"אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר"
“When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male.” (12:2)

QUESTION: Parshat Shemini concludes with the topic of kosher and non-kosher foods. What is the connection between the end of Parshat Shemini and the beginning of Tazria, which discusses child-birth?

ANSWER: The Torah is teaching us that the parents’ obligation to a child does not begin when he is born, but exists even when he is in his mother’s womb. The pregnant mother must be careful with the food she eats, because it can have a positive or negative effect on the child, depending on whether it is kosher or not.

In the Gemara (Yoma 82b) there is a story about a pregnant woman who overcame her desire to eat on Yom Kippur and later gave birth to the great sage Rabbi Yochanan. Another pregnant woman, who was unable to suppress her desire, gave birth to a rasha who was known as “Shabbatai Otzar Peirot” (the hoarder of produce [for speculation]).

The last pasuk of Shemini, which sums up the laws concerning kosher and non-kosher food, alludes to the above:

In Hebrew, a woman who gives birth is known as “chayah.” Thus, the Torah tells us: “lehavdil bein hatamei uvein hatahor” — “to distinguish between the pure (child) and, G‑d forbid, the contaminated (child)” — is contingent on “uvein hachayah hane’echelet” — “the distinction between a ‘chayah,’ — a mother who was lax during pregnancy in the observance of kashrut” — “uvein hachayah asher lo tei’acheil” — “and a mother who was careful not to eat food of questionable kashrut” (11:47).

(ר' עקיבא ז"ל איגר)


"אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר"
“When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male.” (12:2)

QUESTION: In the Gemara (Niddah 30b) Rabbi Simlai, describes the unborn child in the mother’s womb, as follows: “There is a lit candle on its head by means of which he sees from one end of the world to the other.” What is the significance of this description?

ANSWER: The words of Rabbi Simlai can be explained metaphorically. The lit candle represents Torah and mitzvot, as the pasuk says, “For a mitzvah is a candle, and Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23). Every person has the mission of enhancing the world with the light of his Torah and mitzvot. Before birth, Hashem gives him the opportunity to “see” the world in its entirety, and He declares, “Through your Torah and mitzvot, you have the potential to master the entire world, providing that you influence it and not permit it to influence you.”


"אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר"
“When a woman conceives, and gives birth to a male.” (12:2)

QUESTION: It would have been sufficient to omit the reference to conception and say “If a woman gives birth to a male”?

ANSWER: The first letters of the words "כי תזריע וילדה זכר" spell the word zechut (זכות) — “merit.”

The woman is known as the “akeret habayit” — “principal of of the home” (Bereishit 31:4, Rashi). While the husband is usually away from the home earning a livelihood, it is the mother who spends her time raising the child, and instills in him a love for Torah andmitzvot, thereby properly shaping his character.

The Torah is therefore alluding to the fact that the child’s righteousness is in the zechut of his devoted and dedicated mother.

(מיוסד על נחל קדומים להחיד"א)


"אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר... וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו"
“When a woman conceives, and gives birth to a male... On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (12:2-3)

QUESTION: Why is circumcision mentioned in the middle of the parshah pertaining to a woman who gives birth?

ANSWER: At every brit milah it is customary for a woman to take the child from the mother and bring him to the entrance of the room where the brit will take place. Afterwards, her husband takes the child and brings him into the brit room. The man and woman so honored are called the “kvater” and “kvaterin.”

Although only the father is obligated to circumcise the child, the command to circumcise, occurring in the parshah discussing the laws of childbirth — and so dealing with women — is a hint for the custom that a woman should also participate in the brit.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"ב ע' 56)

* * *

QUESTION: What is the meaning of the word “kvater (קוואטער)?”

