14.4.14

HOLIDAY GREETINGS

14 Nisan 5774
Erev Pesach

Have a safe, happy and kosher Pesach!



13.4.14

"Seder Night: The Invitation"

13 Nisan 5774

Seder Night: the invitation
by Daniel Pinner

As befits a Jewish celebration, the master of the house introduces the Seder Night with an invitation: Ha lachma anya… This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt; all who are hungry – let them come and eat!

This seems appropriate enough. After all, the Rambam defines how a Jew is supposed to celebrate a Festival – any Festival: “There is no rejoicing without meat and there is no rejoicing without wine. And when he eats and drinks he is obligated to feed ‘the convert and the orphan and the widow (Deuteronomy 16:11) together with other poor and unfortunate people. And he who locks the doors of his courtyard and eats and drinks, he and his sons and his wife, and does not give food or drink to the poor and the desperate – this is not the celebration of a mitzvah, but rather the celebration of his stomach. And about people like this, the Prophet said ‘their sacrifices will be like the bread of mourners for them, all who eat it are defiled, because their bread is only for themselves’ (Hosea 9:4). And a celebration like this is a disgrace for them, as the Prophet said: ‘I will scatter filth – the filth of your festive celebrations – on your faces’ (Malachi 2:3)” (Laws of Festivals 6:18).

The Mishnah Berurah (529:17), the Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav (Orach Chayim, Laws of Festivals 529:11), and the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (103:9) all say much the same as the Rambam.

So on the Seder Night, as on all Festivals, one is obligated to invite and feed the poor and indigent. So the invitation “all who are hungry – let them come and eat!” seems highly appropriate.

Yet there is something extremely strange about this invitation. Have you ever looked closely at the words and their inference? “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt; all who are hungry – let them come and eat!”. Doesn’t this sound like a somewhat meagre, stingy, even grudging invitation? The master of the house is saying: I’ve got a miserable piece of bread – but if you’re hungry it might do.

This is a serious invitation? Why not be a bit more generous? Why not, Soon we’re going to have a veritable feast: all who are hungry – let them come and eat! Wouldn’t that be a more generous, a more appropriate, a more welcoming invitation?

I suggest two answers here.

The first is that this “bread of affliction”, this miserable piece of bread that the Haggadah (and therefore the master of the house) mentions in this invitation, is the entire reason for this celebration. Without this humble matzah, without this flat, uninspiring, somewhat tasteless bread of affliction, there would be no festival and therefore no celebration to which to invite the poor and the lonely, no beautifully arranged table at which “the convert and the orphan and the widow” could recline and feast.

Let us see the context in which the Torah commands this. After commanding us to celebrate Pesach and Shavuot, the Torah continues: “You shall rejoice before Hashem your God – you and your son and your daughter, and your slave and your maidservant, and the Levite who is within your city gates, and the convert and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place wherein Hashem your God will choose to rest His Name; and you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you will keep and do these decrees” (Deuteronomy 16:11-12).

That is to say, this “bread of affliction” which is the remembrance “that you were a slave in Egypt”, is the sole reason that we celebrate, is the sole reason that we invite the convert and the orphan and the widow. Hence it is supremely appropriate that the Haggadah (and therefore the master of the house) begins the invitation, “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt; all who are hungry – let them come and eat!”.

The second answer is rooted in our earliest history. On the 15th of Nisan 2047, exactly 3,727 years ago, “Hashem appeared to [Abraham] in the pains of Mamre, when he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day” (Genesis 18:1). That was the day when three angels passed by Abraham’s tent, and Abraham invited them in to show them hospitality.

The chronology is simple enough: the angel promised Sarah that she would bear her son Isaac exactly one year hence (18:10), and the 400 years of Abraham’s seed living as “strangers in a land not their own” (15:13) began with the birth of Isaac and finished with the Exodus from Egypt. Since the Exodus occurred on the fifteenth of Nisan, Isaac was born 400 years to the day earlier, i.e. also on the fifteenth of Nisan. And since the angelic prophecy to Sarah was one year to the day before Isaac was born, this episode also happened on the fifteenth of Nisan.

