Metzora - Shabat Hagadol

April 20th, 2024

12th of Nisan 5784


The Obligation to Live in Harmony with All Sectors

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

This Shabbat is called 'Shabbat HaGadol', and we will attempt to clarify the close connection between this week's parsha, parshat Metzora, and 'Shabbat HaGadol'.

The essence of the festival of Pesach is to talk at length about the narrative of the redemption from Egypt and about all the wonders and miracles that Hashem performed for us, when He showed us His mighty hand and outstretched arm. This teaches us that there are different kinds of speech. There is the kind of speech whereby a person connects to his Creator through talking at length about His mighty deeds and with this fulfills the mitzvot of "and you shall tell your son", and "so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son's son that I made a mockery of Egypt". This holy speech is a mitzva and it is appropriate to talk in detail as we are told, "whoever tells at length about the Exodus is praiseworthy". Through this kind of holy speech Hashem is elevated and praised and a person receives great reward for this. This concept needs to be emphasized so that people should realize that this is the only kind of speech where we are encouraged to talk at length.

This is why the festival of Pesach was given this name. פסח – פה-סח , from the term 'the mouth talks'. One's mouth should talk at length in praise and in glory of the Creator and His miracles, and this is especially true on Shabbat HaGadol, the day when wonders and miracles were performed for our fathers. Although they were still enslaved under the Egyptians, they took the sheep and slaughtered it with self-sacrifice in front of the incredulous eyes of the Egyptians, without showing any fear, for they trusted in Hashem Yitbarach with complete faith that He will watch over them and save them. This is how they fulfilled the mitzva of Korban Pesach, according to its laws. On that same Shabbat, the Jewish people talked at length about this miracle. Each one told over to his friend what he experienced – how he was amazed that a certain Egyptian passed him by and watched him slaughtering his god and he had no power to do anything to him, and other miracles of this sort. These miracles were what hastened the redemption of Am Yisrael.

The lesson that we must derive from this is that holy speech has the power to bring a person closer to his Creator and to hasten the final redemption. Conversely, there is evil speech which distances a person from Hashem and from Klal Yisrael, like lashon hara and rechilut and other similar sins with which a person sullies his neshama and causes the affliction of tzara'at to seize his body and soul. Certainly this kind of speech distances the redemption from Am Yisrael. Our redemption is dependent on our unity, and one who sows division in the hearts of his fellow man through lashon hara and motzi shem rah, certainly distances the redemption from us and his sin is most severe. "One opposite the other Hashem made" – sanctified speech and words of praise and glory to our Creator, which is the main purpose of Shabbat HaGadol and Pesach, stand in direct contrast to the profane speech of lashon hara and rechilut, which cause spiritual and physical damage and destruction.

This unity must exist between all the different sectors. A person should never say, "This person here is wicked, and I am not obligated to feel close to him." There are people who take it even further and say "It is a mitzva to hate him". Far be it for a person to talk in this way. In the haggadah of Pesach it says "The Torah speaks of four sons: a wise son, a wicked one, a simple one, and one who does not know how to ask." The wicked one is also considered as one of Hashem's sons and He loves him too, for although he is completely wicked, nevertheless Hashem sits and waits in anticipation of the day when he will return and repent fully. Hashem never gives up on him and never says, I have lost hope in him, chalilah.

If Hashem draws him close and uses the loving expression of 'son', who are we to distance him?! On the contrary, the upright person is obligated to bring him close and encourage him and to lovingly show him the correct path through mussar and yirat shamayim, until he is convinced to return to Hashem and repent. So even with this wicked one we are obligated to live in unity and to be careful not to speak lashon hara or rechilut about him.

On further contemplation we see that the order of the verse is – wise one, wicked one, simple one and one who does not know how to ask. Shouldn’t the wicked one, due to his many sins, be mentioned at the end of the list? Why is his place next to the wise one?

Our sages wish to teach us that particularly this wicked person, if he repents it is possible that he will achieve a level not beneath that of the wise son, therefore he is mentioned next to him. This teaches us that with everyone, including the wicked one, one must live in peace and harmony, and we must try and bring the sinner closer to the Torah of Hashem and His commandments, in a pleasant manner and with special love.