ANSWER: The honor given to the woman is to take the child from the mother and bring him to the door of the room where the brit will take place. She stops at the entrance to the room, because it is improper for a woman to be among men. The man carries the child from the door into the room. The word “kvater” is a merging of the words “kavod” (כבוד) — “honor” — and “tir” (טיר) — “door” — the honor of bringing the child to the door (of the brit room), and the honor of bringing the child from the door into the room for the brit.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"ב ע' 56)


"וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו"
“On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (12:3)

QUESTION: Why is it customary to recite the Shema to a baby on the night before his brit?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachot 13a) explains that the reason we recite the portion of “Shema Yisrael” before the portion of“Vehayah im shamo’ah” is so that one should first accept upon himself the yoke of Heaven and afterwards the yoke of mitzvot.

The following morning the child will be performing his first mitzvah, the mitzvah of circumcision; therefore, Shema is recited the night before, so that he should accept the yoke of Heaven before accepting the yoke of mitzvot.

(ר' פינחס זצ"ל מקאריץ)


"וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו"
“On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (12:3)

QUESTION: Why is the ceremony called brit milah?

ANSWER: There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah; one of them is the mitzvah of circumcision. On the eighth day, the child fulfills the mitzvah of milah but still has 612 mitzvot to fulfill. The word “brit” (ברית) whose numerical value is 612, reminds the child of all the remaining mitzvot.

(עי' פרדס יוסף, שמות ד:כד דמצות מילה מקיים הקטן וראי' מרש"י חולין מ"ז ע"ב ד"ה המתינו ועי' לקוטי שיחות חי"א ע' 45)


"וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו"
“And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (12:3)

QUESTION: At a brit the moheil recites the berachah, “vitzivanu al hamilah” — “Commanding us concerning circumcision.” Immediately afterwards, the father recites the berachah “vitzivanu lehachniso bivrito shel Avraham Avinu — “And commands us to enter him into the Covenant of Avraham our father.” Why the redundancy of the commandment to perform of a brit?

ANSWER: The “Covenant of Avraham our father” may not only mean circumcision but may also refer to the Brit Bein Habetarim (the Covenant Between the Divided Parts). At that time Hashem told Avraham about the trials and tribulations that would confront the Jewish people during their exile in Egypt and other future exiles (Bereishit 15:12, Rashi). He promised him that nevertheless, “And afterwards they will go out with great wealth” (15:14), providing they remain steadfast in their observance of Torah.

At the brit the father proclaims that, regardless of the difficulties his son may encounter as a result of his Torah observance, he will bring him into the covenant between Hashem and Avraham and will do everything possible to raise him as a Torah-true Jew.


"וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו"
“On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (12:3)

QUESTION: At a brit it is customary for everyone present to proclaim: “Just as he is entered into the covenant, so may he enter into Torah, and into marriage, and into good deeds.”

Why do we associate these three things with the brit?

ANSWER: The circumcision done at the brit is permanent. Once it is performed, it cannot be changed in any way. Those present at the brit express a threefold blessing and prayer for the child. First, just as the brit is permanent, so his connection to Torah should be everlasting. Secondly, the person he marries should be his permanent companion. The third and concluding blessing is that throughout his lifetime he should constantly perform good deeds.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי)

* * *

Alternatively, the first mitzvah in which the child is involved is a brit. Due to his young age, his parents must take an active role in the planning and preparation. When it comes toYiddishkeit, many parents have a tendency to say, “When our child will become older, he will make his own decisions.” Therefore, all present at the brit call out to the parents: “Kesheim shenichnas labrit” — just as at the brit the parents were actively involved — “kein yikaneis leTorah ulechupa ulema’asim tovim” — so too, when the son reaches the age of Torah study and marriage and good deeds, the parents should be actively involved in all of his decisions.

* * *

Alternatively, considering the young and tender age of the child, the shedding of his blood is a very difficult experience. Nevertheless, the child is subjected to it and thereby becomes a full-fledged member of K’lal Yisrael. The message of this pronouncement is that just as he has mesirat nefesh to fulfill his first mitzvah of the Torah, likewise, when it comes to Torah study, conducting his marriage according to Torah, and the performance of good deeds — he should not permit anything to hinder him and indeed, even be prepared for mesirat nefesh.