We note however that according to the Midrashic commentary Yefeh Toar (Rabbi Shmuel Yaffe Ashkenazi, Turkey, 1525-1595), this happened on the 14th of Nisan: he interprets the phrase “pros ha-Pesach” (Bereishit Rabbah 48:12) to mean not “the season of Pesach” (the 15th of Nisan) but rather the second half of Pesach-eve (the 14th of Nisan), at the time when chametz is already forbidden.

Abraham invited the three men (whom he did not yet know to be angels) into his tent with the very modest words, “Let a little water be brought now for you to wash your feet, and rest under the tree; and I will bring bread for you to eat – and then pass on” (Genesis 18:4-5). In the event, Abraham told his wife Sarah to make cakes from three se’ah of flour; three se’ah is equivalent to about 25 litres (6½ US gallons), which gives an idea of the size of the feast that Abraham prepared. And this was just the appetizer! He also prepared an entire calf – a veritable feast fit for a king.

This is the paradigm for Shammai’s famous dictum, “say little and do much” (Pirkei Avot 1:15). Or, in the words of Rabbi Elazar, “From here we learn that tzaddikim say little and do much” (Bava Metzi’a 87a).

The Alshich ha-Kadosh (Rabbi Moshe Alshich, Israel, 1508–1593), following the idea that this was the day of Pesach, suggests that when Abraham told Sarah “Hasten – knead three se’ahs of meal, fine flour and make cake cakes” (Genesis 18:6), he was instructing her to hasten to complete the baking within 18 minutes, to prevent the dough from leavening. This was also the reason that he did not entrust the cooking to any of his servants.

Two of these angels in the form of men continued on their way to Sodom, there to warn Lot and his family of the impending annihilation of the metropolis. And that evening, in Sodom, Lot invited the two men into his house with an even more modest invitation than his uncle Abraham had extended earlier that day: “Behold now, my lords, turn aside please to your servant’s house; rest, wash your feet, get up early and go on your way” (Genesis 19:2).

Lot did not mention so much as a slice of bread or a cup of water. But when they reached his house, “he made a feast for them, and he baked matzot, and they ate” (verse 3).

And on the phrase “he baked matzot,” Rashi simply says: “it was Pesach”. (According to most understandings, it was the second night of Pesach; according to the Yefeh Toar cited above, it was the Seder Night.) This is an incredible tribute to Lot, putting him on the level of the Forefathers: just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob kept the mitzvot before the Torah was yet given, so did Lot. And the fact is that Lot and his family merited to be saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Both Abraham and Lot demonstrated tremendous self-sacrifice by inviting those men (who only later would be revealed as angels) into their respective homes, as Abraham was just recovering from his circumcision three days earlier, and Lot risked severe punishment for hosting foreign guests which was forbidden by Sodomite law. And both invited them in with very modest invitations, but later treated them to feasts.

So it is appropriate that we, year by year, begin our Seder service with a similarly modest invitation: “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt; all who are hungry – let them come and eat!”.

We begin with this modest, meagre, stingy, even grudging invitation. But like Abraham and Lot 3,727 years ago this night, we “say little and do much”. A veritable feast awaits.

11.4.14

To The Holy Warriors of Yitzhar - Chazak!!

11 Nisan 5774
Erev Shabbat Hagadol

I intended to respond to a horrible op-ed regarding the horrendous events in Yitzhar this past week, but the more I thought about it, the more depressed I got, so I'm not going to do that. Hashem does not want to be hearing complaints from us: "Why are you crying out to me? Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey forth." (Shemot 14:15)

Know that this, too, is all part of the plan and the process to bring the geulah shleimah. I want to encourage the Holy Warriors of Yitzhar to hold fast to Hashem and to each other and know that you have brothers and sisters all over the Land of Israel who empathize with your pain and who support your holy battle against the Erev Rav wholeheartedly.  Just continue to be strong and courageous and the Holy One, Blessed Be He, will rescue you and reward you for your faithfulness.  

