1. ‘This is the law of the metzorah’ (V’yikra* 14.1) A person should not say in his heart that he is greater then another or that he serves HaShem* and is closer to Him then someone else. This is because he, like every other creature, was created to serve HaShem. HaShem gave to other people understanding just as he gave to him understanding. [Each was given a certain degree of understanding according to what HaShem wanted to require of him.] Why should he consider himself more important then a worm? The worm serves HaShem with all it’s understanding and strength. [We see that] men are also compared to a worm as the verse says, ‘I am a worm and not a man.’ If HaShem had not given to him understanding he would not be able to serve Him. He would be like a worm [serving HaShem without the understanding of a man.] Since that is the case, he is not more important in heaven then a worm, and certainly not more important then any other man. He should consider himself on the level of a worm, and that all other small creatures are his friends in this world. All of them were created [by HaShem], and they do not have any power by themself [without Him.] They can only do what HaShem has given them the strength and understanding to do. This should always be in your thoughts. (p. 414 sefer Baal Shem Tov, teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.) * * * II. Day to day 2. ‘When a women conceives and gives birth to a boy…’ (V’yikra 12.2) It says in the verse, ‘Day to day utters speech.’ The meaning is that for those people who follow after the way of their heart’s desires, and other foolish things, there is no difference from one day to the next. The way they acted yesterday and they act today, they will act tomorrow. It is all the same. They do not gain any understanding or knowledge [that they should be improving their ways.] However that is not the case with the Tzaddikim* who go in the way of HaShem and His service. Everyday they understand more then they did on the previous day. Each day their mouths will utter new gems of wisdom and G-dly knowledge. And they will further praise Him. This is the meaning of ‘Day to Day utters [Heb y’beya] speech.’ It is compared to water that covers over [Heb t’vua] fire, like a boil [Heb avabuos] that rises up [above the skin.] The same is with Tzaddikim. Each day their sweet words rise higher and higher above what they were yesterday. This is because the holiness they achieved yesterday influences them to higher levels today, and for the day after today. It is necessary for every person to progress from level to level. He must start by correcting his bad midos* and the sins of his youth. This is called the ‘female’ principle. Then he will achieve the higher levels of holiness which is called the ‘male’ principle. He then becomes a complete vessel full of holiness. This is the meaning of the verse ‘When a women conceives.’ First he starts from the lowest levels to fix those sins he has done. Then she ‘gives birth to a boy.’ [i.e. he achieves a higher level of holiness.] ‘And she shall be impure for seven days.’ This means he should correct his failings in the seven midos. [These failings] are referred to as ‘impure’. He should look at those things that he has done to cause impurity to come on him. ‘And on the eighth day.’ Then he shall go into the level of holiness which is the eighth level. ‘And they shall circumcise his flesh.’ [He will separate from impurity.] He shall have holy thoughts and be attached to HaShem. (p. 57 sefer Noam Elimeilech teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Elimeilech of Lizensk.) * * * III. Who is first? 3. ‘When a women conceives and gives birth to a boy…’ (V’yikra 12.2) Rashi* says in the name of Rabbi Simlai, ‘Just like the creation of man comes after that of all the animals and birds [i.e. man was the last thing created during the six days], so the laws that relate to him come after that of the animals and birds.’ [At the end of the previous parsha* we learned the laws of which animals are kosher and which not, here we learn what makes a person pure or impure.] There is a question on this. What kind of an answer is this? Don’t the laws with regards to kosher animals really apply to men? Also haven’t we already learned many laws that apply to men, for example, in the parsha of Mishpatim? We can understand it this way. Chazal* teach us, “Why was man created before Shabbos? So that if ‘he should begin to have thoughts of his own greatness you can say to him that a flea was created before you.'” The question is how will this help to humble his heart? We find many times that something which comes later is actually MORE important. For example: Shabbos comes after all the other days. Also it says, ‘the tenth shall be holy.’ Many times we find [stated in Chazal that], ‘the last is more important.’ To understand this we have to examine this idea. Many times we find the first is more important. The firstborn child inherits a double portion, and before the sin of the golden calf it was the firstborn who would bring sacrifices. [After the sin it was given to the tribe of Levi.] The idea is this. The Tzaddik who has never sinned his merit comes from ‘the beginning.’ But the Baal Tshuva* is the opposite. His merit comes from the ‘end’ because he has done tshuva*. Therefore before the sin of the golden calf the sacrificial service was given to the firstborn, whose merit comes to them at birth. However after they sinned, they lost their merit. Then the ‘later’ became more important because they did tshuva. Therefore the merit was taken from the firstborn, since they didn’t have this merit [from ‘first’] anymore. It is well known that tshuva was created before the world. This was because HaShem knew that a man formed from dust would sin. Therefore he created the cure of tshuva [before he made man who would sin.] With this we can understand what it says, if ‘he should begin to have thoughts of his own greatness.’ If he begins to think he is a perfect Tzaddik. You can say to him that it is not true. The proof is ‘a flea was created before you.’ Therefore there is no person who does not do some sin. Therefore the ‘end’ is more important. This is the meaning of what Rabbi Simlai said. ‘Just like the creation of man comes after that of all the animals and birds, so the laws that relate to him come after that of the animals and birds.’ This means he should be humble. If he should not be humble then he is after all the animals and birds. (p. 96 sefer Divrei Tzaddikim teachings of Rebbe* Berish of Ashpetzeen.) * * * IV. Tshuva and joy 4. ‘And the Kohen* shall go outside of the camp and the kohen shall see, behold, it is healed.’ (V’yikra 12.3) The word ‘behold’ in this verse appears to be an extra word. The verse could have said, ‘the kohen shall see that it is healed.’ [What is the meaning of this extra word?] We can explain this according to the simple meaning of the text as we find explained in many sources, such as the Or HaChaim. [The Or HaChaim explains that] the healing of the Metzorah depends on his being secluded and sitting outside of the camp. This is to show him that his healing has nothing to do with the natural order of things. The natural order is that this sickness comes to one who is depressed and in a ‘black mood’. It would then be natural that his cure should be like all others. He should take various medicines that will cheer him up, and he should sit together with other people who are cheerful. But sitting alone causes people to be more depressed. (You should examine what he says there.) [In this case instead of being cured by being given medicines that make him ‘joyful’ he is sent to a place to be alone. Instead of this making him worse, as would be natural, he is, in fact healed.] It seems I can give a little more support to his words. It is certain that the cure for the metzorah comes from his doing tshuva completely, and forsaking all his previous sins. Certainly from following in the way of tshuva his heart will be broken from the bitterness [from his recognition] of his sins. This person will contemplate by himself and examine carefully his actions. He will come to break his heart from true humility. This is his purification. However there is a problem with this. By breaking his heart [as I mentioned above] and bringing himself to feel broken from his sins he will cause the sickness to become greater. That is the natural order of things. But the truth is that the one who breaks his heart completely with humility before HaShem will certainly come to complete joy from this ‘depression’ as is known from the holy Zohar* on the verse ‘serve HaShem with joy.’ This level of service cannot be understood by the person alone or by any other person. Only the great Tzaddikim [can understand this]. Also if he should follow this way for a long time he will come to feel the joy from doing tshuva. This is the explanation of the verse: ‘And the Kohen shall go outside of the camp and the kohen shall see, behold.’ The word ‘behold’ only refers to something joyful as the Midrash say on the verse, ‘behold your brother Aharon… and you will have joy in your heart.’ The meaning is that he shall see the kohen and behold, i.e. the metzorah shall break his heart with humility to the point that he will have joy from doing tshuva. Then ‘and the affliction is healed’. Then certainly it will be a sign that HaShem has forgiven him of his sins, and that he has done tshuva in the correct manner. (p. 126 sefer M’Or V’Shamash teachings of Rebbe Kolonymus Kalman of Krakow) * * * V. Circumcision. 5. ‘On the eighth day you shall circumcise his flesh.’ (V’yikra 12.3) We can understand this verse as teach a moral lesson as follows. The word ‘eighth’ [Heb Shemini] has the same gematria* as the word humble [Heb. shufel 410]. This is to show us that with humility one can circumcise ones heart. (p. 94 sefer Sefas Emes teachings of Rebbe Meshulim Feivish of Brazan) * * * VI. Good News 6. ‘When you will enter the land of Canaan…and I will place the plague of tzaraas in your house..’ (V’yikra 14.34) Rashi says that HaShem is giving them the news that this plague is going to afflict their houses [and that this is really good news for them.] The reason is that the Amorites had hidden their money in the walls of their houses and when they will have to remove the stones they will find this treasure. We need to understand a few things with regards to this teaching of Rashi. Why would they have to close up the house for seven days and then after that remove the stones and find the treasure? Since they would see the plague they would know that there was this treasure hidden. [They should be able to immediately pull the stones and get the treasure.] This is even more the case since in the seforim* of my father ZT’L* he quotes from the Ramban* that the plague here mentioned was not something natural. It was only in order that the hidden treasures be revealed to them. [It should then have been obvious the cause of the plague and the reason for it.] So why was there the need to close up the house for seven days? With regards to the deeper purpose of the Torah* and the Mitzvos* we can have no understanding. However it is possible to have some understand of the Torah when it gives us a remez* as to it’s purpose. We know and believe that all of what HaShem does to us, even if He should (G-d forbid) strike us [with afflictions] it is for our own good. However when we see a time like now [Warsaw ghetto 1940] when the afflictions are not just physical ones. They effect those things that distance us from HaShem. There is no Cheder* for children or a Yeshiva*. There is no shul* to pray together in or a mikvah*. It is then possible that we can have a doubt. Is it possible that this is also for our own good? If it is good then he should afflict us only with things that effect our bodies, and not those that make it harder for us to be close to Him. Is it possible that these afflictions are those of ‘And I will cast you away…’ Therefore the Torah shows us that in the plague on the houses, where they became unclean [and they were forced to close them for seven days.] Even here it was sent for their own good. First it was unclean for seven days and then they found the hidden treasure. For this reason the Torah says that the one who sees this plague has to say, ‘it appears LIKE a plague to me.’ [Not that it is a plague.] Even if the person is a scholar, and he knows the signs and that it is a plague, he also has to say the same thing. This is because a person by himself is not able to know if it is truly a plague, only that it appears to him as if it were a plague. But the truth is that it is really good for Israel and that HaShem wants to do good for us. (p. 40 sefer Aish Kodesh teachings from the Warsaw ghetto by Rebbe
Kolonymus Kalman of Pistzina)
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
HY’D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood.
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
Mitzvah (mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the simple meaning in the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe.
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at ‘war’ to see which of them the person will follow.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
ZT’L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik – Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZY’A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His merit should protect us.)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
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