* * *

Alternatively, this is a blessing to all those present at the child’s first simchah, that just as they are here today, they should live and be healthy to witness and participate in his introduction to Torah study, his wedding, and his performance of good deeds for many years.


"וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו"
“On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (12:3)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Menachot 43b) relates that, when King David was in the bathhouse unclothed, he proclaimed, “Woe to me; I am now naked of mitzvot.” As soon as he recalled the mitzvah of brit milah, he regained his composure. Why did this occur in the bathhouse and not at other times when he was unclothed?

ANSWER: The reference to a bathhouse is metaphorical. King David was a great tzaddik and, from time to time, he would “visit the bathhouse” — he would undergo self-introspection, examining his deeds to see if they were “clean,” devoid of ulterior motives and done purely for the sake of Heaven.

Once, during this evaluation he became apprehensive that his mitzvot were not performed from pure intentions. He reminded himself of the mitzvah of brit milah, and in this he found comfort, because it was definitely one mitzvah performed without any ulterior motives.

(חתם סופר)

* * *

This thought deepens our understanding of the blessing recited at a brit: “Just as he has entered into the covenant, so may he enter into Torah and into marriage, and into good deeds.” The child is blessed: Just as he has entered into the brit without any ulterior thoughts, so throughout his entire life may he do everything solely for the sake of Hashem.

(טעמי המנהגים בשם ר' ברוך זצ"ל ממעזעביז)


"וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו"
“And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (12:3)

QUESTION: To comply with the rule of “zerizim makdimim lemitzvot” — “the zealous rise early to fulfill a mitzvah” — it is customary to make abrit early in the morning (see Pesachim 4a). Why do some, people make it later in the morning or in the afternoon?

ANSWER: In halachah, besides the ruling of “zerizin makdimim lemitzvot” — “the zealous rise early to fulfill a mitzvah” — there is also the pronouncement, “berov am hadrat melech” — “a large crowd gives the most glory to the king.” In general, the halachah of “zerizin makdimim lemitzvot” supersedes the halachah of “berov am hadrat melech.” This is substantiated by the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 32b), which states that on Rosh Hashanah the shofar is sounded during the musaf prayers, while on Yom Tov the Hallel is recited during theshacharit prayers.

The Gemara explains that the reason for saying Hallel during shacharit is because “zerizin makdimim lemitzvot” and the reason for blowing shofar during mussaf is, “berov am hadrat melech.” If so, the Gemara asks, why don’t we apply the rule of “zerizin makdimim lemitzvot” also to shofar and blow it during shacharit? The Gemara answers that there was a time when the government officials banned the blowing of shofar and were on the alert the entire morning. It was therefore postponed to the musaf prayers. From this we can conclude that, were it not for this reason, the shofar would have been blown in the morning because of “zerizin makdimim lemitzvot,” though in the afternoon there is the advantage of “berov am hadrat melech.”

The Gemara (Shabbat 130a) says that all the mitzvot which the Jewish people accepted with joy, such asmilah — as King David says regarding milah, “I rejoice over Your word like one who finds abundant spoils” (Psalms 119:162) — they are still performing with joy.

“Your word,” in singular, implies a single “word” (commandment) — one that was incumbent upon the Jews before any other. This “word” is milah, which was commanded to our patriarch Avraham (Bereishit ch. 17). Rashi explains that the uniqueness of the mitzvah of milah is that no other mitzvah so clearly identifies the Jew as a member of Hashem’s people. The brit milah is the only mitzvah which the Jew carries as a sign with him constantly and forever. Rashi also explains that the simchah with which we still perform it is “the making of a festive meal.”

Given the emphasis on simchah — happiness and joy — the mitzvah of brit milah may be an exception in regard to the priority of the “zerizim” — “early” — ruling over the “berov am” — “crowd” — ruling. Consequently, if making the brit later in the day would bring more guests and especially ones who would be sorely missed if they could not attend, it may be made at a later hour in the day.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ז ע' 306)

* * *

The Gemara (Pesachim 4a) says, “the entire day is valid for circumcision, except that the zealous are early to perform mitzvot, as it is stated: “And Avraham arose early in the morning” (Bereishit 22:3). Therefore, it is the custom to make a brit early in the morning on the eighth day.

