoves. One of the pair would be killed and the other half of that pair would remain alone for the rest of its life, without a mate. Therefore, by childbirth, where only one bird is used, the preference is to use a ‘ben yonah’.
Rav Simcha Zissel notes: If the Torah is so sensitive that it does not want people to cause unnecessary suffering to birds, imagine how the Torah feels about causing unnecessary pain to human beings. He further notes that we see from here how much the Torah appreciates and rewards faithfulness and loyalty. In Parshas Be’Haloscha when the Almighty wishes to chastise Aharon and Miriam for speaking inappropriately about their brother, He describes Moshe with the words “b’chol Beisi ne’eman hu – In all My House he is the most faithful.” Moshe is not called the most righteous or the wisest, but the most faithful. Ne-emanus [faithfulness] is the highest complement the Almighty can give a person. Faithfulness means being trustworthy and loyal. This is a quality that people do not appreciate anymore, but the Torah appreciates this attribute very much.
The Torah rewards the loyalty of the turtledoves one for another, and changes the order, in a sense recommending that when only one bird sacrifice is required, the choice should be the young dove (ben yonah) rather than the turtledove (tor).
The Metzorah Needs A Double Atonement
At the conclusion of The metzorah’s [spiritual leper] period of impurity, he must bring both a guilt offering (korban asham) and a sin offering (korban chatas). Both of these sacrifices provide atonement. Why are these two different offerings both necessary for his atonement? Usually, either an asham or chatas is required, but not both.
The Ramba”n found the double requirement of asham AND chatas by a metzorah to be noteworthy. The Ramba”n suggests that the two offerings atone for different aspects of the sin. The asham atones for the original sin that the metzorah committed which caused him to receive the Divine Punishment of leprosy in the first place. The sin offering, on the other hand, may be for sins he committed while he was already a metzorah. Maybe in his pain, he blasphemed G-d or complained about His punishment. Those complaints require independent atonement.
Perhaps we can appreciate the Ramba”n’s suggestion better if we recognize that Tzaraas was a horrible disease. It was a spiritual disease that manifested itself in physical symptoms but the physical symptoms were horrible. And it was not only horrible physically but it was horrible socially as well. It required the person to be “banished from the camp.” Normally, we have a tradition that when someone is sick, we visit him – the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. In the case of the metzorah – on the contrary – we are not allowed to visit him. He is exiled from society! “He must dwell alone, outside the camp” [Vayikra 13:46].
Certainly, during this very painful, lonely, and bleak period of his suffering, this person may be tempted to utter some blasphemous thought: “G-d why on earth are You doing this to me?” It is almost inevitable. Therefore the Ramba”n suggests that the sin offering that the metzorah brings is for the blasphemous thoughts which he has perhaps uttered against the Almighty during the period of his enforced isolation.
Life is not all smooth. There are many situations in life which can get extremely difficult and painful. One can sometimes wonder “Why me? Why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve this! G-d is not Just.” We must try to avoid such thoughts. It is difficult. It is very difficult, but we must literally perish the thought. We must be believers, descendants of believers. Whatever the Almighty does to us or to the Jewish people, He is not doing it because He hates us, but because He loves us.
The classic commentaries explain that G-d is doing us a favor with the laws of Metzorah and Tzaraas. We are doing something wrong and G-d sends us messages that we should improve our ways. First, it starts with our houses, then it gets a little closer to home, it attacks our clothing. If we still do not get the message, then it comes to the person’s body. However, this is not a punishment – it is a message.
Whenever a person must go through these types of troubles, he needs to think: The Almighty wants me to improve, to get better.
This write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah Portion. The halachic topics covered for the current week’s portion in this series are:
Tape # 007 – Self-Defense
Tape # 051 – Moser: The Dilemma of the Jewish IRS Agent
Tape # 094 – Hallel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut?
Tape # 142 – Eyeglasses in Halacha
Tape # 189 – Mikveh: Tevillah and Chaziza
Tape # 279 – Women’s Testimony in Hilchos Niddah
Tape # 325 – The Microscope in Halacha
Tape # 369 – Bris Millah That Causes Chilul Shabbos
Tape # 413 – Speaking Lashon Horah on Baalei Machlokes
Tape # 457 – Getting an Aliyah After Childbirth
Tape # 501 – Milah and the Sick Baby
Tape # 545 – Dangerous Medical Procedures
Tape # 589 – Pidyon Haben – Daytime or Night?
Tape # 633 – Lashon Harah and Lashon HaTov
Tape # 677 – Tallis Koton — Wool or Cotton?
Tape # 721 – Eruv Pesach – Mores Special Than You Think
Tape # 765 – How Many Mitzvos of Sefira Are There?
Tape # 809 – Netilas Yadayim – Things You Never Knew
Tape # 853 – Mila on Shabbos: Fascinating Questions
Tape # 942 – Kiddush Hashem – Is Everyone Obligated?
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