We also find that Hashem commanded Am Yisrael saying (Shemot 11:2) "Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man request of his fellow and each women from her fellow silver vessels and gold vessels." The use of the expression "איש מאת רעהו" (each man of his fellow) seems strange. Were the Egyptians considered as their friends (רעים) ? Can one bestow this description of 'friend' and 'fellow' to those wicked people who tortured the Bnei Yisrael and enslaved them with mortar and bricks and with unbearably hard work?

I would like to suggest that the Torah wishes to teach us an important lesson. Despite the fact that the Egyptians caused the Bnei Yisrael numerous tribulations, nevertheless since they received some small benefit from them - ultimately they were living in the Egyptian's land, Hashem commands us to call them 'friends'! This being the case, how much more so must we love and appreciate each one of our Jewish brothers. If towards a non-Jew the Torah demands that we behave with respect, all the more so concerning our own brothers, because the power of unity and peace is extremely great and powerful.

Guard Your Tongue

The Elderly and the Talmid Chacham

One who speaks lashon hara about an elderly person, even if he is an am ha'aretz (ignorant of Jewish law), or one who speaks negatively about a talmid chacham, even one who is young, transgresses the commandment of "you shall honor the presence of a sage", which is the Torah obligation to accord them honor.

If one speaks negatively about an elderly person who is also a talmid chacham, one has transgressed this prohibition twofold.

Walking in their Ways

Life as a Gift

Many years ago, Harav Medina’s mother, from Venezuela, paid me a visit. I asked how her son was doing, and especially the state of his arms and legs. She replied that all was fine, and he was completely healed.

“Have you any idea why I asked specifically about his hands and feet?” I inquired, “Because I personally do not.”

She thought for a moment and then replied, “Maybe it is because my son was born paralyzed in his arms and legs. The doctors stated that his chances of living were very slim. But my family strengthened themselves in emunah that Hashem can do anything. We increased our prayers on behalf of the boy. We also visited different tzaddikim, such as the Baba Sali, zy”a, in order to ask that they pray on his behalf. Baruch Hashem, he has healed completely and even enjoys the position of Rav, teaching Torah to the multitudes.”

After hearing the wonderful words of the mother, I felt compelled to speak with the son. “In what merit was your health restored?” I inquired.

Rav Medina responded with a personal story. “Some years ago, I visited the northern city of Israel, Kiryat Shemoneh, which borders Lebanon. One day, a booby-trapped car blew up exactly where I was, claiming many lives, may Hashem avenge their blood. In a most miraculous way, I escaped unscathed.”

This story only intensified my question. So I asked, “In what merit did you deserve to have your life handed to you on a silver platter twice, once, after birth, and again, when you emerged safely from the terror attack?”

Rav Medina was quiet for a moment and then admitted that he did not know how he was worthy of these special miracles.

I told him, “Hashem watches over you directly in the merit of your constant involvement in zikuy harabim. He observes your constant Torah study and involvement in bringing people to do teshuvah. In this merit, He protects you from all harm, even against the laws of nature.”

The Haftara

The haftara of the week: "Then the offerings of Yehuda and Yerushalayim will be pleasing to Hashem as in the days of old" (Malachi 3)

The connection to the parsha: the haftarah mentions that Hashem will send Eliyahu Hanavi to announce the future redemption. This is a similar idea to the topic of "Shabbat HaGadol", where Hashem sent Moshe Rabbeinu a"h to announce the redemption from Egypt.

Words of the Sages

Why Did the Peddler Go To Tzipori?

"This shall be the law of the metzora" (Vayikra 14:2)

The Midrash Rabba tells us: "This shall be the law of the metzora – the law of the one who speaks motzi shem ra.

The Midrash brings the famous story of the peddler who used to peddle in the towns surrounding Tzipori, and he would proclaim: "Who would like to buy the elixir of life?" The townsfolk would rush to surround him.

Rabbi Yanai was sitting in his house, studying Torah. He heard this proclamation from outside and said to the peddler: Come up to me and sell it to me. He replied: you and those like you do not need this.

Rabbi Yanai pressed him so he took out a sefer Tehillim and showed him the verse, "Who is the man who desires life, who loves days of seeing good?" What is this followed by? "Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit." (Tehillim 34:13-14).

Rabbi Yanai said: All my days I read this verse and didn’t understand the explanation, until this peddler came and proclaimed, "Who is the man who desires life?"

We need to understand what Rabbi Yanai found difficult in this verse, which was reconciled for him after meeting this peddler.

