"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)

Dvar Torah Questions and Answers on Metzora

"זאת תהיה תורת המצורע ביום טהרתו והובא אל הכהן"
“This shall be the law of the metzora (leper) on the day of his purification and he shall be brought to the Kohen.” (14:2)

QUESTION: The words “zot tiheyeh torat hametzora” seem to be superfluous. Could the pasuk not have simply said, “ki yithar hametzorah vehuva el haKohen” — “when the metzorah becomes clean he shall be brought to the Kohen”?

ANSWER: In Chovot Halevavot (Sha’ar Hachane’ah 7) it is written that when people come before the Heavenly tribunal for judgment, they are often shown that, in the Book of Records merits were recorded for them for mitzvot which they do not recall doing, and they even say, “We did not do this.” They are told, “Someone who spoke evil about you has lost some of his merits and they have been added to your account.” Likewise, people sometimes ask why they have not been given credit for certain good deeds, and they are told, “They were transferred to people about whom you spoke evil.” Similarly, some people will find “debits” (aveirot) in their ledgers, which they never did. When they object, they are told, “The sins were removed from the people about whom you spoke evil and added to your account.”

Once, when a righteous person found out that somebody spoke evil about him, he reciprocated by sending the speaker a beautiful gift with a note reading, “I learned that you sent me your merits as a gift. Consequently, I am reciprocating with the enclosed gift.”

In light of the above, when a person speaks lashon hara, he loses the zechutim — merits — which he collected through his study of Torah and performance of mitzvot. When he repents and is cleared of his wrongdoing, then his record is again adjusted to reflect merely his own deeds. Therefore, when the Torah talks about the metzora, “beyom taharato” — “on the day of his purification” — it says “zot tiheyeh torat hametzora,” meaning that whatever merit for Torah he has lost because of his evil talking will now revert and become his merits.

(פרדס יוסף)


"זאת תהיה תורת המצרע ביום טהרתו"
“This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing.” (14:2)

QUESTION: According to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi in Midrash Rabbah (16:6), the word “Torat” — “law of” — is mentioned five times in regard to the leper. This teaches that one who speaks lashon hara commits a grave sin, equivalent to violating the five books of the Torah.

What is the link between lashon hara and the five books of the Torah?

ANSWER: In Chumash Bereishit the serpent encourages Chava to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by speaking lashon hara about Hashem. He tells Chava, “Hashem forbids you to eat the fruit because a craftsman hates competitors. He, too, was able to create the world, only after gaining wisdom through eating this fruit” (Rashi 3:5).

In Chumash Shemot Hashem tells Moshe to put his hand into his bosom. When he takes it out it is white as snow with leprosy. This happens to Moshe because of speaking lashon hara against the Jewish people when he says, “They will not believe me” (Rashi 4:6).

In Chumash Vayikra the Torah clearly states the prohibition of speaking lashon hara: “You shall not be a talebearer among your people” (19:16).

In Chumash Bamidbar we learn about Miriam’s affliction with leprosy for talking lashon hara about Moshe (12:10).

In Chumash Devarim the Torah warns: “Take heed of the plague of leprosy... remember what Hashem did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt” (24:8-9).

Since lashon hara is alluded to in each of the five books of the Torah, the leper who speaks lashon hara is considered to have violated all of them.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי)


"זאת תהיה תורת המצרע"
“This shall be the law of the leper.” (14:2)

QUESTION: Why is the leper called a “metzora”?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Arachin 15b) says that one of the ways to become a metzora is through speaking lashon hara. The word “metzora” (מצורע) is a combination of two words: “motzi ra” (מוציא רע) — “one who brings out evil” [about another person]. The punishment for this is nega tzara’at — plague of leprosy.

The Torah prohibits lashon hara by commanding: “Lo teileich rachil be’amecha” (לא תלך רכיל בעמיך) — “You shall not be a talebearer among your people” (19:16). These words have the numerical value of 883, the same as the numerical value of “nega tzara’at” נגע צרעת)). This shows that the sin and punishment are exactly midah keneged midah — measure for measure.

(אוצר חיים)

* * *

The Midrash relates that Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel sent his servant to the market and said, “Bring me the best thing you can find.” The servant came back with a tongue.

Another time, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said to his servant, “Go to the market and bring me the worst thing you can find.” Again, the servant returned with a tongue.

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel was startled and asked his servant, “How is it that you brought me a tongue as the best thing you could find, and again a tongue as the worst?” The servant replied, “There is nothing better than a tongue that speaks good and nothing worse than a tongue that speaks evil.”

(מדרש רבה ויקרא ל"ג:א)


"וצוה הכהן ולקח למטהר שתי צפרים חיות טהרות"
“The Kohen shall command and for the person being purified there shall be taken two live clean birds.” (14:4)

QUESTION: Why were two birds needed to purify a metzora?

ANSWER: One of the causes of leprosy is lashon hara. When someone conveys lashon hara to a person about his friend or to a husband about his wife, he replaces friendship or marital harmony with enmity and strife. The word "צפור" — “bird” — has the numerical value of 376, the same numerical value as the word "שלום" — “peace.”