The first person to have his brit on the eighth day was the patriarch Yitzchak. At the time of the brit, seven days and eight nights have passed, a total of 180 hours. In the merit of Avraham making it early in the morning, Yitzchak lived 180 years.

(נחל קדומים)


"וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו"
“On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (12:3)

QUESTION: Why do we only wait eight days for a brit, but 30 days for a pidyon haben?

ANSWER: Within eight days, it can usually be established if the child is healthy and viable. However, there is a minority of infants for whom this cannot be determined before 30 days. Therefore, since the pidyon haben involves money (the father has to pay the Kohen five sela’im), and “Ein holchin bemamon achar harov” — “in money matters [we must be absolutely sure] and cannot rely on a majority” (Bava Kamma 27b) — we wait the full 30 days to be certain that the child is healthy and viable.

(מקור ברוך)


"ובמלאת ימי טהרה לבן או לבת תביא כבש בן שנתו לעלה ובן יונה או תר לחטאת"
“Upon the completion of the days of her purity for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring a sheep within its first year for a burnt-offering, and a young dove or turtledoves for a sin-offering.” (12:6)

QUESTION: Why does a “yoledet” — a woman who has given birth — need to bring two offerings?

ANSWER: When Chava ate the forbidden fruit, Hashem cursed her: “I will greatly increase your suffering and your childbearing; in pain shall you bear children” (Bereishit 3:16). Prior to her sin she gave birth painlessly, but afterwards she and every woman were to experience the pain of childbirth.

The Gemara (Niddah 31b) says that due to these pains, a woman during childbirth vows not to have relations with her husband and to cease childbearing. After the birth she regrets her words and, therefore, has to bring an offering to atone for making an unnecessary vow.

Since, the sin of the vow was ultimately caused by Chava, this offering also serves as forgiveness of Chava’s iniquity, which actually was twofold:

1) “The woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight to the eyes.”

2) “And she took of its fruit and ate” (Bereishit 3:6).

The first sin was through machashavah — thought — and the second was through ma’aseh — actual deed.

A karban olah — burnt-offering — atones for hirhurei haleiv — sinful ideas or thoughts (Midrash Rabbah 7:3), and a karban chatat — sin-offering — atones for sins actually performed.

Thus, the “yoledet” brings two offerings: one for Chava’s wrongdoing committed through thought and the other for her wrongdoing through action.

(שם משמואל)

Alternatively, her actual swearing to forgo marital relations with her husband was preceded by the resolution she made in her mind while in the throes of excruciating pain. Consequently, because she first resolved the matter in her mind and afterwards actually swore, she brings two sacrifices.

(כלי יקר)


"אדם כי יהיה בעור בשרו שאת או ספחת או בהרת"
“When a man will have in the skin of his flesh a scab as the whiteness of natural wool, or the color of snow, or a bright spot.” (13:2)

QUESTION: The Ba’alei Mesorah point out three additional pesukim with the word Adam”:

“Adam ki yakriv mikem karban” — “When a man among you brings an offering” (Vayikra 1:2).

“Adam ki yamut be’ohel — “When a man dies in a tent” (Bamidbar 19:14).

“Adamuveheimah toshia Hashem” — “Man and beast you deliver, O G‑d” (Psalms 36:7).

What concept is common to these four pesukim?

ANSWER: A question was posed: What penalty is appropriate for the sinning soul? Prophecy(nevu’ah) answered; “The soul who sins should be put to death. Wisdom (chachmah) answered; “The sinning soul should be punished with suffering.” Torah responded; “He should bring a sacrifice and he will be forgiven.” Hashem Himself said; “The sinner should repent and he will be pardoned” (see Jerusalem Talmud, Makot 2:6).