We will rise up and they will be defeated!!
Shabbat Shalom~

ACHAREI - HAGADOL 5774

11 Nisan 5774
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

Shabbat Hagadol - Before Redemption - Rabbi Meir Kahane

For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the wicked people and all the evildoers will be like straw... (Malachi 3:19) Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome Day of Hashem. And he will turn back [to G-d] the hearts of fathers with [their] sons and the hearts of sons with their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with utter destruction. (Malachi 3:23,24)

Then you will return and see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves G-d and one who does not serve Him. (Malachi 3:18) Before us, then, there is a fundamental principle regarding the future of the Jewish People:

Redemption can come by one of two ways. If we merit it, through repentance and deeds worthy of it – especially faith and trust in G-d, without fear of the non-Jew – it can come through G-d hastening it, quickly, immediately, “today, if we hearken to His voice”. Not only will it come quickly, but with glory and majesty, without the suffering or Messianic birth pangs of which both Ula and Rabbah said (Sanhedrin 98b), “Let it come without my seeing it”. If we do not merit this, however, then the Messiah will certainly come and the Redemption with him, but only later on, “in its time”. This redemption will be accompanied, G-d forbid, by the terrible suffering of Chevlei Mashiach, Messianic birthpangs.

We seem to have two contradictory redemption processes before us; [...] but there is no contradiction. Rather, both are possibilities. That is, either can happen, but not both. As for which it will be, that depends on the Jewish People and their deeds. If they prove worthy, they will merit redemption “in haste”, glorious and majestic, without Messianic birth pangs.

Otherwise, a different process will occur, a process that does not have to be – complete redemption through unparalleled suffering, and all because of our sins and our stubbornness. Only the blind and those who refuse to see will fail to understand that today we are right at the very heart of the Ikveta DeMeshicha, “the footsteps of the Messiah”, the beginning of the redemption. This State of Israel is the beginning of G-d's wrath against the nations who do not know Him and who have profaned His name with scorn and derision.

Yet, it is clear that a redemption whose beginning is based exclusively on redemption “in its time”, on, “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel” (Ezek. 36:22), on, “Not for your sake do I do this, says the L-rd G-d. Be it known unto you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel (Ezek. 36:32) has concealed within it tragedies and Messianic suffering from the Supreme King of Kings; and whoever says that G-d concedes shall concede his life (Bava Kamma 50a).

There will be no “hasty” redemption (Isaiah 60:22), glorious and majestic, devoid of dreadful suffering, unless the Jewish people return to their Father in Heaven, accept His yoke, and chiefly, unless they trust in Him completely and are ready to sanctify His name through self-sacrifice. The redemption which began despite our sins in order to sanctify G-d's name before the nations in might and splendor, has, in the hands of an “ungrateful, unwise nation” (Deut. 32:6), turned into a profanation and a blasphemy carried out precisely by those whom G-d sought to redeem. If the beginning of the redemption and the state served to sanctify G-d's name, then the only way to move on to “hasty” redemption is to continue reinforcing the Kiddush Hashem which the state's very establishment constituted.

The Divine imperative is continued Kiddush Hashem through trusting in G-d, and liquidating the Chilul Hashem without fear of the non-Jew, without fear of flesh and blood. Every retreat, every submission, every concession to the non-Jew, every hand raised against the Jew, every attack, let alone murder, of a Jew in the Land, every taunt and curse by a non-Jew in the Land is a Chilul Hashem. Now, instead of continuing to reinforce the Kiddush Hashem process, the Jewish people retreat and profane G-d's name.

Whoever does not allow Jews to live everywhere in the Land, whoever ties their hands and prevents their taking the revenge of G-d and Israel against the nations who curse and revile G-d, profanes G-d's name and profanes the great miracle and the powerful dream realized by G-d at the start of the redemption.

