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Posted on April 19, 2023 (5783) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 37, No. 26
1 Iyar 5783
April 22, 2023

Sponsored by Aaron and Rona Lerner in memory of his father Yaakov Yonah ben Yisroel a”h

The two Parashot read this week–Tazria and Metzora–are devoted primarily to the laws of Tzara’at. R’ Nosson Yehuda Leib (Leibel) Mintzberg z”l (1943-2018; rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Yerushalayim and Bet Shemesh, Israel) makes several observations about the order in which the various laws of Tzara’at are presented in our Parashot.

The Torah’s presentation begins with the laws of Tzara’at that afflicts a person, then the laws of Tzara’at that afflicts a person’s clothes, and finally the laws of Tzara’at that afflicts a person’s house. However, in between the laws relating to clothing and the laws relating to houses, the Torah discusses the purification process and sacrificial offerings of a Metzora (person with Tzara’at). Perhaps, R’ Mintzberg writes, this division is explained by the fact that the laws of Tzara’at on people and clothing applied even before Eretz Yisrael was conquered and settled, whereas the laws of Tzara’at on houses applied only afterwards.

He continues: Tzara’at on a person is described first because, although miraculous, it has a parallel in the natural world. In contrast, Tzara’at on clothing and houses does not parallel any natural occurrence, so it is listed later.

Also, Midrash Rabbah teaches that G-d, in His Mercy, strikes a person’s home before his clothing, and his clothing before his person–the reverse of the order in which the three types of Tzara’at appear in the Torah. However, in order to highlight that Tzara’at is a punishment, the three types are listed in the order that hits “closest to home”: first a person’s body, then his clothes, then his house. (Ben Melech Al Ha’Torah)


“On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (12:3)

The Gemara (Shabbat 132a) teaches: “On the eighth day”–even on Shabbat. [Until here from the Gemara]

R’ Avi Ezri Zelig Margalios z”l (17th century rabbinical judge and Darshan / preacher in several European cities) writes: Near the end of last week’s Parashah (11:45), we read, “For I am Hashem Who elevates you from the land of Egypt to be an Elokim to you; you shall be holy, for I am holy.” Why is the commandment to circumcise a boy on the eighth day even if it is Shabbat placed near that verse?

R’ Margalios answers: We read about Egypt on the night of the Exodus (Shmot 12:30), “There was not a house where there was no corpse.” If so, commentaries ask, how could Hashem, so-to-speak, enter Egypt to take Bnei Yisrael out? If a Kohen may not enter a place where there are corpses, certainly Hashem, who is figuratively called a “Kohen” and who is infinitely holier than a human Kohen, should not be allowed to enter such a place!

The answer is that even a Kohen may enter a place of impurity in order to save a life, and Hashem was saving Bnei Yisrael’s lives, both physically and spiritually. Therefore, He could enter Egypt. But, how do we know that saving lives supersedes nearly all of the Mitzvot? The Gemara learns it from our verse: If surgery on one limb–i.e., circumcision–supersedes Shabbat, certainly saving a whole body supersedes Shabbat (and other Mitzvot). (Kessef Nivchar)


“When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a Tzara’at affliction upon a house in the land of your possession.” (14:34)

Rashi z”l writes: This informed Bnei Yisrael that Tzara’at would come upon them because the Emorites concealed treasures in the walls of their homes during the whole 40 years Bnei Yisrael were the wilderness in order that Bnei Yisrael would not find them when they conquered the Land. But because of the Tzara’at, the Jewish People would pull down their homes and discover the treasures. [Until here from Rashi]

R’ Yehoshua Heschel (Harry) Kaufman shlita (rabbi in Washington, D.C., and Montreal) asks: Does Hashem have no better way to give Bnei Yisrael the Emorite treasures than to force Bnei Yisrael to tear down their own homes?