The above four pesukim correspond to the four answers. The pasuk “When a man among you brings an offering” corresponds to the view that the sinner gains forgiveness through the offering of a sacrifice. The pasuk which discusses the laws of the person who is inflicted with a skin disease, corresponds to prescribing suffering as a remedy for sin. The pasuk, “When a man dies in a tent” intimates that a sinner should be put to death.

According to these three opinions, either man or animal suffers. The fourth pasuk, “Man and beast you deliver, O G‑d,” is Hashem’s advice that the sinner should do teshuvah and he will be pardoned. Thus, neither man or animal need suffer.

(גבורת שלמה)


"והיה בעור בשרו לנגע צרעת"
“And it will be in the skin of his flesh the plague of leprosy.” (13:2)

QUESTION: The word “Vehayah” denotes simchah — joy (see Midrash Rabbah Vayikra 11:7). Where is the joy in being afflicted with leprosy?

ANSWER: The leprosy discussed in the Torah is not the well-known disease of that name, but rather a form of punishment meted out to those guilty of lashon hara — evil talk (Arachin 15b).

A violation of the Torah is a serious matter, and the violator deserves to be penalized. The speaker of lashon hara should be happy that his penalty spares his internal organs and is only skin deep.

(זכרון אלעזר)


"והובא אל אהרן הכהן"
“And he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen.” (13:2)

QUESTION: Why concerning leprosy in the skin does it say “vehuva” — “and he shall be brought” — while concerning a leprosy affliction on a house it says, uba asher lo habayit” — “the one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen” (14:35)?

ANSWER: The afflictions of leprosy discussed in Parshiot Tazria and Metzora are not conventional diseases. Tzara’at is a Heavenly punishment for selfish behavior and gossip, one designed to help the afflicted person do teshuvah and resolve to correct his ways.

Although in the Torah the halachot of bodily leprosy, are discussed first, Hashem is merciful and in actuality the person’s house is afflicted first. Afterwards, if this does not help, his garments are afflicted, and if the person still does not repent, then the person himself become afflicted with leprosy (Rambam, Tumat Tzara’at 16:10).

Usually, one whose home is stricken realizes that he is receiving a sign from Heaven and, therefore, “he comes to theKohen,” who is the spiritual mentor of the people, seeking his advice and guidance. However, an actual leper already has received two “reminders” from Hashem, and apparently he is stubborn in his ways and does not want to recognize the supremacy of Heaven or the authority of the Kohen; therefore, “vehuva el haKohen”“he shall be brought to the Kohen” — by his friends and relatives.

(שמע שלמה)


"והובא אל אהרן הכהן או אל אחד מבניו הכהנים"
“He shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen or to one of his sons the Kohanim.” (13:2)

QUESTION: Since every Kohen is qualified to rule on leprosy, why is Aharon specified in addition to all the other Kohanim?

ANSWER: Aharon epitomized the love of people and the pursuit of peace (see Pirkei Avot 1:12). When he knew of a quarreling family or friends, he would work tirelessly to reconcile them. At times it would be necessary to conceal information or even deviate somewhat from the truth. He would tell each estranged friend of the other’s deep regrets and desire to renew the friendship.

Leprosy is caused through lashon hara — evil talk against a person (Arachin 15b). Often, a tale-bearer justifies his actions, claiming that he is actually performing a mitzvah by telling the truth and that he is motivated by love and concern. Thus, he rationalizes that he is causing no harm and indeed, the individual ultimately will rectify his ways.

Therefore, the Torah prescribes bringing the leper to Aharon to learn the lesson that the greatest lover of peace did not accomplish it through lashon hara. It is also a message to the sinner that Hashem prefers the ways of Aharon, which bring peace, over the “truth” of the tale-bearer, which destroys families and relationships.

(ויקהל משה)


"וראה הכהן את הנגע... נגע צרעת הוא וראהו הכהן וטמא אתו"
“And the Kohen shall look at the plague... it is a plague of leprosy; and the Kohen shall look on him and pronounce him unclean.” (13:3)

QUESTION: Why are the words “vera’ah haKohen” — “the Kohen shall look” — repeated?