A time will come when G-d sees that to the nations and most of Israel, it seems that “His power is gone” - He is impotent. He will see that for many Jews and non-Jews, He is “nothing”, non-existent, Heaven forbid. For many others who pay lip service to His existence, He will appear “hindered”, powerless to act, a king “caught in tresses” (Song of Songs, 7:7), without connection or relevance to the world. He will see that there are masses of Jews who keep rituals, who keep the practical mitzvot by rote, yet who in times of danger, at the moment of truth, abandon their faith and trust in G-d. For them, G-d will become like one “abandoned”, and no Chilul Hashem could be greater. G-d will then wish to sanctify His great name, transformed by faithless heretics to “nothing, hindered, and abandoned.”

Listen well, my friend, to a great axiom of redemption. Ostensibly, those who ridiculed the mourners of Zion, who mocked those who believed in redemption, were the nations. Clearly this is so, yet also countless Jews do not believe, and they ridicule those who look forward to redemption, and, in general, the whole concept of redemption and the Messiah.

Do not let your brother, friend or the rabbi to whom you feel closest lead you astray by saying that redemption will come without suffering or tragedy, for that is impossible without repentance and trust in G-d through bold deeds without fear of the nations.

Redak's quotation from Isaiah is part of the following (Isaiah 26:20-21):

Come, My people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for a brief moment until the wrath is past. For the L-rd shall leave His abode to punish the earth's inhabitants for their sin.

With this, G-d informs Israel that before redemption comes, before G-d leaves His abode to punish the nations for their sin, there will be a moment of wrath; that is, a period of wrath and suffering. This clearly is referring to the war of Gog and Magog.

Although it says, “Hide yourself for a brief moment”, and Redak commented that they would “suffer briefly”, woe to us for that brief moment, for it will include Jerusalem's conquest and accompanying atrocities, [...] and the nations' conquest of Eretz Israel for nine months, and in G-d's eyes, that, too will constitute just a “brief moment”. Who can measure the suffering and anguish which that moment will generate, if it comes through redemption “in its time”? All the same G-d, Who has control over time and place, has the power to transform that “moment” into a very short time, if redemption comes “in haste”. This is a major principle regarding the Messianic birthpangs, and we must not forget it. If Israel heed G-d's voice and follow in His ways, He will subdue Gog and Israel's enemies “kim'at”, like the kim'at rega, the “brief moment” of Isaiah 26:20. Then, redemption will come quickly and “forever”.

Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, says Hashem, Master of Legions… (Malachi 3:7) And this is a repetition of the same promise that is given in Zechariah 1:3, in a tremendous oath! The redemption will come to the extent that we long for it and demand it.

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[Source: compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from "The Jewish Idea" of Rabbi Meir Kahane HY"D]
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10.4.14

The Legacy of 'American Exceptionalism'

10 Nissan 5774


"[T]he marriage of young girls in Iraq became prevalent in the aftermath of the American invasion in 2003 when the American Occupation Authority suspended the Iraqi constitution and laws that set the legal punishment for the fathers and the bridegroom of young girls as long as life term in prison."

Iraq wants to lower marriage age to 9, legalize marital rape, ban women from leaving home

8.4.14

CHAG PESACH KASHER V'SAMEACH!

9 Nisan 5774

Due to the crushing time constraints of cleaning and preparing for the holiday, I will not be posting on the regular schedule from now until the conclusion of Pesach.

Wishing all my readers a chag kasher v'sameach!

