This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Tazria-Metzora (5770)
The double Torah portion we read this week deals mostly with the impurity 'disease' of Tzoraat and its implications.
Tzoraat is one of the most severe impurities in the Torah. It manifests itself as discolorations of the skin or hair but it indicates spiritual blemishes in the souls of those who possess it.
But on the other hand we see that the Moshiach is called 'Metzora' (namely one who has Tzoraat) (Sanhedrin 98b) and so is the Holy Temple (Eicha Raba, petichta 21).
Does this make sense? Moshiach and the Holy Temple are the highlights and the goals of Judaism. They both are the fulfillment of what Abraham had in mind when he founded Judaism: that the entire world will realize that G-d alone creates, directs and provides for all being constantly. The Holy of Holies in the Holy Temple was a place that demonstrated that such a thing is possible and Moshiach will make it a world reality.
So why are they both called Metzora and Tzoraat?
To understand this here is a story I heard from my friend Rabbi Chiam Dayan in Kfar Chabad just recently.
Some sixty or seventy years ago in New York lived a poor Jewish family. The father, who had been a Rabbi, suddenly passed away just a year or so after the birth of his first son leaving his wife alone to provide for the baby.
She managed to make ends meet by cleaning houses and somehow scraped together enough each week to provide for herself and her son and to even put a bit of money aside but then tragedy struck.
The boy became ill and the standard treatments that their family doctor prescribed didn't help. He referred them to the hospital where, after extensive testing and probing, they also admitted that they couldn't diagnose the disease but it looked fatal.
She had spent her meager savings but she certainly did not give up and after frantic searching and inquiring someone mentioned the name of a great professor. Sparing no time she got his phone number, called his office, requested that he make a house call and declared that money was not an obstacle.
When the professor arrived at the run-down apartment building he began having serious doubts and when he knocked on her door, entered and saw that poverty was screaming from every corner he had an urge to just turn around and go home.
But something inside of him told him to accept it with equanimity and see the patient.
He examined the boy, went to the sink to wash his hands, turned to the boy's mother and said. "Your son has a rare disease. I know what it is, I know what the cure is and I know where you can get the medicine. It's in a large drug store about three miles from here. They are the only ones that can make it. But there's a problem. It will be very expensive; probably several thousand dollars. I'm willing to forget about my payment, but do you have money to pay for the medicine? They won't give it to you for free, that's for sure. What are you going to do?"
The woman, tears of gratitude filling her eyes, thanked the Professor profusely and firmly stated that as far as the money goes she was sure that … G-d would help.
He packed up his instruments, wrote out the prescription, she thanked him again and again and as soon as he left she ran outside, caught a taxi, entered the pharmacy, approached the counter and handed the prescription to the pharmacist.
The pharmacist took the prescription and as he examined it his brow raised in wonder and he glanced at her several times. Finally he leaned forward, narrowed his eyes and said to her skeptically, "This will cost a few thousand dollars. Have you got the money?"
She stood straight, stared him back in the eyes and replied that she was willing to promise, even to sign an agreement that she would come in and clean the drugstore every evening after she finished work until she covered the bill. But she needed the medicine to save her son's life.
The pharmacist relaxed a bit and replied that, in fact she was in good luck because their cleaning woman just quit and they needed a replacement. But it would only be for two hours a day and at that rate it would take ….. he took out a pencil and paper, began calculating and when he finished looked up … one year and eight months to pay off the debt!
She immediately agreed, signed a paper obligating herself to work until she had paid for the cure and in one half hour was on her way out the door with several bottles of medicine in her purse.
But when she looked in her pocket book she realized that she had spent her last dime on the taxi and now didn't even have money for a bus. So she began walking; walking as quickly as possible, home.
It was cold outside but she was sweating. It was over an hour's walk to her house and by the time she had walked one hour it was already dark. There was no one around, she was alone, it was getting really cold and she was passing through a bad neighborhood. She put her purse under her coat so as not to draw unwanted attention, quickened her gait, said a few prayers, looked down at the pavement in front of her and walked as fast as possible, careful not to look up.
But it didn't work.
Suddenly she felt someone grab her by the shoulders from the front, push her against a wall and say almost sarcastically, 'Whatchu got there under that coat?" She looked up to see a massive man who had wrested her purse from her and was opening it. A freezing wind blew. No one was around.
