Tazria is a difficult parasha to study and absorb, as the parasha discuses laws that don’t seem to have relevance to our lives. The practical laws of tzaraas are irrelevant, as the Ramban writes that tzaraas was a gift from Heaven when the Jewish People were settled in Eretz Yisroel. If a person would commit certain sins, then he would be afflicted with tzaraas on his home, his clothing or his body and this would be his wake up call to repent. While we have our share of challenges today, tzaraas is not one of them. What, then, can we take from the parasha, in addition to the famous teaching of tzaraas being a punishment for those who speak Lashon Hara?
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 97a) states אין בן דוד בא עד שתתהפך כל המלכות למינות, Moshiach will only arrive when the entire kingdom is transformed to heresy, and proof is from the verse that states (Vayikra 13:13) וְרָאָה הַכֹּהֵן וְהִנֵּה כִסְּתָה הַצָּרַעַת אֶת כָּל בְּשָׂרוֹ וְטִהַר אֶת הַנָּגַע כֻּלּוֹ הָפַךְ לָבָן טָהוֹר הוּא, the Kohen shall look, and behold! – the affliction has covered his entire flesh, then he shall declare the affliction to be pure; having turned completely white, it is pure. What is the connection between one’s body being covered with tzaraas and heresy? One interpretation I have suggested is that the word לָבָן could be read as לִבָּן, their hearts, and the Gemara (Ibid 38b) states that Adam HaRishon was a מין, a heretic, and proof of this is because HaShem said to him (Bereishis 3:8) אַיֶּכָּה, where are you? and the Gemara interprets this word to be a contraction of the words אן נטה לבך, where has your heart turned, i.e. You have turned away from me. I therefore suggested that the word לָבָן can be read as לִבָּן, their hearts. I would like to suggest an alternative explanation that will shed light on the relevance of tzaraas.
Essentially, the reason one is afflicted with tzaraas is either because he spoke Lashon Hara or because he was miserly and refused to lend out his vessels. Thus, a metzora is one who has an inferiority complex and speaks ill of others and does not want others to partake of his assets. a miserly person is referred to as a רע עין, one who has an evil eye. The words רע עין equal in gematria the word מצרע, one who is afflicted with tzaraas. These words equal in gematria the number 400. When Lot was escaping from the upheaval of Sodom and Gomorrah, he told the angels assisting him (Bereishis 19:20) הִנֵּה נָא הָעִיר הַזֹּאת קְרֹבָה לָנוּס שָׁמָּה וְהִוא מִצְעָר אִמָּלְטָה נָא שָׁמָּה הֲלֹא מִצְעָר הִוא וּתְחִי נַפְשִׁי, “behold, please, this city is near enough to escape there and it is small; I shall flee there. Is it not small? And I will live.” Lot was trying to save himself and simultaneously he temporally saved the city of צוֹעַר. The word מִצְעָר contains the same letters as the word מְּצֹרָע. The מְּצֹרָע is punished by having to dwell in solitude, but it is an opportunity for him to reflect on his misdemeanors and repent to HaShem. Similarly, Lot had the opportunity to reflect on his association with the people of Sodom and return to Avraham. Instead, he got drunk, cohabited with his daughters, and caused Avraham to distance himself from him. The Biblical tzaraas was a vehicle for repentance and salvation. The number 400, it is said, can be used for bad, such as עֶפְרֹן, whose name equals in gematria 400, and Esav, who came with 400 men to attack Yaakov. Conversely, the number 400 can be used for the good, as we see that ultimately Esav’s men deserted him, and they were rewarded later in history (See Rashi Bereishis 33:16).
A Jewish slave has the opportunity to be liberated after six years of servitude, and fi he doesn’t, his master takes a מַּרְצֵעַ, an awl, and drills a hole in his ear. Why in his ear? Rashi (Shemos 21:6) writes that the slave heard at Sinai that one should not steal and he stole , so he is sold into slavery. The word מַּרְצֵעַ also equals in gematria 400. The Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, and this slave wants to remain a slave! He has the opportunity to be freed and he chooses otherwise, so he is reminded with the מַּרְצֵעַ of the slavery and ultimate liberation of the Jewish People.
Prior to the arrival of Moshiach, the entire world will be permeated with heresy. Does that mean that one has to be enslaved to these pernicious thoughts and ideas? Certainly not. When one sees the disease spreading, he must remember Lot and the Jewish slave and tell himself, “I refuse to be enslaved, I resist the bad 400! It is noteworthy that the words הָפַךְ לָבָן טָהוֹר equal in gematria the word מצורע. One can be engulfed by heresy but he is still capable of liberating himself.
HaShem should allow us to retain the perspective that while surrounded by heresy and promiscuity, we can rise above it all and then HaShem will free ourselves, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.
Have a GOOD 400 Shabbos!
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Tzav 5776
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