4.4.14

Discussion with Moishela: "Stand Up And Say No"

4 Nisan 5774
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

BS"D

Discussion with Moishela (with his family)
A Handicapped child
22 Adar 2 5774 (March 24, '14)

Stand Up And Say No

I want to tell you right here and now that between now and Pesach the world again will change somewhere around one hundred and eighty degrees. I know that if the human race has until now not paid too much attention to what is happening their eyes will open up and they will be scratching their heads or pulling their hair out and crying, depending where they live, and saying to themselves what has happened to this world? Are we living in a dream? Are we living in a Hollywood horror movie? What are we doing? What is happening? It is very thrilling to tell these predictions, these gruesome, terrible predictions, and then see them coming true, but it is not going to help us just to be afraid and to look at what is happening with wide eyes, not letting our minds try to understand, not letting our eyes give to our brains the understanding of the great complexity and depth of the destruction of this world that is happening now.

I know that only fear itself cannot bring a person to Teshuva, so let me explain to those of you who are real Jews, Jews with Jewish Neshomas that said Na'aseh Venishma under the mountain that Hashem raised over our heads at Har Sinai, I want to help you to come back to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, to trust Him that He is the Hakol Yachol, and that He will save us if we are with Him. It says in the Nevuas that two thirds of the world will be destroyed, one third completely, and one third will be in very bad condition, and one third will not be touched. Boruch Hashem, in that third that won't be touched is Eretz Yisroel. But we have to know how to understand all the amazingly horrific frightening things we are about to witness and we have to know when to rejoice upon seeing Moshiach, because if we do not know how to do Teshuva we will never be able to recognize Moshiach. Therefore, I want to give you some guidelines about how we have to live from this moment onwards and really we should have been living this way all the time and maybe we could have greeted Moshiach with more joy, with more happiness and without suffering so much.

Know, and believe, deeply that only Hashem is Hakol Yachol. No one, no Koach in the whole world, in all of existence can take His place, not our doctors and not our lawyers and not Social Security and not anyone can take His place. If we want a drink, it is not the grocery that is going to sell us a drink that is going to give us a drink. It's Hashem that gives us a drink. If we want to eat. The money that we earned isn't what gives us food. It's Hashem that gives us the money that gives us the food, and when we don’t have money, we beg Hashem to give us what to eat and He is also going to give us food. Do not worry. He is going to always be with us if we are with Him. You have to have total trust in Him in order to get by this next time in history. So trust in Hashem is the most important thing that we have to have in order to survive and greet Moshiach Tzidkainu.

Now we come to another aspect that we have to consider very seriously at this point in history and that is here in Eretz Yisroel, also in the world, but it's very pronounced now in Eretz Yisroel, there is a campaign going on to force the Frum Yidden to give up their Yiddishkeit. It's an evil consistent plan. The Knesset is passing one law after another that’s going to tell us that to be law abiding citizens we will have to agree to go to the Treif army where the lack of Kedusha is rampant. We're going to have to agree, Chas Vesholom, to let the Chilonim be in charge of Giur and Kedusha and Kashrus, Chas Vesholom. We are going to have to agree, Chas Vesholom, to all kinds of Gezairas they are going to try to force us to do to destroy our Yiddishkeit.

Their leaders are in a war against Hakodosh Boruch Hu which they can never win Be'ezras Hashem, but in order for us to survive we have to say "No we're not willing!" We're not willing for doctors to do the Bris Mila. We're not willing to eat from a Chiloni Hechsher etc. We are going to have to say no even if it endangers us. We are going to have to say no and we don’t have to be quiet about it and we are going to have to build our ghettoes and close ourselves in and make our own world where Torah rules, not a group of Edomim, Amalekim, and Erev Rav. We are Hashem's people. We must keep our Torah.

There are no compromises, not with the Goyim and not with the Erev Rav. We must say no and we must have Achdus. We don’t have to accept everybody for what they are. True we do on a certain level, but we don’t have to accept everybody that’s called a Jew and goes against Torah. We have to accept our brethren who are keeping Torah and not cause Machlokes between the Torah abiding Jews. We must not speak Loshon Hora or Rechilus or Motzi Shem Ra against Jews that probably were at Har Sinai, but when it comes to Jews who are going against the Torah and trying to force us to go against the Torah we have to treat them as total enemies because they are the enemies of Hashem and that makes them automatically our enemies and therefore we are going to have to trust Hashem and stand up and say no. And we know that by saying no all this nonsensical Gashmiusdik life we've been living here in the last thirty years is going to fall by the way and then we will have to trust only Hakodosh Boruch Hu which will be so hard for many people, but we are going to have to do it.

