Blog Metzora Nisan 8 5779 בלוג מְּצֹרָע, ח’ ניסן תשע”ט
This portion Metzora continues the teachings of tahor and tamei, clean and unclean. The disease Tzaraat translated as leprosy is not the Hansen’s disease of today. It is a spiritual disease, one that is eating us from within. We use our tongue to both bless the Creator and curse others. This is what our Rabbi Yeshua and Rabbi Yaakov (James) spoke about and what our Creator is teaching us in this portion.
The rituals that the Creator gave His people at that time, they understood well. The only one capable of deciding whether or not a person had Tzaraat was the Cohen, the Priest, not a doctor. They would then have to go through a specific ritual before they could be declared clean. Tahor and tamei were not regarded as physically clean or unclean but had to do with the pollution of the human spirit. This pollution creates a fog, a curtain, that bars us from entering His Presence until we find out how to lift it. What fog is holding you back from having a relationship with the Boreh Olam? Pride is a very deceptive fog which makes us think that we are better than others. It is dangerous because we think that we are right and they are wrong, but this leads us on the path to self-destruction.
Our sages have referred to this portion as being about “LaShon HaRa”, the evil tongue. They divide the word Metzora into two words, “motzei rah” which means “delivering evil”. Others say “motzei shem rah” or delivering evil to the name, which means the name of a person is being destroyed; because we are made in His likeness and Image, we are committing Hillul HaShem! (Profaning the Name of God). Who among us has not spoken badly about someone during their lifetime? We are all tempted at times, but it is then that we need to go to the Creator to clean up that pollution. Here is a very important principle from Torah: If you privately do or think something in your heart, go to the Creator in private; if you do or say something publicly, then deal with it publicly.
The rituals for the cleansing of tzaraat had meaning to the people at that time, including all the elements that were used. They paint a picture for us from which we can learn. The cedar tree is tall and strong representing our pride. In contrast, the hyssop was the lowliest of bushes in the desert, used to sweep the floors representing being brought low, humbled. The color crimson or scarlet was derived from the lowliest of creatures, the worm which crawls on its belly. The other elements used to cleanse were blood and water. Blood represents both life and death according to the dualistic nature of the Torah, good and bad, tahor and tamei, night and day, male and female. These teach us that we need to come into balance. Balance in our lives can only happen after we have been diagnosed, exposed, uncovered and then we do the right thing. Our pride needs to be demolished; we need to humble ourselves, acknowledge what we have done and go through the process of cleansing.
There were two birds taken, one would be killed and the other would live. The first represents the evil that has been done and the other represents new beginnings for the person who has accepted their wrongdoings, once he went through the process of trying to make things right. Once false words have been spread, they are impossible to take back; that would require the death of the animal.
The other side of lashon harah, the evil tongue is lashon hatov, the tongue which speaks well of others. My father would say, “my son, if you don’t have anything good to say about someone, don’t say anything.” When was the last time that you praised someone for doing something well or thanked them for their hard work and dedication, for giving advice or help when it was needed? With our tongue we can destroy, or we can build up. We all have experienced these things. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I don’t do that”. If we listen, whether intentionally or not, to someone who speaks against another person, what should we do? We need to immediately stop the person and bring in the other person about whom they were speaking and clear up the matter. We need to be very careful even though we will fail! This has nothing to do with bringing an offering to the Temple. Many of us have fallen sick because we haven’t come clean. When we have something against someone and we hold it in our hearts, it is self-destructive. We may look for excuses but when we become physically sick, we are forced to make it right before the Creator. That’s when the true healing comes.
The instructions for cleansing were given to an ancient people but the principles still hold for today. The rules for tahor and tamei are better seen as moral principles. Many of us have accepted the world’s values instead of the values of the Torah. We have committed lashon harah by saying that the morality of the world is ok if everyone is doing it. That makes us part of the problem because we prefer to be accepted by men rather than the Creator. In the political realm and the media today, people are openly speaking lies against one another. Even when proven wrong, they still do not apologize. There is a greater law that exists in the universe and a higher power to whom each individual needs to make account no matter what they believe. Even the atheist doesn’t get a break. All humanity is accountable to and will be judged by the Almighty for our intentions. As Rabbi Yeshua said, “Don’t worry about what goes into your mouth because it goes into the latrine but worry about what comes out of your mouth.” As we busily clean our houses to prepare for Pesach, let us clean our personal chametz from our hearts, asking the Creator to cleanse us. Chag Pesach Sameach!