The Torah is suggesting that in order for the leper punished for lashon hara to be forgiven, he must first make peace between the friends or the husband and wife. Thus, the two birds correspond to the two estranged people who need to be reconciled.

(עיטורי תורה)

* * *

The two birds represent the process of making peace between two partners. The numerical value of two times "צפור" is 752. In Hebrew 752 is "זהב" — “gold.” Making peace between people is as valuable as gold.


"והיה ביום השביעי יגלח את כל שערו את ראשו ואת זקנו ואת גבת עיניו"
“And it shall be on the seventh day, he shall shave off all his hair: his head, and his beard, and his eyebrows.” (14:9)

QUESTION: Since it says “kol se’aro” — “all his hair” — why are three areas of hair growth singled out?

ANSWER: There are three causes for leprosy:

1) ga’avah — arrogance,

2) lashon hara — evil talk,

3) tzarat ayin — stinginess, reluctant to share with others or help them.

The shaving of the hair reminds the metzora that he must be extremely careful in specific areas to prevent the recurrence of the spiritual illness that leads to leprosy. Shaving his head reminds him never again to walk around with his head up, looking down at other people. Cutting the hair of his beard reminds him not to open his mouth to utter lashon hara. Removing the hair of his eyebrows, warns him to henceforth use his eyes to look at another Jew with kindness.

(כלי יקר)


"ואם דל הוא ואין ידו משגת"
“If he is poor and his means are not sufficient.” (14:21)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Yoma 41b) questions whether a rich man has fulfilled his obligation if he brings the sacrifices assigned for a poor man. However, regarding a metzorah — leper — everyone agrees that he has not fulfilled his obligation. Why?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Arachin 16a), one of the things that causes leprosy is tzarat ayin — stinginess. Consequently, when a rich leper tries to fulfill his obligation by bringing sacrifices that were assigned to a poor person, he obviously has not yet been healed of stinginess and thus, cannot be pronounced clean from his leprosy.

(ר' יעקב ז"ל לאנדא, בנו של הנודע ביהודה)


"כי תבאו אל ארץ כנען אשר אני נתן לכם לאחזה ונתתי נגע צרעת בבית ארץ אחזתכם"
“When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for possession, and I will place the plague of leprosy in the house of the land of your possession.” (14:34)

QUESTION: Rashi writes, “This is a good tiding for the Jews that plagues will appear on their houses. The Amorites hid treasures of gold in the walls of their houses all the forty years the Jews were in the wilderness and, on account of the plague, the houses are broken down and the treasures found.”

Since the pasuk says “Eretz Cana’an” — “Land of Canaan” — why does Rashi say “Amorites”? Moreover, why were they hiding treasures and not disposing of them, and why for forty years?

ANSWER: When Hashem told Avraham of the forthcoming Egyptian exile the Jewish people would endure, He also assured him that, “The fourth generation shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites shall not yet be full until then” (Bereishit 15:15). Though Hashem singled out the Amorites, He meant that all the Canaanite nations living in Eretz Yisrael would by that time have accumulated enough sins to deserve expulsion. The Amorites were designated because they were the mightiest among the group of nations (see Ibn Ezra and Amos 2:9).

Since Hashem specified “Ha’Amori” — “the Amorites” — Rashi too says that the “Amorites” hid treasures in the walls of their houses. However, in reality the reference is to all the nations dwelling in the land of Canaan.

They hid treasures for forty years because as soon as the Jews left Egypt they realized that Hashem considered their iniquities sufficient to warrant expulsion. Although according to the original plan, the Jews were to enter the land immediately, unfortunately they remained an additional forty years in the wilderness due to the sin of the meraglim — spies. Unaware precisely when the Jews would arrive, the Amorites started putting away their treasures and did so for forty years until the Jews arrived.

Since they were being expelled because of their sins, they hid the treasures rather than destroying them. They anticipated that ultimately the Jews, too, would be expelled for sinning and, at that time, they would return to their houses.

(לקוטי שיחות חלק ל"ב)


"כי תבאו אל ארץ כנען אשר אני נתן לכם לאחזה ונתתי נגע צרעת בבית ארץ אחזתכם"
“When you come into the land of Canaan, that I give you for possession, and I will place the plague of leprosy in the house of the land of your possession.” (14:34)

QUESTION: Since it already says, “Eretz Cana’an asher ani notein lachem la’achuzah” — “the land of Canaan which I give you as a possession” — why does it repetitively go on to refer to “eretz achuzatchem” — “the land of your possession”?

ANSWER: The Torah is calling our attention to something that can cause a plague in our homes in Eretz Yisrael. Jews must always remember that Eretz Yisrael was given to us by Hashem and that it is not something that we took with our own strength. Therefore, when you come to Eretz Yisrael, if you will remember that, “Ani notein lachem” — “I (Hashem) give it to you” — “la’achuzah” — “for you to possess” — there will not be any plagues, but “venatati nega tzara’at beveit” — “I will place the plague of leprosy in a house” — if “eretz achuzatchem” — “you consider the land as something that you took for your possession.”