ANSWER: According to halachah (Rambam, Tumat Tzara’at 9:8), in addition to examining the plague in the skin, the Kohen has to consider the personal status of the individual. For instance, if a man is in the midst of his seven days of rejoicing as a groom-bride, the Kohen does not declare him unclean and send him out of the camp until the seven days are completed. Likewise, the Kohen waits until after Yom Tov is over before examining possible lepers (ibid. 9:7).

The Torah alludes to this by first telling us: “vera'ah haKohen et hanega” — “The Kohen shall have a look and examine the plague on the skin.” Another prerequisite is that “vera’ahuhaKohen” the Kohen must see him — the individual. Only after taking into consideration both factors may he pronounce him unclean.

(משך חכמה)


"ושער בנגע הפך לבן... נגע צרעת הוא וראהו הכהן וטמא אתו"
“If hair in the plague is turned white... it is a plague of leprosy; and the Kohen shall look on him and pronounce him unclean.” (13:3)

QUESTION: The color white is usually considered a sign of purity and taharah (cleanliness). Why is it a sign of tumah (defilement) in nega’im?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Arachin 16a) one of the reasons for which a person may get a nega is tzarat ayin — stinginess. A person who is stingy does not give tzedakah whole-heartedly, often embarrassing the poor man with his attitude.

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 58b) says that if someone causes his friend to be embarrassed in public, it is as though he killed him, because the one who is embarrassed blushes, and blood rushes to his face (as if trying to leave of the body). Then his face pales as blood rushes to other parts of the body, and it takes on the ashen, pallid appearance of a corpse.

Since a punishment is midah keneged midah (similar to the crime): when he becomes white, it is a sign that his teshuvah is incomplete and he is still being punished for making a person turn pale.

(פרדס יוסף)

* * *

Alternatively, The plague of leprosy is not the familiar disease of that name. It is a punishment for lashon hara — evil talk — or haughtiness, or stinginess (Arachin 16a). When a person is young, his hair is usually dark. As he ages, gray and white hairs begin to appear. Consequently, when the Kohen examines the leper and notices that two white hairs have appeared in the plague, it is a sign that instead of repenting, this person is regressing and “aging” in his wrongdoings. Therefore, the Kohen pronounces him unclean.

(חידושי הגאונים על עין יעקב ב"מ דף פ"ו)


"נגע צרעת כי תהיה באדם והובא אל הכהן"
“When a man is afflicted with leprosy he shall be brought to the Kohen.” (13:9)

QUESTION: Na’aman, the General of the armies of the King of Aram, became a leper. His king sent him to Achav the King of the Jews to heal him. Achav was unable to do anything, but the prophet Elisha sent word to send Na’aman to him. When Na’aman arrived at his door, Elisha sent instructions that he wash himself seven times in the Jordan river. Na’aman, who anticipated that Elisha would heal him by placing a hand on the stricken area, reluctantly followed instructions and was healed.

Why did Elisha volunteer to help Na’aman, and why did he use the waters of the Jordan?

ANSWER: Elisha analyzed the name “Na’aman” (נעמן) and found that there were only three pesukim in the Torah which start with a "נ", end with a "ן", and have an "ע" and a "מ" somewhere in the middle:

"נגע צרעת כי תהיה באדם והובא אל הכהן" — “When a man is afflicted with leprosy he shall be brought to the Kohen.” (13:9)

"נביא מקרבך מאחיך כמני יקים לך ה' אלקיך אליו תשמעון" — “A prophet from your midst, from your brothers, like me, shall G‑d, your G‑d, establish for you — to him shall you hearken” (Devarim 18:15).

"נחנו נעבר חלוצים לפני ה' ארץ כנען ואתנו אחזת נחלתנו מעבר לירדן" — “We shall cross over, armed, before G‑d to the land of Canaan, and ours shall be the possession of our inheritance across the Jordan” (Bamidbar 32:32).

Elisha learned from this that when Naman (נעמן) will become a leper (1st pasuk), a navi will heal him (2nd pasuk) through the waters of the Jordan (3rd pasuk).