In order to answer this we will ask another question: The wording of the verse seems to be problematic; why is it in question form, "Who is the man who desires life?" Could the verse not simply say that one who guards his tongue from speaking evil – will live? When this peddler went around the towns and villages proclaiming "Who wishes to buy an elixir for life?", this is when Rabbi Yanai finally understood that David Hamelech's intention was that when it comes to this issue that everyone stumbles with, it must be announced to all in the form of a proclamation. Just like that peddler who loudly proclaimed "Who wishes to buy the elixir of life?", so too David Hamelech asked: "Who is the man who desires life?"

Why did the peddler go specifically to the city of Tzipori and to the adjacent towns to sell this 'merchandise'?

Rabbi Yosef of Pozna, the son in law of the Noda B'Yehuda zya"a, answers this question according to the words of the holy Zohar who derives an allusion from the verse "You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings" (Shemot 35:3), that 'fire' refers to the fire of arguments. The day of Shabbat is a day when people have time to sit around and talk about all kinds of things, and this could give rise to arguments and quarrels.

In Tzipori, the length of the day was longer than in other places, as the Gemara (Shabbat 118b) tells us: "May my lot be with those who bring in the Shabbat in Teveria and with those who take leave of the Shabbat in Tzipori". The city of Tzipori was situated on the top of a hill, and due to this, the time when Shabbat began was the same as in other places, but the time when Shabbat departed was later because the sun set at a later time. Therefore in this town of Tzipori, the Shabbat day was longer. This is why the peddler came especially to these places; these townsfolk needed a special warning about the sin of lashon hara and disagreements.

Pearls of the Parsha

Is There a Way to Rectify Prayer Without Concentration?

"This shall be the law of the metzora on the day of his purification: He shall be brought to the Kohen" (Vayikra 14:2)

The sefer 'Roshi B'Shamayim' explains this verse according to the words of the holy Zohar in parshat Pekudei. The Zohar tells us that when a person prays without concentration or if he learns Torah not for its own sake, the merit of this praying and learning is saved for him in a special place in heaven, and the next time that he prays with concentration, or learns Torah for Torah's sake, this prayer and learning that was performed in the correct way, elevates all the prayers and learning that were stored for him in heaven.

The above verse is taken as an allusion for this idea: "This shall be the law of the metzora" meaning, this will be the rectification of the prayer that was prayed without concentration and the Torah that was not learnt for its own sake, "on the day of his purification" – on the day that he learns or prays with concentration, then "He shall be brought to the Kohen" – the prayer and learning will then be desired by Hashem…

Torah Learning is the Remedy for Sadness

"Into an earthenware vessel over spring water" (Vayikra 14:5)

Why especially here, when talking about the purification of the metzora, does the Torah require spring water, more than with other types of purifications?

The sefer 'Borchi Nafshi' explains that since the conduct of the metzora is now one of submission and he considers himself lowly, the Torah was apprehensive that this might cause him to feel despondent.

This is the reason why spring water (מים חיים) was required in this situation – to revive him and restore his spirit. This serves as a hint for us, that only the waters of Torah knowledge, which are referred to as "the well of spring water", contain the power to encourage a person who finds himself in this state, and have the ability to raise his moral and encourage him.

How Was the Money Acquired?

"I will place a tzara'at affliction" (Vayikra 14:34)

Rashi: "It is good news for them, so that they will find treasures of gold in the walls of their home."

Rabbi Shlomo Kluger asks: If this is so, why do Chazal say that the afflictions on a home are a punishment? He answers that the punishment is that here the riches are acquired through afflictions, instead of in a respectable way.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

The Riches That Are Hidden in the Walls

"When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a tzara'at affliction in the land of your possession" (Vayikra 14:34)

Rashi (quoting the Midrash): It is good news for them that the afflictions come upon them, for the Emorim hid treasures of gold in the walls of their houses throughout the forty years that the Jewish people were in the Midbar, and through the affliction they would demolish the house and find them."

These words seem strange – if the cause of the afflictions is lashon hara and motzi shem ra, why should the person receive a reward and merit treasures of gold? Shouldn't he be punished for his sin?

We can answer that there are two kinds of afflictions:

There are afflictions which appear on the walls of the house because of motzi shem ra, and there are also afflictions which come for a person's good, so that he should merit finding treasures, and it is the Kohen who differentiates between the two.

