Kinder Torah - Parshat Tazria

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Parshat Tazria

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The Disease

"If a person will have on the skin of his flesh s'eis (a swelling), sapachas (a scab), or baheres (a bright spot)" (Vayikra 13:2). These are types of tzoras, a terrible skin disease that existed in the times of our forefathers. There are many opinions as to the causes of tzoras. The Keli Yakar zt"l offers his explanation. Tzoras comes from the word metzorah. Metzorah is a contraction of motzi ra (brings out the bad). If we have sinned in private, the effects of that sin remain hidden inside of us. The disease brings the bad effects of that sin to the surface of our bodies for all to see. The Keli Yakar continues by enumerating some of the sins that can cause tzoras.

"S'eis" is a swelling of the skin to above normal height. This is a result of a swelling of the ego. Pride and haughtiness are sinful character traits. When a person contracted s'eis, it was a sign from Hashem that he needed to humble himself. "Sapachas" was a growth on the skin similar to a scab. The desire to acquire money caused sapachas. Spiritual acquisitions that a person makes (such as wisdom, good character traits, and integrity) become a permanently fixed part of him. Material possessions just surround the person (like a scab) and ultimately do not stay with him. "Baheres", a white patch of skin comes from speaking loshon hora. The speaker embarrasses his friend and "whitens" his face in public. Therefore, his skin turns white.


Do you remember the Megilla that we read on Purim? "Haman told them about the honor of his wealth, and his many sons, and the many ways which the king had promoted him and elevated him above the officers and royal servants" (Esther 5:11). "Haman said in his heart, 'Whom would the king especially want to honor more than me?'" (Esther 6:6). Haman is an excellent example of pride and haughtiness. "I want this." "I need money to go buy that." "I have no money for tsedaka (charity) because I spent it all on candy." If you find yourself saying things like this, it is a sign of a desire for money. "He's fat." "She cheated." "Her charm is all a fake act to win friends." These are all loshon hora. All of these sins brought tzoras to the person. What was the cure?

The Cure

"He shall be brought to Aharon HaKohen or to one of his sons the Kohanim" (Vayikra 13:2). The Keli Yakar zt"l elaborates that a cure from this disease could only be achieved with the help of a Kohen. One who is from the seed of Aharon HaKohen has the three good qualities, which are the opposite of those that brought on the tzoras. The sin of loshon hora is at the root of fighting and divisiveness between people. Therefore, the metzora must come to the Kohen, who has mastered peace in his own life, and is an expert at helping others make peace. Similarly, Aharon HaKohen can heal the sin of haughtiness. He is especially humble, as the verse quotes Moshe and Aharon saying, "What are we?" (Shemos 16:8). They did not see any reason to praise themselves. Lastly, the Kohanim did not suffer from the sin of greed for money. They had no portion of land in the Land of Israel and therefore no conventional means of earning a livelihood. Their income was totally derived from their service to Hashem in the Beis HaMikdash. Therefore, they learned to be satisfied with what Hashem gave them.


The Kohanim teach us how to correct those sins which cause tzoras. Try to make friends with humble people and learn from their ways. Stay away from those who brag about themselves and their accomplishments. Do not speak loshon hora under any circumstances. Be happy with what you have. Do not look at what other people have. If you need something, Hashem will give it to you. He gives you exactly what you need. What could be better?


As we mentioned earlier, tzoras was a spiritual disease, therefore the remedy was a spiritual one. Among other things, the metzorah (one afflicted with tzoras) had to undergo a lonely period of isolation outside of the community for one or two weeks. The Gemora (Erechin 16b) explains the reason for this isolation. This metzorah, by speaking loshon hora, caused separation between man and wife, or between friends. Therefore, his punishment was to be separated from people. One reason was to prevent him from further hurting anyone with words. A second reason is illustrated by a story in the sefer, "613 Stories on the 613 Mitzvos," by M. Frankel. In the year 1848, there was an epidemic of cholera in Vilna. Many people were stricken and died. The Jews of the area began to introspect to determine what sins of theirs were causing the terrible plague. One man felt that he had the answer, and so he came to the home of Rav Yisrael Salanter. Rav Yisrael sat and patiently listened to this man's description of the bad deeds of his fellow Jews. The Rav's wise reply to the man was as follows. "Since you consider yourself such an expert in finding faults, you should leave the community and go into isolation. Then you will have time to think and contemplate your own faults."


Isolation is a terrible punishment. Can you imagine not having even one person to speak to? No smiles, no hello or goodbye. No one to play with or to tell secrets to. As the Sefer HaChinuch says, (Mitzvah 169) the metzorah must be alone in order to contemplate his mistakes. In our days, we have neither tzoras nor isolation, but we should still take the time to consider the seriousness of loshon hora and the damage that it causes.

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