We are going to have to be willing to give up everything for our Torah. Many Jews have done this before us but we are a particularly spoiled generation and the idea of dying Al Kiddush Hashem, Shelo Naida, or living Al Kiddush Hashem which is more what Hashem is asking of us now, is very foreign. But the true Jew in one split second when he's put to the wall and they say to him "Eat Treif or we'll beat you," I am sure he will not eat Treif. If they take him and try to force him to do something against the Torah, I am sure he will take his beating, be put in jail, but will not go against the Torah. This will show who is a real Jew and who is an Erev Rav, who is willing to give up his regular life of what he thinks is security and a good Gashmiusdik level of life, willing to give it up for his Yiddishkeit. We're going to be asked to live Al Kiddush Hashem and therefore I'm telling you prepare yourselves. Also the Jews in Chutz Laaretz, you are also going to be asked to do that, only the Goyim will be even more vicious because the Goyim by nature are killers and Reshoim when it comes to Jews, not that we don’t have our share of Goyim, Erev Rav, and Amalaikim in Eretz Yisroel. We do have more than our share.

So, Am Yisroel, we are in a very difficult position, and this is the last time, the last time that we will be able to prove to Hashem that we are His Am Yisroel, and no one else will be so loyal to Him as we, and we will never, never ever even consider leaving His way.

When Moshiach comes Be'ezras Hashem life will be so totally different. Yes it's written that life will continue as usual. However I want you all to sit and think, think about it for a while, what would be life like without the Yetzer Hora and that’s what it's going to be, a life without the Yetzer Hora. Just imagine all the things during the day that you do that the Yetzer Hora pushes you to do because of your weaknesses and your fears, all kinds of things you say, all kinds of things you wish for, all kinds of things you think about without people knowing your thoughts. We do all kinds of things during our lives that are not up to our great standard and it's all from the Yetzer Hora pushing us, pushing us all the time, knowing our weak points and pushing us. Just think, just think very deeply what it will be like a life without the Yetzer Hora. When Moshiach comes, when the Geula arrives, Hashem is going to slaughter the Yetzer Hora and once you just think about this life without the Yetzer Hora then you will only begin to know what paradise we are going into. And as we live during the time of Moshiach we are going to go higher and higher spiritually, all our lives are going to be around growing spiritually because the higher we go the more Hana'ah (spiritual pleasure) we feel, the closer we get to our source and that is the greatest pleasure in the world.

Do you realize that Olam Habah, Gan Eden, Gehenom, Shelo Naida, is very very close to us. We just can't see it. It's not one hundred miles away or a thousand miles away or a million miles away. It's here, close to us. When we leave this world, we just slide into the other world. Some people have a hard time because they are so attached to this world, so it's hard for them to schlep themselves from this world to that world, but once we get there we are not far away. We're never far away from this world.

The way the next world is going to be I can only tell you in a very small way. We have millions of dimensions. We know three dimensions, but we know there are millions and millions of dimensions that Hashem has created. As we move from this world to the world of Moshiach, we are going to go into a new dimension because this world that we are in now is also only an illusion. The stars the moon the planets etc., they are creations of Hakodosh Boruch Hu for our benefit during these thousands of years that we exist as human beings upon this earth, and when we are finished with this world that we know now, this part of this creation, we will go into another realm, another dimension. It still will be a familiar dimension because still it will be something close to where we were.

