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Parshat Tazria (5765)

This week's section deals mostly with the laws of Tzoraa't: a terrible, now extinct, skin disease caused particularly by the sin of 'loshon Ha'ra' (saying harmful things about others).

But the name of this section seems to indicate something else: 'Tazria' means to 'give seed' and bear children!

How can such a good and positive title be given to a a seemingly negative Torah portion?

Also, this section is a preparation for the Holiday of Passover which, G-d willing, will be in another two weeks. What is the connection?

To understand this here is an interesting story I saw in the weekly pamphlet 'HaGeula' (#218)

Rabbi Moshe K. (the name was not given in the story) was a Chassid who lived in New York but would regularly travel to Brazil to lecture and spread Judaism.

Once, just as he was finishing one of his tours and was about to return home, he was approached by a rich Jew who told him a sad story. His daughter had somehow got involved with a cult in New York and had all but totally cut off contact with home.

At first he didn't realize the implications of all this as he himself was not a 'practicing' Jew, but after research he discovered that this particular cult had a reputation for stealing the minds and hearts of its members with promises of greatness and threats of failure and damnation for the unfaithful. His daughter was in serious trouble.

He admitted that he had made a mistake by becoming so estranged from Judaism but he gave the Rabbi his daughter's telephone number and address and pleaded with him to do what he could to get her out. Rabbi Moshe promised try and flew home.

When he arrived in New York he gave the girl a call and to his surprise she was eager to talk.

It seems he had arrived at exactly the right moment. Something ugly happened at a recent cult meeting that revealed exactly how evil and manipulative they really were. She was ready to listen.

At their first meeting Rabbi Moshe simply told her what Judaism is really about.

He explained things she had never heard; how Judaism is not just a bunch of empty rituals but a living connection to the Living Creator of the Universe. He explained how the Torah is a blueprint of G-d's mind, the commandments are His will and convinced her to begin lighting Shabbat candles. After a week or two the girl was not only happy to leave idolatry but even more happy to start learning Judaism for real.

Of course when her father heard what happened, his gratefulness knew no bounds. But when he asked the Rabbi how he could repay him the reply was, "Well, I'm a Chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. If you want to really thank me, then take your daughter's example and start getting interested in Judaism. That is what the Rebbe would say." And he took the Rabbi's advice.

But there is more to the story.

Almost a year later Rabbi Moshe got a phone call from that same girl. She told him that she had been learning in a yeshiva for women and now she was calling to announce that she had been seeing a young religious fellow just like herself and they just decided to get married. She wanted him to preside over their marriage ceremony.

Of course he congratulated her but said that before he could accept he wanted to meet the groom-to-be.

Rabbi Moshe's efforts paid off. He discovered the groom to be a fine young man with all of the qualifications; Jewish, single, normal, intelligent, responsible, friendly and even a sense of humor.

He only had one problem; his father.

The groom's father was a holocaust survivor and an avowed. Embittered atheist.

He had been brought up in Poland in a Chassidic environment, his father (the groom's grandfather) had been an important Rabbi in Warsaw. But Warsaw was destroyed and the Jews there, including his father, mother and brothers and sisters, were killed. He escaped and finally ended up in America where, after the war, he completely severed all connection to Judaism.

Judaism meant suffering, and he made up his mind to keep as far from it as possible. He happened to marry a Jewish girl but that was it. Not only did he hate the commandments and hadn't been near a synagogue since he was a boy, the very sight of a religious Jew disgusted him.

Now that his son became religious it was bringing out the worst in him. He kept telling himself that America was a free country where everyone did what they wanted and he should just let it be - but now it was all coming to a head.

His son was also in a quandary; on one hand he wanted his father to participate but on the other he knew that it meant trouble.

Sure enough, his father announced that he would attend the wedding, but only on the condition that it was not in a synagogue and he was not asked to take any part whatsoever in any religious ceremony.

Tension was in the air and one wrong move could cause an explosion. He was just on the verge of disowning his son completely.

Finally the day arrived. The wedding was to take place that night. Rabbi Moshe wrote a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe explaining the delicate situation and asked for blessing and advice.

Earlier that day the Rebbe went to pray at the grave of his father-in-law the previous Rebbe. The Rebbe received the letter, and on the way back he told his secretary to use the car phone to and relay his reply.

The Rebbe said that he was happy to hear of the wedding and that in fact he had a book of Torah thoughts that had been given to him at his own wedding years ago that he wanted to give to the newlyweds.

The Rebbe explained the source of the book and concluded that it was only proper that that book should be under the wedding canopy at the time of the ceremony.

The Rebbe gave his secretary exact directions to explain to Rabbi Moshe where the book was to be found in his massive library (remember that he had received the book some fifty years earlier) and in an hour the book was in Rabbi Moshe's possession.

The wedding took place in a plush hotel in Manhattan where there was no sign of anything Jewish. When Rabbi Moshe entered, the groom nervously took him aside and warned him again not to request any participation from his father - he was on the verge of walking out.

The ceremony began, the bride and groom took their places under the canopy when suddenly Rabbi Moshe turned to the crowd and began speaking about the uniqueness of the occasion. The speech was only a few minutes long and it concluded with the words "In fact, I have here a wedding present given to the Lubavitcher Rebbe at his wedding in Warsaw over fifty years ago that the Rebbe wants to pass on to the new couple:

It is a book written and given by none other than the groom's grandfather of blessed memory! Yes, the groom's grandfather had been a great Rabbi in Warsaw before he was killed by the Nazis and had attended the Rebbe's wedding that was held in that city some ten years before the war." And he held the book up for all to see.

The crowd was obviously moved by the speech but the silence was broken by the moving of a chair. The groom's father stood and stormed out of the room!

Rabbi Moshe left the podium and walked out after him. Perhaps he had overstepped his boundaries. Maybe he was insulted and was on his way out of the hotel.

But it wasn't so. He was standing in a corner with his face to the wall weeping like a baby.

After a minute or so he turned to the Rabbi, took the book and kissed it for several minutes, then dried his eyes, smiled and said.

"Nu! From now on I'll be a good Jew. Tell me what to do under the canopy. I want to take part in the wedding."

This answers our questions. In our story three people returned to Judaism and transformed bad to good; the girl from the cult, her father, and the groom's father, and all for the same basic reason:

They all realized how far away they had been.

This also was the function of Tzoraa't; all the bad came to the surface and appeared on the skin in order that that person (Metzora) would see how far he had fallen, repent and return to serve the Creator.

That is why the Torah portion is called Tazria: to give seed, because the purpose of the Tzoraa't was really positive.

Therefore the Moshiach is also called Metzora (Sanhedrin 98b and Isaiah 53:4) as is the Holy Temple (intro. to Aicha Rabba and Yalkut Tazria) because, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, both will bring about a complete separation of bad from good and as a result, a transformation of the entire world to good.

As the Rambam concludes; Moshiach will turn and transform even all the billions of gentiles in the world to serve only the Creator (Laws of Kings 11:4).

And this is the best possible preparation for the holiday Passover. On Passover it is an obligation to feel and believe that just as G-d sent us Moses who redeemed us from Egypt so He will send us Moshiach to redeem us from our present terrible exile.

We just have to do all we can to bring...

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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