This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Metzora (5765)
This week we read about how the 'Metzora' becomes purified.
A Metzora is a Jew who has been afflicted by a terrible skin disease called Tzorat, caused by false egotism and Loshan Hara (speaking in a damaging way about people).
He must live 'outside of the camp' away from all normal people, and everything and everyone he touches becomes 'impure'.
But only a Cohen (priest) can purify him.
The Torah here tells us that even if the Metzora seems to be healed and all symptoms of this affliction have completely disappeared, nevertheless he will remain forever defiled unless a Cohen declares him otherwise.
The books of Kabbalah and Chassidut explain why; Tzorat is a purely spiritual affliction and only a Cohen, who has unique spiritual qualities, can restore what the Metzora spiritually lacks and 'heal' him.
Is this understood? Tzorat is a punishment for a sin, how can the Cohen, no matter how spiritual he is, rectify someone else's sins?
And, on the other hand, if the Metzora repents from his evil to the point that all the signs of his disease are gone then why is a Cohen necessary, what can he add?
And finally, what does this have to do with us today when we have no Tzorat?
Here is a story I saw in Beis Moshiach Magazine (#469 pg 25) that may help to explain.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe was certainly the busiest man in the world. Besides receiving more mail daily (which he read and answered himself) than even the President of the United States, he was constantly occupied in Torah-learning, prayer and trying to lead world Jewry to greet Moshiach.
But on Shabbat he had a day of rest. Then there were no letters or urgent phone calls, telegrams or faxes.
Or so it should have been. But it wasn't.
One of the Rebbe's secretaries, Rabbi Leibel Groner, told a story that illustrated this.
Once, just as Shabbat had finished and Rabbi Groner was on the stairs to his office in the Chabad Headquarters in Crown Heights New York, he heard the phone ringing incessantly from within the room.
He rushed to the door, unlocked it, entered and picked up the receiver.
'Hello!! Hello! Rabbi Groner?? Leibel??" The voice on the other end said desperatly.
"Yes. Shavoa Tov! (Good new week) Who is this?" Rabbi Groner asked.
The man gave his name and told a tragic story. His wife, a young woman with several young children, had some sort of a stroke and fell unconscious on the floor just after lighting candles moments before the beginning of Shabbat.
She was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance accompanied by her eldest son while he, her husband, remained home with the children. She was put into the intensive care where the doctors examined her and concluded that, although they would do all they could, things looked grim.
Her son ran back home to relay the news and it wasn’t long before they, and everyone in the area was saying Psalms for her recovery.
He would have called the Rebbe right then and there but he knew that none of the secretaries would answer the phone on Shabbat, so he waited until the first moment immediately after the Shabbat went out and didn't hang up until someone answered.
He begged Rabbi Groner to enter a request to the Rebbe to pray for a complete recovery.
Rabbi Groner wrote a note to the Rebbe and managed to set it before him. Moments later the Rebbe answered, also in a note "I will pray for her the next time I am at my Father in law's (the previous Rebbe's) gravesite".
Rabbi Groner was a bit surprised. The man said that his wife was in critical condition, in need of urgent prayer, and the Rebbe answered that he would do what he could tomorrow or even in a few days time!
But a short time later the Rebbe called Rabbi Groner to his office and clarified.
"Regarding that woman that had the stroke; you can tell her husband that I knew about it as soon as it happened. You can also tell him that the situation was very grave on Shabbat night at five in the morning but a half hour later, at five thirty, the crisis passed and she began to improve. Ask him if this isn't so. And please tell him that the situation did not improve because of anything that the doctors did. Rather it improved because I thought about her.
"The reason that I am revealing this" continued the Rebbe, "is because it is necessary to know, that from me it is impossible to hide."
Rabbi Groner faithfully called the man back, told him the Rebbe's unusual reply and asked him if any thing happened at five, five thirty a.m. on Shabbat.
The man said that he was totally shaken by the Rebbe's reply and that he had to sit down. Then, almost unable to speak, he related that it was true. On Shabbat night at five in the morning the phone in his house rang.
They were all awake, praying and crying. He told his three year old son to pick up the phone and sure enough it was the doctor with a sad message; If they wanted to see her alive they had to rush to the hospital immediately.
The hospital was only a fifteen minute run but by the time they arrived it was almost too late. She was in a deep coma with almost no pulse or respiration. They were totally shattered.
Then suddenly, at five thirty, something happened! The machines showed that her breathing, heartbeat and blood pressure returned and stabilized!
She was still unconscious but she was out of danger.
That is why the Rebbe said he could pray later.
As far as everyone knows the woman recovered completely.
This answers our questions.
Tzorat was a clearly spiritual disease caused by a spiritual deficit. But, in fact, ALL diseases are spiritual in origin.
But Tzorat was chosen by the Torah as the example because it hits at the worst spiritual plague of all; Loshan Hara, namely causing divisiveness between Jews.
That is why at Mount Sinai all diseases disappeared. And so it will be in the days of Moshiach (in fact even death will eventually disappear) because in these times all the Jews were, and will be, united.
And this is why the Cohen's spirituality could cure and purify another person; the Metzora. Because in reality all the Jews are not separate; they are one body (see Ex. 4:22 they are referred to as G-d's SON not G-d's sons). So the Cohen is not REALLY someone ELSE. And even more, the job of the Priests is to bless (and unite) ALL the Jewish people.
That is why the Cohen's purity is able, and necessary, to restore the lacking of 'others' - because there are no 'others' and the Cohen had the unique ability to reveal it.
This is also the job of the Rebbe: to unite all Jews… the entire Jewish nation. Therefore his thoughts, much like the presence of the Cohen, had the power to unite and cure.
And that is what he meant when he said 'it is impossible to hide from me'.
A Jew can NEVER sever himself from the body of the Jewish people, no matter what he does there will ALWAYS be a Rebbe to think about him, cure him and bring him back (Tshuva) to his senses.
That is why the Maimonides writes that Moshiach will unite all the Jews and he will bring them all back to Israel (the OPPOSITE of the situation today).
Because ONLY Moshiach (like the Cohen in our section and the Rebbe in our story) will have the power and desire to reveal the truth: that the Jews, the Torah and G-d are one.
Wishing all our readers a Kosher and Happy Pesach with...
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.