One who sees an affliction on his house is obligated to go to the Kohen, who decides the matter by at first forbidding entry to the house and then later demolishing it. If the person spoke lashon hara and motzi shem ra – certainly in this case the afflictions on his house are a punishment for his sins and no doubt this person will not merit to find treasures. Destroying his house causes him to lose his money and possessions, and this is an atonement for his sin. But, if the house was demolished and he then finds treasures and becomes rich, it is a proof that he was not smitten with the illness of the tongue and he is not guilty of speaking lashon hara – on the contrary, he is a person who guards his mouth and his tongue and therefore Hashem is rewarding him with these treasures. Certainly for this person, the demolishment of his house is a reward for guarding his tongue from speaking evil.

Men of Faith

Hashem Will Provide for Me

An amazing story happened to Mr. Ben-Simon, whose daughter was married to Rabbi Chaim’s grandson. Moreinu v’Rabbeinu heard this story personally from Mr. Ben-Simon.

Mr. Ben-Simon was a gold jeweler by profession. Once, Rabbi Chaim Hakatan entered his shop and requested, “Give me such and such amount of money for tzedakah.” (Many times Rabbi Chaim would name a specific sum of money, and no one dared refuse him, since they knew that he could tell each person exactly how much money he was carrying in his pocket. For this reason, they always handed over the sum he requested without a word.)

The jeweler responded, “I have no money.” This answer did not please the tzaddik, and he told the jeweler the following, “A Jew should never say, ‘I do not have.’ Instead, he should say, ‘With the help of G-d, Hashem will provide me with the means and then I will be able to give you.’ This is because if a person says, ‘I do not have,’ he draws evil upon himself.”

The jeweler listened attentively to the Rav’s advice. He immediately corrected himself and said, “With Hashem’s help, Hashem will provide me with money, and then I will give the Rav as much as he requests!”

Then, Rabbi Chaim told the jeweler, “If so, I will wait a bit, and in a short while a woman will come who needs to marry off her daughter and will want to purchase gold. Sell her as much as she wishes to buy.”

Rabbi Chaim lingered in the store. After a while, a woman entered. She was dressed very simply. She inquired of the jeweler about a piece of jewelry which she liked, “How much does this cost?”

The jeweler named a relatively high price, since he was sure that this woman was poor and she would surely not buy the expensive jewelry. The woman was very taken with the jewelry and said, “I have never seen such skillful work.”

Afterward, she began to inquire about a number of items that she saw in the store, asking the price of each one. Again, the jeweler named exorbitant prices, surprised by the turn of events.

The woman neither disputed the price nor tried to bargain for a reduction. She quickly took out her purse and paid with cash the entire sum that the jeweler had named. Then, she left the store.

The jeweler looked at Rabbi Chaim incredulously. He raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “Ribbono shel Olam! How unbelievable! This woman looked like a simple pauper, and yet she bought all the jewelry…”

Rabbi Chaim explained, “This woman never gave money for tzedakah. Therefore, I did not say a word to you about the inflated prices. Now, take for yourself the exact amount of money for the cost of the gold that you sold, according to the price that you would usually charge, and give me the difference so that I can distribute it for tzedakah.”

The jeweler did as the Rav said. Afterward, Rabbi Chaim hurried after the woman and told her, “Madame! You paid too much for the gold, and this is the difference that I am returning to you. Would you prefer to keep the difference, or could it be donated for tzedakah?”

The woman responded, “Rabbi! I have never given money for tzedakah. I want to donate the entire sum to charity.”

Food for Thought

"…on the day of his purification: He shall be brought to the Kohen"

Rabbeinu Yosef Chaim David Azoulai zt"l, the 'Chida', writes in his sefer 'Chomat Anoch', that he found a wonderful allusion in this verse. The word "והובא" (and he shall be brought), contains the same letters as the word "ואהוב" (he is loved).

This alludes to the words of the Rambam who says that a penitent who repents from his bad ways, "previously he was hated by Hashem, despised and distanced and repulsed. But once he repents he is beloved and delightful, a dear friend."

The verse hints to this with the words, "…on the day of his purification: He shall be brought to the Kohen" – meaning that as soon as the metzora repents, besides the actual purification, he is already "ואהוב" (loved). Hashem loves him, just as He loves the Kohen.


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