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Parshat Tazria-Metzora (5769)

This week we read two Torah portions together. The first, 'Tazria' means 'Giving seed' and the second 'Metzora' is translated 'Leprosy' (actually a Leprosy-like Torah disease called Tzoraat caused by speaking with intent to harm).

These seem to be two opposites. Giving seed is good and Tzoraat is bad. But in a deeper sense they are not.

Leprosy is another name for Moshiach (Messiah) [Talmud Sanhedrin 98b] which is the goal of all our efforts. And giving seed (being positive and productive) is how we bring him.

But at first glance this is not understood. The Messiah, according to Judaism, will bring world peace, health and prosperity, why is he called Tzoraat-Leprosy?

To understand this here is a story. (HaGeula weekly page #460)

A wedding is a joyous occasion, a new beginning, a new world. Even when it is a second marriage… and the bride and groom are in their fifties.

Rabbi Kasreal Kastel, one of the more outstanding figures in Chabad in Crown Heights, has thousands of acquaintances and does tens, even hundreds of favors for people every day. One of his acquaintances was the fifty plus year old groom and one of the favors was attending his wedding.

The bride was a widow and both were fairly recent Baali Tshuva; Jews that 'returned' to their true Jewish identity. She and the groom although he had never married were now they were embarking on a new future.

Now, a wedding, according to Jewish law, although it is very joyous, is also a very serious and complicated matter. There are many details that, if not done correctly, could partially or even completely actually nullify the whole thing; for instance the witnesses and the Ketuba (wedding document).

They were about to begin. The bride and groom were ready, the presiding Rabbi was getting the wedding document and witnesses in order, guests were filing in the band was warming up and the tables were being set.

Rabbi Kastel was in the middle of a conversation with someone when a middle aged, clean-shaven fellow with a small white yarmulke on his head approached and asked if he could talk to him in private.

Rabbi Kastel excused himself and went with the man to a corner.

"Listen, Rabbi, I'm not a very educated Jew, a long time ago I did learn in a Chabad elementary school for a few years but I have to admit I'm pretty simple about all the laws and things. But, well I don't know exactly how to say this, but well, I see you are a good friend of the groom so….

"Well it's like this….. Last night I had a dream about the Rebbe. Now, I'm not superstitious or mystical or any of that and usually I never pay any attention to such crazy things but well…. I had a dream that the Lubavitcher Rebbe came to me and said, very matter-of- factly, 'Don't sign the Ketuba (wedding document) of your friend at the wedding.'

"I wanted to just forget it. And, in fact, I sort of did… until just now. The groom just came up to me and asked me to be one of the two witnesses and sign the Ketuba! I can't figure it out…. I mean, what to do. You know, Rabbi, I'm a bit scared! I mean, it was only a dream but….. I don't know if I should sign or not!"

Rabbi Kastel asked him if perhaps he was a relative of the bride or groom or some other details which would disqualify him as a witness but when the answer was negative he said, "Listen, if the Rebbe appears to someone in a dream it should be taken seriously. Don't worry. I'll talk to the groom and tell him I want to sign in your place. We're good friends, I'm sure he'll agree. No problem! Why take chances?"

And so it was. The presiding Rabbi finished preparing the Ketuba, the first witness signed, the cameras flashed everyone was smiling and happy and then came Rabbi Kastel's turn. He took the pen in hand, bent over the paper to sign it, gave a quick glance at the standard marriage document before him and his eyes widened. "Tell me," He turned to the groom and asked, "What is your name?"

"Why, Isaac" (pseudonym). He answered. Why do you ask? I mean, you know my name."

"Because" replied Rabbi Kastel. "There is a mistake here. Instead of Isaac it's written here; Naftali!"

"Naftali?" Said the groom, why, that's the name of my wife's …. that is…. my bride's father!"

They all took a look. The presiding Rabbi tried smile and say the groom didn't tell him clearly etc. etc. and began searching in his briefcase for another Ketuba form. But he couldn't find one.

"No problem," said Rabbi Kastel. About ten minutes drive from here is a Judaica store. I'll be right back! I'll just jump in my car, rush down there and…."

But the presiding Rabbi said he was in a hurry. He had a busy day before him and a twenty minute wait was out of the question. He would simply put a line through the name he wrote, write the groom's name above it, all the witnesses would sign above the correction and everything would be all right.

Rabbi Kastel was not happy about it but the other Rabbi wouldn't have it differently. So with no choice they made the correction, the ceremony took place, everyone shouted "Mazal Tov" and the music began to joyously play.

But Rabbi Kastel was worried.

True, the wedding was valid but a husband and wife are not allowed to live together without a proper Ketuba and this one was certainly not a hundred percent. Not only that, but there were many unfortunate stories about couples that had troubles because of mistakes in their Ketuba. But what could he do? But G-d helps.

In the middle of the festivities a Chassidic Rebbe, a good friend of the groom, entered with a few of his Chassidim and Rabbi Kastel approached him, asked him to have a look at the Ketuba and give his opinion.

His took the Ketuba, began reading, pointed to the cross-out and his face darkened. He shook his head and agreed that such a Ketuba is very problematic. But being a man of action he immediately called one of the Chassidim accompanying him, sent him to the Judaica store to get a new one and just twenty minutes later he returned out of breath with a brand new certificate that he handed triumphantly to his Rebbe.

"Ehhh?" The Rebbe said "Oy! Look here! He again shook his head sadly no and pointed to one line of the text.

"Look!" He showed it to Rabbi Kastel. "It's a Ketuba for a first marriage not for a second. The store gave him the wrong Ketuba!" He looked at the distraught couple and said handing the document back to his Chassid. "There is a different Ketuba for a first marriage than a second. Don't worry, in just a few minutes we'll have the right one."

And, without hesitation the Chassid rushed out, jumped back in the car, screeched off into the distance, made it to the store just before closing, and returned with the proper document in record time.

Meanwhile the bride and groom didn't know what to make of all this confusion but Rabbi Kastel comforted them saying, "Don't worry. It must be that in heaven this wedding is very important. Otherwise there would not have been so many disturbances!"

After the wedding meal finished the final blessings were said and the guests were leaving, the man that almost signed the Ketuba again approached Rabbi Kastel eyes glistening with tears of gratitude and said, "Rabbi, do you realize what happened? If the Rebbe hadn't come in that dream I would have signed and not noticed anything. Why, they would have an improper marriage for the rest of their lives! The Rebbe saved the day!!

This explains our questions. In the book 'Lequti Torah (pg 22b)' by the first Rebbe of Chabad he explains that Tzoraat was really a blessing in disguise; it brought the faults and evil in a person to the surface… in his skin or garments etc. so he could recognize and correct it properly.

That is why Moshiach is called a leper; because he brings the false egotism and faults of the world to the surface so people can change their attitudes. Something like what the Rebbe did in our story.

The exile is likened to a dream (Psalms 126:1) and the Rebbe's appearance in the dream to tell the man how to avoid mistakes (external ones at that) is like Moshiach appearing in the exile to direct us away from our mistaken ideas and attitudes (external ones at that).

And just as in our story the goal was a proper, lasting marriage so also Moshiach will assure that the marriage between G-d and the Jewish people (the topic of Shir HaShirim- the Song of Songs) is complete and fruitful.

But it all depends on us! The Lubavitcher Rebbe said time and time again that ours is the generation of Moshiach. If we want our dreams to come true we must wake up….. and act!

One more good deed, word or even thought. One more commandment or idea in Torah is enough to tip the scale and reveal….

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

(5760- )



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