DELVING INTO THE PARSHA
1. What is the name of this week’s parsha? What does it mean?
A: Metsora. It is the term for one afflicted with tsaras (not tsaros –meaning woes, but the disease of last week’s parsha which results from certain sins of the heart, mind and toungue, resulting in discolouration on one’s skin, hair, clothing, utensils and furniture and house.) After last weeks parsha which discussed the determination of an impure blemish, this week’s parsha is discussing the purification and reintegration procedure.
1. If a the greatest sage of the generation is teaching a young Cohen, and somebody needing a tsaras diagnosis walks in, who must render the decision?
A: the Cohen – only they have the capacity to render a blemish as pure or impure. This is one of the reasons why the afflicted says ‘it appears to me I have a plague’, and not ‘I have a plague’ – for only a Cohen can officially render a blemish as tzaras.
Other reasons why one reports the affliction in an oblique way is not to speak of negative things, at least not with certainty – especially since this has the power to trigger their onset. One is also being taught to speak with humility, and not to say “I know/ I can/ I am, etc. – humility is so important, particularly in one’s preparedness to receive Torah, and to effectuate internal growth, that in regards to spiritual matters you are even permitted to mask the truth in order to protect your humilty .
2. What is the maximum number of weeks one can remain with an undetermined affliction (both on the body or house)?
3 weeks – after that a failure to improve is deemed as a sign of tzaras, for a healthy body and soul will naturally remedy itself. 3 is generally the number accepted in Torah to create a ‘chazakah’ (status quo).
There is also a maximum amount of time that a person can remain a metsora, with all the laws, and separations it requires. All of the parameters set forth for a metsora are almost a guarantee that he will be rehabilitated. Once the blemish has begun to recede, the Cohen goes out to his isolated encampment to diagnose if he is fit to begin the purification process. He does not have the option of remaining ascetic or antisocial, the Torah requires us to be prosocial beings. Judaism is the religion where being normal and being holy are synonymous and interdependent.
This can explain why, as part of his purification procedure, the metsora
3. What colour is the tzaras on a house?
A green or red – these show imbalances to either the left (red) or right (green). Like all heavenly ordained punishments, these come measure for measure, both as a natural outcome of one’s errors and failings, and also as a means to show us exactly where it is we need to improve or avoid. (E.g. the sin of the calf revealed a lack of desire on our part for an intimate relation and self-abnegation to Hashem, thus He responded by pulling away, leaving us to more natural forces. The spies sinned by rallying the people’s lack of interest to continue their spiritual development in the land of Israel, and so they were all decreed to die before entering. The snake in Eden sinned by causing Eve to be ingrateful (that despite being place in a utopic luxury, there was one tree she was not permitted to partake of. As a result, the snake was sentenced to writhe on its belly, never to look up to the heavens, and its food is always available like the dust of the Earth, and we all know, that one who has always had, and has never known lack or worry, is not easily appreciative and sensitive. ) So too the metsora is ostracized and acts in a state of mourning, for the social disparity and pain and wasted life he caused.
5. Does any good come directly from tsaras?
A Not from the plague itself, but the eliminating of tsaras from a house requires breaking down the walls, and taking the afflicted stones outside the city. A serendipitous windfall was once engineered for those undertaking this procedure. The nations inhabiting Canaan heard of our imminent encroachment, and they -‘coincidentally’ thought to- stash all their valuables in to the cavities of their homes. The stage was set then for us, after we conquered, to occasionally find loot in the walls when required to break them down because of tzaras.
This future tiding is alluded to in the verse, for doesn’t say ‘When you have tzaras’ or ‘ when you are afflicted with tsaras’ or ‘when I put tsaras upon you’ rather it says ‘when I give you..’ a term syn