תש”פ פ’ תזריע מצור ע
Volume 33, Issue 5
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו
“On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (12:3)
The day of milah is considered the day of birth. Perhaps that is why we have the minhag to name a baby at his brit. This fits beautifully with the commentary of the Chasam Sofer in Vayeira (21:8), ויעש אברהם משתה גדול ביום הגמל את יצח ק – Avraham made a party each year on the day that Yitzchak had his brit because that was his “birthday”. (Maharshal)
אדם כי יה יה בעור בשרו…צרע ת
“If a person has…on the skin of his body…a leprous mark…” (13:2)
In the preceding portion, Parshat Shmini, the Torah enumerates the various species of animals and birds that may and may not be eaten. Immediately following this chapter, the Torah sets forth the laws of nega’im, plagues, which, according to Chazal, are the penalty for the sin of lashon hara – slander, talebearing and malicious gossip.
People are more scrupulous not to eat forbidden foods than they are not to “devour” and destroy someone by spreading lashon hara about him. The juxtaposition of these chapters teaches us that “consuming” a human being by means of lashon hara is no less sinful than consuming a forbidden animal. (Rabbi Yisrael Salanter)
והובא אל אהרן ה כהן או אל אחד מבניו הכהני ם
“He shall be brought to Aharon, the priest, or to one of his sons the Kohanim.” (13:2)
QUESTION: Why does the Torah single out Aharon? After all, any kohen is empowered to identify tzara’at. Additionally, why, in fact, does the Torah decree that only a kohen can declare a person to be contaminated with tzara’at or not?
ANSWER: Through the office of the kohen, the Torah teaches us that tzara’at is not a physical illness requiring the attention of an ordinary doctor. Rather, it is a disease of the soul. Chazal teach that tzara’at is caused by seven things: harmful speech – lashon hara, bloodshed, vain oaths, illicit relationships, arrogance, theft, and envy (Arachin 16). Thus, tzara’at is caused by some of the gravest transgressions in the Torah. (Insights in the Torah)
“And then he shall shave himself…” (13:33)
QUESTION: Why is the word written with a large “ג” ?
ANSWER: Except in a leap year, Parshat Tazria is read after Pesach during the Sefirah, the period when it is forbidden to take haircuts or shave. Precluded from this prohibition are the 33rd day of the Omer counting (Lag Ba’Omer) and the three days before Shavuot (Shloshet Yimei Hagbalah).
According to the Arizal, one should take a haircut only on Erev Shavuot and not on any other day during Sefirah.
The word “vehitgalach” – “And then he shall shave himself” – is the beginning of the 33rd verse in chapter 13 of Chumash Vayikra. This alludes to the fact that on the 33rd day it is permitted to take a haircut. The large “ג” indicates that it is permitted to take a haircut three days before Shavuot.
The word “vehitgalach” )והתגלח( numerically adds up to 452, which is the same numerical value as ל’ג ימים בעומר – “33 days of the Omer – (counting the statement itself as an additional one, known in gematria as “im hakollel”). In Hebrew numbers, 452 is תב”נ , which is an acronym for the words “תסתפר בערב נון” – “Take a haircut the day before the 50th – Erev Shavuot.” (Pardes Yosef)
תורת המצור ע
“The law of the metzorah…” (14:2)
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi in the midrash observes that the expression תורת המצור ע occurs five times in the chapters relating to the tzara’at afflictions. The study of the five Books of the Torah and the faithful practice of its mitzvot provide the best remedy against the moral defects that bring about these diseases. (Vayikra Rabbah)
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Rabbi Ismach’s Letter
As I am sure you have heard, my father, Michael Ismach, Michael ben Yosef, passed away late Thursday night.
Many of you probably remember my father from when he would visit on Rosh Hashana and beam from his seat when I would speak and daven. Growing up in a tiny shul, he would always challenge me to daven and speak when there was an opportunity. Opportunities were constant. I would always challenge him and say: “What’s the point, there is hardly anyone here.” And he would always respond, “If you get used to it here, it won’t matter if it’s a small shul or a large one.” And, as it often works with fathers, he was right.
He has not been to shul in some years due to severe dementia and was not ill before he passed. This was all very sudden. Processing this and thinking ahead towards shiva brought me to a reflection I would like to share.
Much of our tradition’s response to loss is built on the phrase we repeat again and again at houses of mourning: “HaMakom yenachem eschem…” “HaMakom” refers to the Omnipresent, to G-d. Today, I am vividly reminded that in most other cases, it is “hamakom,” our actual place, our location, and neighborhoods that offer the consolation as well.
This is a challenging time for us all and aside from health and logistical concerns, “social distancing” undermines some of our tradition’s most powerful tools for managing loss and grief.
We are unable to gather en masse for a levaya to offer kavod hameis to the one who has departed and kavod hachaim to those that remain bereft.
We are unable to visit a family during their week of mourning to hear and to be inspired by memories of their loved one and to share our presence and words of comfort.
We are unable to gather for minyanim to rally behind the mourner with his declarations of “Borchu” and “Yehei shmei rabba mevarach.” (I will not be holding a minyan this week in my home. I will not be able to say kaddish.)
We are unable to offer the family most of the types of help and assistance that we usually do during the week of shiva. We are unable to “be there” for them, to “show up” and represent their “makom.”
There are technological patches to some of these problems, but there are no real solutions. Physical, visceral, presence has not yet been made obsolete.
There is one thing we are able to do. Our tradition also speaks of the power that the living have to continue the work of those who have passed. That is why we say kaddish, learn Torah, make siyums and give tzedakah over the course of the mourning period and on a yahrtzeit.
While I hope this will be the only loss our community sustains over the course of this “distancing,” in case it is not, I humbly recommend that our community adapts our reaction from being focused on “kovod hachai,” to being focused on “kovod hameis.” Instead of frustrated attempts to assist and maintain the dignity of those who are in mourning, let us instead attempt to do something to bring dignity and maintain the legacy of one who is no longer in this world, but whose echo should continue to reverberate.
Learn something extra, do something extra, or give something extra. Even the smallest thing matters. Feel free to let a mourner know or to keep it to yourself. G-d knows, and may He add your actions to the merit and accomplishments of those who have passed.
I know how meaningful this would be to me and I am sure it would be a powerful expression to others in these “distanced” days.
Thank you for your outpouring of love. I know that I simply cannot wait until our “place” is put back together.