But if you only think about it, the human beings of today with what happened in Japan with the nuclear explosion in Fukushima that’s poisoning the whole Pacific Ocean and beyond, how can we live in a world that will probably have some kind of nuclear war and all kinds of destruction that we can't control? Even if Eretz Yisroel is not touched, still it will affect the whole entire world. I laugh at all the countries that want to send space ships to mars and all these places. What are they doing? They are just building a Migdal Bavel. It's ridiculous. There's nowhere they can go. It's only a backdrop. Its only scenery that Hashem created in our world, so this play that we are acting in can go on and be understood and get to its point and get to its Tikkun, but now we are going to move into a new dimension a dimension of spirituality above materialism and in this world we're going to revel in the heat the warmth of the Or Hakodosh. We're going to rise and rise higher and higher and closer and closer to our source, but that’s only the beginning and it's going to go on and on for eternity, continual pleasure. It certainly will be better than the suffering that we have suffered throughout the Golus, and also throughout even the better times from Avrohom Ovinu till the Churban of the second Bais Hamikdosh. It wasn’t easy ever and this won't be easy either, but it will be without suffering. We'll want to go higher. We will desire to go higher, and we will go higher.

I am so longing for that time, longing to finally achieve that closeness with Hashem.

Parshat Metzora 5774

4 Nisan 5774
Erev Shabbat Kodesh


Parashat Metzora: Leprosy and Israel
by Daniel Pinner

Dedicated to the memory of Barry (Baruch Leib) Hoffmann z”l, who passed away last Friday, 26th Adar II (28th March). Yehi zichro baruch.

The Torah began speaking about tzara’at (usually, though inaccurately, rendered as “leprosy”) back in Parashat Tazria (13:1), and this somewhat unappetizing subject will continue until the end of Chapter 14 – about two-thirds of Parashat Metzora – after which the Torah will continue with male and female bodily discharges and their aftermaths.

After dealing with the tzara’at-affliction of human bodies, the Torah continues by speaking about the tzara’at-affliction of houses: “Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aaron saying: When you come to the Land of Canaan, which I give you as a holding, and I will give a tzara’at-affliction in a house of the Land of your holding, then he whose house it is will come and tell the Kohen [Priest] saying: Something akin to an affliction has appeared to me in the house” (Leviticus 14:33-35).

Coming in the midst of the subject of tzara’at-affliction – and the equally unappetizing subjects that the Torah deals with in somewhat gruesome detail both before and after – the phrase “when you come to the Land of Canaan…” seems out of place.

The Ibn Ezra (Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, Spain, Morocco, England, Israel, and France, 1092-1167) explains: “The implication of ‘when you come to the Land of Canaan’ is that this applies solely in the Land, because of the great elevatedness of the Land, because there the Holy Temple is in their midst, and [God’s] glory is in the midst of the Holy Temple”. Like so much of what the Ibn Ezra writes, this comment is like a flash of lightning: brief, burning in its intensity, and so dazzling in its brilliance as to illuminate an entire landscape.

Clearly, the affliction of tzara’at affects people and houses solely within the Land of Israel. So here, we have a simple way of avoiding this most hideous of afflictions: stay outside of Israel. Remain in the desert, remain in Egypt (or America, or France, or England, or wherever), and you will never have to face this disgusting disfigurement.

This does not seem to be a particularly good marketing ploy for Aliyah: “Come to Israel – and experience bodily disfigurements, pus, sores, and boils! Only in the Holy Land can you undergo the novelty of God turning your house, your garments, and your body weird colours if you disobey certain Mitzvot!” I venture to suggest that any advertising executive would strongly advise Nefesh B’Nefesh or the Aliyah Department of the Jewish Agency that this is poor salesmanship. Was this really the best timing for telling the Jews what awaited them in Israel?

I suggest the following explanation: the phrase el eretz K’na’an (“to the land of Canaan”) occurs only twice in the entire Torah – here, and in the verse “Hashem spoke to Moshe in the plains of Moab, by the Jordan, at Jericho, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you pass over the Jordan to the land of Canaan, you shall dispossess all the inhabitants of the Land before you, and eliminate all their figured stones, and all their molten images shall you eliminate, and all their idolatrous altars shall you demolish” (Numbers 33:50-52).

