Torah Weekly - Metzora Shabbos Hagadol

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TORAH WEEKLY

Metzora Shabbos Hagadol

For the week ending 12 Nissan 5757; 18 & 19 April 1997

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Contents:
  • Summary
  • Insights:
  • ELIXIR OF LIFE
  • STICKS AND STONES
  • SHABBOS HAGADOL - THE GREAT SHABBOS
  • WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT 'THE GREAT SHABBOS'?
  • Haftorah
  • Back Issues of Torah Weekly
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  • Overview

    Contents

    The Torah describes the procedure for a metzora (a person afflicted with tzara'as) upon conclusion of his isolation. This process extends for a week, and involves korbanos and immersions in the mikveh. Then, a Kohen must pronounce the metzora pure. A metzora of limited financial means may substitute lesser offerings for the more expensive animals. Before a Kohen diagnoses that a house has tzara'as, household possessions are removed to prevent them from also being declared ritually impure. The tzara'as is removed by smashing and rebuilding that section of the house; if it reappears, the entire building must be razed. The Torah details those bodily secretions that render a person spiritually impure, thereby preventing his contact with holy items, and how one regains a state of ritual purity.




    Insights

    Contents

    ELIXIR OF LIFE

    "This is the law of the Metzora." (14:2)

    Metzora - "motzi" - to bring out - "(shem) ra" - (an) evil (name): To speak evil about someone. There once was a peddler who traveled from town to town. He would call out "Who wants to buy the elixir of life! Who wants to buy the elixir of life!" Rabbi Yannai heard him and wanted to buy some of his potion. "You don't need my elixir, nor those who are like you", replied the peddler. But Rabbi Yannai pressed the peddler. Finally the peddler took out a Sefer Tehillim (book of Psalms), and read to Rabbi Yannai. "Who wants life... What's the next line?" said the peddler. Answered Rabbi Yannai "Guard your tongue from evil!...I've read that verse all my life and I never realized its meaning till this peddler taught it to me!"

    (Midrash)


    STICKS AND STONES

    "And he shall be brought to the Kohen." (14:3)

    When a person speaks Lashon Hara (slander), it indicates that he has no concept of the power of speech. It shows that he considers words to be insignificant in comparison to actions: As the nursery rhyme says "Sticks and stonesmay break my bones, but words will never harm me." Nothing could be further from the truth. When a person speaks evil he awakes a prosecutor in Heaven not only against the target of his Lashon Hara, but also against himself. An angel with a 'tape-recorder' stands by the side of each one of us recording our every word.

    In order to teach those who speak Lashon Hara the power of just one word, the Torah instructs that the offender be brought to the kohen. But, even as he is on his way to the kohen, his body covered with tzara'as for all to see, and until the kohen actually pronounces the word "Impure!" he is still considered totally pure. Similarly, he cannot regain his former status, even though his disease has healed completely, until the kohen again pronounces him to be spiritually pure. The speaker of Lashon Hara is thus taught to reflect on the power of each and every word. For with one word, he can be made an outcast, and with one word he can be redeemed.

    (Based on Ohel Yaakov)


    SHABBOS HAGADOL - THE GREAT SHABBOS

    When the Jewish People were about to leave Egypt, G-d commanded them to take a lamb, which the Egyptians worshipped as a god, and lead it through the streets to their homes.

    They tied the lamb to their bedposts, and three days later, it was this lamb which served as the Pesach sacrifice. Its blood was used to mark the doors and lintels so that G-d would 'passover' the Jewish homes, and it was eaten at the first seder on the very night that the Jewish People left Egypt.

    On Shabbat, the tenth of Nissan, the Egyptians saw the Jews leading lambs through the street and asked "What is this lamb for?" The Jews replied "We're going to slaughter it as a Pesach sacrifice, as G-d has commanded us." You can imagine how the Egyptians felt - seeing their god led through the street and then tied to a bedpost! Miraculously, however, they were prevented from harming the Jewish People. They ground their teeth in fury, but did not utter a murmur.

    We commemorate this miracle on the Shabbos immediately preceding Pesach, on Shabbos Hagadol - 'The Great Shabbos.'


    WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT 'THE GREAT SHABBOS'?

    The Shabbos before Pesash is called "The Great Shabbos" because of the miracle which happened on the 10th of Nissan (see above).

    But what was it about this miracle that we connect it to Shabbos? We commemorate Shavuos on whatever day of the week the 6th of Sivan occurs. Similarly, Chanukah always starts on the 25th of Kislev, whatever day of the week that happens to be.

    What was it about this miracle that we link it to Shabbos rather than its actual calendar date?

    It is known that during Shabbos, all the plagues of Egypt were temporarily suspended: The rivers changed back to water from blood; the frogs stopped swarming. In honor of the greatness of Shabbos, even the plagues 'took a rest.'

    The tenth of Nissan, when the Jews led the lambs through the streets of Egypt, occurred during the plague of darkness. The day was Shabbos. For if this event had taken place on a weekday, the Egyptians would not have been able to see the what the Jews were doing and there would have been no miracle, for the entire land was engulfed in darkness.

    Now we can understand why we celebrate this miracle on the Shabbos before Pesach and not on the 10th of Nissan. For without Shabbos there would have been no miracle. That's why it's the 'Great Shabbos.'

    (Bal HaTurim - Parshas Vaera, Devash L'pi)




    Haftorah for Shabbos Hagadol

    Malachi 3:4-24

    Contents

    The Shabbos immediately before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol - or the Great Shabbos. It commemorates the day in Egypt that the Jews each took a sheep, the Egyptian deity, and tied it to their bedposts, informing the Egyptians that their god was about to become an offering to Hashem. In spite of their fury, the Egyptians were powerless to act, although the Jews did not know this at the time. Rather, they acted out of trust of Hashem and Moshe, His prophet. Thus the Shabbos immediately before the first redemption was a day when the faith of the Jewish People was rewarded with Hashem's protection.

    (Adapted from the Artscroll/Stone Chumash)

    "Behold! I send you Eliyahu the prophet before the great and awesome day of Hashem." (3:23)

    The night of Pesach is called "A night of guardings", when the Jewish People are guarded from their enemies. "A night of guardings" also implies that this night, the night of Pesach is 'guarded' - set aside for all time - as a night on which the final redemption can come. In other words, every year, the night of Pesach has in it the power of redemption, that it has the ability to bring forth the actual from the potential. Shabbos also has this ability to express and crystallize the latent power of the week that follows it. Therefore, every Shabbos Hagadol contains the power of the redemption from Egypt, already awakened in this Shabbos is the force of "the great and awesome day of Hashem."

    (Maharal)

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Lev Seltzer
    HTML Design: Michael Treblow
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