(מגלה עמוקות)


"ואם פרוח תפרח הצרעת בעור וכסתה הצרעת את כל עור הנגע מראשו ועד רגליו לכל מראה עיני הכהן וראה הכהן והנה כסתה הצרעת את כל בשרו וטהר את הנגע"
“And if the leprosy will erupt on the skin and the leprosy will cover the entire skin of the afflicted person, from his head to his feet, wherever the eyes of Kohen can see, the Kohen shall look and, behold, if the leprosy has covered his entire flesh, he shall pronounce the affliction clean.” (13:12-13)

QUESTION: If the leprosy has covered his entire body, why does he become clean? It should be just the opposite: The more leprosy, the more contamination?

ANSWER: The Torah says that during the period of confinement, “The leper’s clothing shall be torn, the hair of his head shall be unshorn, he shall cover up his upper lip, and he is to call out: ‘Unclean, unclean’” (13:45). What is the reason for this procedure?

The leper is considered dangerous to society. He mingles in the community and presents himself as a fine person, but in reality he is corrupt and has a bad influence upon others. Therefore, the rending of his garments is an allusion that his facade shall be removed. Letting the hair of his head go unshorn indicates that his thoughts are erroneous and should not be accepted. Covering his upper lip indicates that his mouth must be closed so that he may not disseminate his corrupt philosophy. Finally, to make sure that people keep their distance, he must announce that he is unclean.

It is easy for a hypocrite to mislead innocent people by accentuating his good qualities. A hypocrite is compared to the quintessentially non-kosher swine. Though it does not chew its cud, it does have split hooves, which it displays to prove that it has a kosher sign (see Bereishit 26:34 Rashi).

Consequently, as long as part of the leper’s body has still not been plagued, people may see good, healthy things in him and be influenced by him. Once leprosy has broken out over his entire body and he no longer is able to conceal it, everybody will recognize his falsehood, and stay away from him.

(שערי שמחה - לוח ארז)


"והתגלח"
“And then he shall shave himself.” (13:33)

QUESTION: Why is the word “vehitgalach” — “and he shall shave himself” — written with a large "ג"?

ANSWER: Except in a leap year, Parshat Tazria is read after Pesach during the Sefirah period, when it is forbidden to take haircuts. Precluded from this prohibition are the 33rd day of the Omer counting (Lag BaOmer) and the three days before Shavuot (sheloshet yemai 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 pasuk in chapter 13 of Chumash Vayikra. This alludes to the fact that on the 33rd day (Lag BaOmer) it is permitted to take a haircut. The large "ג"alludes 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 gematriya 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.”

The large "ג" in the word vehitgalach may also be a hint to the custom to make the upsherinish (first haircut) for a boy three years old, (born after Pesach), on Lag BaOmer.

(פרדס יוסף ועי' היום יום ג' סיון)


"והצרוע אשר בו הנגע בגדיו יהיו פרמים וראשו יהיה פרוע"
“And the leper that has the plague, his clothes shall be torn and the hair of his head shall be unshorn.” (13:45)

QUESTION: From the extra "ה" (it could have said וצרוע) the Gemara (Mo’eid Katan 14b) derives that this law also applies to a Kohen Gadol who became a leper.

There is a question in the Gemara about whether a leper must observe his restrictions (not to come into the camp, not to shave) if Yom Tov falls during his period of leprosy. Based on the Kohen Gadol’s obligation to observe these restrictions when hebecomes a leper, though the entire year to him is like Yom Tov (as demonstrated by his permission to offer sacrifices even when he is an onein — a mourner whose dead is still unburied), the Gemara derives that a leper must obey his restrictions even during Yom Tov.

According to halachah, if one sees signs of leprosy during Yom Tov, the Kohen is not to examine it until after Yom Tov (Tumat Tzara’at 9:7). If so, how is it possible that a Kohen Gadol be declared a leper if the entire year is like Yom Tov for him?