He answers: There is a great lesson here. It seems to a person that it is a great tragedy to need to tear down his house because of Tzara’at. Yet, amidst the rubble, he may discover buried treasure. This teaches us the proper outlook on all of life’s tribulations: somewhere in the trouble hides a silver lining. (Ohr Yehoshua)


Pirkei Avot

“Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had five students . . . He told them: ‘Go out and discern which is the proper path to which a person should attach himself.’ . . . Rabbi Yehoshua replied, ‘A good friend.’ Rabbi Yose replied, ‘A good neighbor.’ . . .” (Ch.2)

R’ Yechezkel Sarna z”l (1890–1969; Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva) asks: Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai’s students were pious and holy men! Why did they need good friends and good neighbors; could they not cling to G-d through meditating in seclusion upon His greatness?

We see, answers R’ Sarna, that having a good friend and a good neighbor is not merely an aid to strengthening oneself spiritually. Rather, it is an integral part of serving Hashem, and anyone who thinks he can navigate Torah study and Yir’at Hashem / reverence of G-d completely on his own is sadly mistaken. (Daliot Yechezkel II p.281)



“If you restrain your feet because of the Shabbat; refrain from accomplishing your own needs on My holy day; if you proclaim the Shabbat ‘Oneg’ / ‘A delight,’ the Holy One, Hashem, ‘Honored One,’ and you honor it by not engaging in your own ways, from seeking your needs or discussing the forbidden–then you shall be granted pleasure with Hashem . . .” (Yeshayah 58:13-14)

R’ Yaakov Kranz z”l (1741-1804; Dubno Maggid) explains these verse with a parable:

A well-off man had three sons–call them: Reuven, Shimon, and Levi. Reuven was extremely wealthy, while Shimon lived in abject poverty. Reuven and Shimon both lived in a town some distance from their father and their much younger brother, Levi.

When it came time for Levi to marry, the father wrote to his sons Reuven and Shimon, inviting them to the wedding. “All expenses you incur for my honor will be reimbursed,” he wrote.

Immediately, Reuven outfitted himself and his wife and children with new suits, shoes, and jewelry and loaded them all into his gilded carriage. Just as he was about to set out for the wedding, he sent for his brother, Shimon: “Quickly, bring your family and ride with me.” And, so, Reuven and Shimon arrived at their father’s home together–one in his new finery and the other in rags.

After several weeks at his father’s home, Reuven announced that it was time for him to return to his business, and he presented his father with a bill for the clothing and jewelry his family had worn to the wedding. His father, however, said, “What do you want from me?”

“You promised to reimburse me!” Reuven said, but his father denied it. Reuven then pulled out his father’s letter and argued, “You said right here that you would reimburse me!”

“Please read the letter carefully,” replied the father. “It says: ‘All expenses you incur for my honor will be reimbursed.’ Had you incurred all of those expenses for my honor, you would have outfitted your poor brother and his family as well. But you thought only of making a good impression yourself–for your honor, not mine.”

Similarly, says the Dubno Maggid, how can we test whether the delicacies we consume on Shabbat are a fulfilment of the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbat or merely pursuits of personal pleasure? One indication is whether we share our Shabbat table with those in need.

The Gemara (Beitzah 15b) teaches that expenditures made for Shabbat do not count against a person’s annual income decreed on Rosh Hashanah. Rather, Hashem says, “Borrow on My account and I will repay you.” However says the Dubno Maggid, one can count on that repayment only when his expenditures are in honor of Shabbat, which he demonstrates by including the needy at his meals; not when the expenditures are for his own gratification. As Mishlei (19:17) says, “One who is gracious to the poor has made a loan to Hashem, and He will pay him his reward.”

The Dubno Maggid adds: The above verses in Yeshayah provide another way of testing whether one is enjoying Shabbat for the sake of the Mitzvah or for his personal pleasure. If one is as careful in observing the Shabbat prohibitions listed in those verses–refraining from accomplishing one’s own needs on the holy day and honoring it by not engaging in one’s own ways and not seeking one’s needs or discussing the forbidden–as he is careful to enjoy delicacies, that is a sign that he is acting for the sake of the Mitzvah. (Ohel Yaakov: Behar)