"Please" she pleaded "I have no money. All I have is medicine for my sick son, he's dying. Please … please let me go!" But that didn't work either.
"Medicine!?" he smiled! "Let'see the medicine. Maybe it's something good!" He opened one of the bottles, took a big smell and waited for something to happen. "Achhhh! It's terrible! It smells like puke!!" he yelled out as he opened the rest and poured their contents all over her head and coat. Then he pushed her again against the wall, slapped her face knocking her down to the pavement, threw the empty bottles at her and left, spitting and cursing as he went."
Without hesitating she stood, brushed herself off, picked up one of the bottles, returned it to her purse, buttoned up her coat and began walking back, whimpering silently from the trauma, limping a bit, to the drug store, as fast as possible, hoping it was still open. And an hour later she arrived to find…. It was!!!
She again entered, approached the counter and when the pharmacist appeared from the back room and saw her he gasped "My G-d, what happened?! What happened to you!? What is that smell? Your face is all swollen? Please, sit down. I'll get you some water. What is that smell?!"
She refused the water, said she was all right and explained quickly. "I got beaten and robbed. Thank G-d I'm alive. But it's not really important. The main thing is that right now I don't have the medicine and right now I still need the medicine. Please, give me the paper I signed and I'll sign for another year eight months. Please, I must have that medicine for my son."
The pharmacist stared at her and began to tremble in fear. "Tell me, that smell and that stain on your coat… that's the medicine?"
"Yes." She answered as she took the empty bottle from her purse and handed it to him. "But it's not important what happened to me. I need…."
The pharmacist cut her short, took the bottle, read the label, put his hand over his face and almost fell over backwards as he repeated to himself "No! No! I don't believe it! It can't be! no!!".
As he removed his hand and looked again at the bottle his eyes filled with tears. He gazed at her as though she was a ghost and kept repeating "I don't believe it. I just don't ….. believe it!"
After a few minutes he came to himself and said almost in a whisper, "Listen! I made a mistake! A terrible mistake! …… I gave you …… the wrong medicine! The wrong bottles! If your son would have taken what I gave you it would have killed him! Do you understand? I would have killed him!! He'd be dead. It's crazy but… it was a miracle that that you got robbed!"
He wiped his brow, leaned forward, lowered his voice and said. "Listen lady, don't tell anyone about this. No one! If you tell people I could lose my license. Look…. I'll give you the right medicine. Just wait here." He disappeared into the back room and in a minute returned with several bottles identical to the first.
"Here, take the medicine for free and, and here, see?" He took the contract she signed and ripped it up. Then he took out his wallet and gave her a bill, "here, take a hundred dollars. Take it! This time, take a cab home, don't walk! And the rest, use for your son. And here," He put some gauze pads and ointments in a bag. "Here is something for that swelling on your face. Just please, just don't tell anyone til I retire say, in ten years or so. Okay? You want more money?"
She shook her head no and tried to give the hundred dollars back as well but he insisted she it for her son. He even escorted her outside and hailed a cab.
The medicine worked and her son not only lived but grew to be a Rabbi of great stature; Rabbi Moshe Sherer. He became the Nasi (President) of Agudat Yisroel in the U.S.A. He would tell this story every year on the anniversary of his mother's passing.
This answers our questions.
The First Rebbe of Chabad Rebbe Schneur Zalman writes in his book "Li'kutay Torah" that before the signs of Tzoraat on the Metzora were examined and declared impure by a Cohen (priest) they really were so supremely and intensely holy that they could not be practically brought into daily life.
Something like how riches, fame or power, although these things in themselves are intensely good, but in 'overdoses' they can bring insanity or worse. Or how many very religious Jews were not able to accept Moses, King David, all the prophets (that's why the Temples were destroyed) and the entire Chassidic movement (especially the last Lubavitcher Rebbe) for no other reason than…. all of these were too good.
So also, the Moshiach and the Third Temple he will build will be called Metzora because of the high spiritual revelations they will contain. But unlike all the above examples of Metzora, Moshiach will change the priorities of all mankind so that these revelations will be acceptable.
Indeed, Moshiach will explain all the pain and hardships we Jews have been subjected to all these thousands of years and transform all the Tzoraat to blessings!
It's all up to us to do just one more good deed, say one more good word and think always about...
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