This, too, seems to be a somewhat discouraging message: after forty years wandering through the desert, the Jews surely wanted to enter the Land of Israel peacefully, to rest at last, to start building for their future. But God instructs Moshe to warn them that immediately upon entering their Land, they would have to wage war. Is this really the best message to give? Come home to Israel – and there, instead of living in tranquility as you do in the desert, with no enemies around you, you will have to fight for your lives and for your homes, you can have the privilege of having friends and family – perhaps yourself! – killed in battle. Is this really the sort of message that is designed to promote Aliyah?

The answer is a resounding Yes! The very words “to the land of Canaan” should evoke in every Jew such a yearning, that he will long even for these tribulations. “God gave the Jews three wonderful gifts, but all can be acquired only through suffering: the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World to Come” (Brachot 5a, Shmot Rabbah 1:1, and Tanhuma, Shmot 1), and undergoing the suffering to earn any of these gifts is not merely a worthwhile price to pay, but an honour to undergo.

Basic training may not be everyone’s idea of fun – but it is an honour to have undergone that grueling mission for the sake of the Land of Israel. The affliction of tzara’at may be unappealing, but better to suffer this affliction in Israel than to be bodily healthy anywhere else. True, you can avoid it completely by remaining in the desert, in exile – but then, neither will you experience the sanctity and glory of the Shekhinah, which can exist solely in the Land of Israel.

Indeed, other midrashim give an added dimension to the three divine gifts: “God gave the Jews three wonderful gifts, and the nations of the world lust after them, and all can be acquired only through suffering: the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World to Come” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Yitro 10; Sifrei, Deuteronomy 32; Yalkut Shimoni, Exodus 303).

Over and over again in the two parashot Tazria and Metzora, the Torah decrees that only a Kohen is authorised to pronounce whether or not a disfigurement constitutes tzara’at. As the Rambam expresses it in the Mishneh Torah, “Even though all are qualified to see the afflictions, ritual impurity and purity depend upon the Kohen. How does this work? – If a Kohen does not know how to see [and identify the signs], then a Sage looks and tells him: ‘Say it is impure!’, and the Kohen says, ‘Impure!’. [The Sage says], ‘Say it is pure!’, and the Kohen says, ‘Pure!’. [The Sage says], ‘Isolate him!’, and he isolates him, as it says ‘according to their [the Kohanim’s] word shall be every controversy and every affliction’ (Deuteronomy 21:5)” (Laws of Tzara’at-Affliction 9:2).

The Midrash relates that “a certain Kohen who would see the tzara’at-afflictions became impoverished, so he decided to leave Israel. He called his wife and said to her: Because people have become accustomed to come to me for me to see their tzara’at-afflictions, it is difficult for me to leave them. So come, and I will teach you so that you will be able to discern the signs of the tzara’at-afflictions: if you see that the well-springs of a person’s hair have dried up then you will know that he is affected, because God has created a separate well-spring [in medical terms, a follicle] for every single hair to drink from. If the well-spring dries up, then the hair dries up. His wife said to him: Well, if God has created a separate well-spring for every single hair to drink from, then you, who are a human – how many hairs do you have?! And your children rely upon you for their sustenance! Will God not all the more so ensure your income?! And so she did not allow him to leave Israel” (Tanhuma, Tazria 6).

This Kohen’s wife understood – and taught her husband – that we can learn God’s love and protection for us even from the laws of tzara’at and the signs of its afflictions.

The Land of Israel is such a wonderful gift that every Jew should be willing to live here, even knowing that here he will be punished for his sins in a way that cannot happen anywhere else. Because here, every Jew will also receive rewards that he cannot even conceive of anywhere else; and here, and nowhere else, every Jew can bask in the holiness of the Shekhinah.