ANSWER: It is possible for a Kohen Gadol to become a leper in the following manner:

A Kohen Hedyot — ordinary Kohen — showed his signs of leprosy to another Kohen, who declared him “defiled.” Afterwards, the examining Kohen became ill, and in his absence, another Kohen examined him and declared him “clean,” and he is appointed Kohen Gadol.

Immediately afterwards, it is verified that the second examining Kohen (who declared him clean) was a chalal (son of a Kohen who was the product of a marriage forbidden to a Kohen) and therefore unqualified to rule in these matters and the rulings he made are invalid (see Minchat Chinuch 169:13). Consequently, we revert to the decision of the first examining Kohen (who declared him unclean). Although our Kohen is presently a Kohen Gadol, he is obligated to observe the laws of a leper until he is declared clean.

(דורש לציון דרוש שלישי, פרדס יוסף)


"וראה הכהן... והנה לא הפך הנגע את עינו... טמא הוא"
“And the Kohen shall see...the plague has not changed its appearance... it is contaminated.” (13:55)

QUESTION: The word “eino” usually means “his eye.” Since the meaning here is “appearance,” it should say “marito” — “its appearance”?

ANSWER: Being afflicted with bodily scars is not merely a form of punishment. It is hoped that when a person sees unusual bodily changes, he will reflect on his conduct, repent, and improve his ways.

The words "נגע" (plague) and "ענג" (delight) are spelled with the same three letters. The only difference is that in oneg the "ע" is at the beginning, and in “nega” it is at the end. When a person does teshuvah following affliction with leprosy, his נגע becomes an .ענג When the Kohen examines the person who had the "נגע" and he sees that “lo hapach hanega” — “the nega (נגע) did not reverse” — “et eino” (את עינו) — “the position of the "ע" — it is a sign that the person did not do proper teshuvah and remains contaminated.

(הרב זלמן ז"ל מרגליות)

* * *

Alternatively, the Gemara (Arachin 16a) says that tzara’at is not a bodily disease, but a physical manifestation of a spiritual malaise. The primary causes are ga’avah — arrogance, lashon hara — spreading slander — and tzarat ayin — stinginess.

A Jew should strive to emulate our father Avraham and also look with an ayin tovah — good eye. One must not have an ayin ra’ah — evil eye — (Avot 5:22) like the students of Billam.

Basically, the three causes of tzara’at stem from lack of a “good eye” with which to see and perceive.

Arrogance is possible only when one “sees” everyone as insignificant and inferior to oneself. Slander occurs because one “sees” the others actions as evil, and also doesn’t “see” the serious affect of his slanderous tongue. A stingy person is egoistic and selfishly “sees” only oneself.

The afflicted person is put in quarantine so that he will have time to reflect on his ways and resolve that henceforth he will use only an ayin tovah — good eye.

When the kohen “sees” i.e. perceives that the plague has not changed “et eino” — “his eye” — i.e., the person is still governed by the ayin ra’ah — evil eye — and did not acquire an ayin tovah — good eye — he is contaminated and must still work on himself to change for the better.

(דברי שאול)

* * *

QUESTION: Why does Tzara’at not occur nowadays?

ANSWER: The Torah’s discussion of the laws of tzara’at is introduced with the verse “Adam — if a man has on the skin of his body...” (13:1). The Jewish people are referred to by four terms, adam, ish, gever, enosh. The highest level is adam (Zohar, Vayikra 48a). Isn’t it enigmatic that the one who is of the highest level should be afflicted with tzara’at?

The explanation is the following:

The superficial affliction of tzara’at is actually a miraculous sign from above. It indicates that the victim is in a healthy spiritual state internally and he has merely erred in a superficial manner. Hopefully he will mend his ways and retain his status of adam.

Consequently, nowadays, when we are not in a good spiritual state internally, we do not require a miraculous sign that something is wrong superficially since there are more serious internal problems that need to be addressed first.

(לקוטי תורה פ' תזריע ועי' לקוטי שיחות חכ"ב ע' 65 לביאור מהות חטא לשון הרע של המצורע)