Parshat Metzora (Leviticus 14-15)

The Torah continues with the laws of physical and spiritual purity. The focus of this portion is upon tzora’as, a supernatural physical affliction sent to warn someone to refrain from speaking badly about others. The disease progressively afflicted home, clothes and then one’s skin — unless the individual corrected his ways and followed the purification process stated in the Torah.

This week’s portion continues with the purification process for the metzora, the person afflicted with tzora’as and then the home afflicted with tzora’as. The portion ends with the purification process for discharges from the flesh.

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Dvar Torah
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah states:

“When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place tzora’as affliction upon a house in the land of your possession. The one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Cohen, ‘Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house’ ” (Lev. 14:34-35).

The Talmud teaches that the affliction in the house may be a punishment for begrudging things to others (Arachin 16b). The Hebrew word for tzora’as can be broken down to read tsar ayin, an oppressive eye, referring to refusal to share one’s things with others. “A person may have asked a neighbor to lend him an item, but the neighbor claimed that he had no such item. The affliction in the house requires the owner to remove everything from the house, at which time his claim that he did not possess the requested item will be publicly proven to have been untrue” (Vayikra Rabba 17:3).

It is also possible to be a tsar ayin even if one does lend his belongings or gives tzedakah. One can do so with a demeaning attitude that causes the recipient to feel humiliated. It is not uncommon for people to look upon recipients of tzedakah as schnorrers(beggars), and even if one does give tzedakah, one may do so with a condescending attitude.

People who are in need of help are often broken in spirit because of their dependence on others. It is a great mitzvah to be encouraging and uplift them. We should remember that when we givetzedakah, we receive much more than we give (Vayikra Rabbah 34:10). If our attitude toward tzedakah is begrudging, the pain we inflict upon the recipient may outweigh the good we do for them.

The Torah says, “When you lend money to My people, to the poor with you” (Exodus 22:24). The commentaries remark that everything in the world belongs to God. In His infinite wisdom, He has given more to some, less to others. The wealthy should know that their wealth has been given to them merely for safe-keeping, and that they must give of it to the poor.

” ‘To the poor with you’ means that the money of the poor is with the wealthy, who should know that they must give of it to the poor, because it is their rightful possession. This is why the Torah emphasizes ‘the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession.’ Remember that it is My land, and that it is given to you with the understanding that you will share your portion with the needy. Rabbi Yishmael cites the verse, ‘the one to whom the house belongs’ will suffer the affliction in the house; i.e., one who thinks that the house is exclusively his, rather than a gift from God which he should share with the less fortunate” (Arachin 16b).

If one is aware that the tzedakah that he gives is merely that which rightfully belongs to the poor, one will not give grudgingly.


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