(חומת אנך)


ונתתי נגע צרעת בבית ארץ אחזתכם"
“And I will place the plague of leprosy upon a house in the land of your possession.” (14:34)

QUESTION: Rashi writes that a plague in the walls of a house is propitious for the Jews. The Amorites had hidden treasures of gold in their houses all the 40 years the Jews were in the desert, and on account of the plague, the Jews broke down the walls of the houses and found the gold.

If a plague is a punishment for sinning, why does it seem to be a reward?

ANSWER: The Torah is teaching us a very interesting lesson: Every Jew has treasures hidden deep within. When a person sins, he is neglecting and forsaking the treasures and resources that Hashem has hidden in him.

When a Jew is, G‑d forbid, plagued, it awakens him to do teshuvah — to become closer to Hashem and Yiddishkeit, thereby revealing the valuable treasures hidden within him.

(עי' לקוטי שיחות חל"ב ע' 97)


"ובא אשר לו הבית והגיד לכהן לאמר כנגע נראה לי בבית"
“The one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen, saying, ‘Something like a plague has appeared to me in my house.’” (14:35)

QUESTION: What is the significance of plagues on houses for contemporary times?

ANSWER: The entire discussion concerning a plague on the walls of a house can be explained as a reference to the destruction of the first and second Beit Hamikdash, and the revelation of Mashiach.

“Uva asher lo habayit” — the owner of the Beit Hamikdash (Hashem) came — “vehigid laKohen” — and He told the Kohen, the prophet Yirmiyahu, who was a Kohen — “kenega nirah li babayit” — “I see a plague of idol worship in My house.”

“Vetzivah haKohen” — Yirmiyahu the Kohen issued a command to the Jewish people that “ufinu et habayit” — they clear the Beit Hamikdash of all idols — “beterem yavo haKohen — before Hashem comes (Hashem is a Kohen, see Sanhedrin 39a), “velo yitma kol asher babayit” — and, G‑d forbid, declare the Beit Hamikdash contaminated and unsuitable for him to dwell in.

Unfortunately, they did not heed Yirmiyahu’s warning and “vera’ah et hanega vehinei hanega bekirot habayit” — Hashem judged the situation and found the plague of idol worshipcontaminating the Beit Hamikdash. He, therefore, decreed that the Beit Hamikdash be completely destroyed and the people exiled to Babylonia.

After a period of seventy years (corresponding to the seven days a plagued house is closed), Hashem saw that they had done teshuvah and allowed them to return and rebuild the Beit Hamikdash.

“Uva haKohen” — Hashem came — “vera’ah” — and saw, “vehinei pasah hanega babayit” — behold, the plague had spread also in the new Beit Hamikdash. Thus, He decreed that it, too, be destroyed.

“Velakach lechatei et habayit” — in order to rectify the situation, and restore the Beit Hamikdash, Hashem prescribed that there be taken — “shetei tziparim” — two birds. This refers to Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David. (“tzipor” [צפר] — “bird” — has the numerical value of 370, the same numerical value as “zeh mashiach” [זה משיח]— “this is Mashiach”). [Also to be taken were] “ve’eitz erez” — “cedar wood,” a reference to the talmidei chachamim — “usheni tola’at” — “red thread,” a reference to K’lal Yisrael (Isaiah 41:14) “ve’eizov” — “and grass,” referring to the young children, (the Tzivot Hashem”), “Veshachat et hatzipor ha’echat” — the first Mashiach will be killed.

Afterwards, the era of kibbutz galiyot — ingathering of the exiles — will commence, “Velakach.” — Hashem will gather the talmidei chachamim, K’lal Yisrael and the young children who are dispersed all over, vetoval — He will immerse — i.e. purify all the Jews and prepare them for the redemption.

Finally, “veshilach et hatzipor hachayah” — He will send Mashiach — “el penei hasadeh” — out of galut to Tzion, which is referred to as a “sadeh” (Jeremiah 26:18) and“vechiper al habayit” — there will be the rebuilding of the third Beit Hamikdash — “vetaheir” — and it will be pure forever.

(נחל קדומים, ועי' מד"ר ספי"ז וילקוט שמעוני רמז תקס"ג)


"ובא אשר לו הבית והגיד לכהן לאמר כנגע נראה לי בבית"
“The one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen, saying, ‘Something like a plague has appeared to me in my house.’” (14:35)

QUESTION: Why must the homeowner say to the Kohen “kenega” — “something like a plague” and not “nega” — “a plague"?

ANSWER: In the Polish city of Radin there lived the great tzaddik and gaon Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen, known as the “Chafeitz Chaim.” An individual who had heard many intriguing stories about him decided to visit the city and see him personally. Upon arrival, he met an elderly bearded Jew in the street and asked him, “Could you please guide me to the home of the holy tzaddik and gaon the Chafeitz Chaim?” Graciously, the man told him to turn right at the corner and look for the first house on the second block. Then he said, “Incidentally, he is not such a tzaddik, nor is he a gaon.” The visitor became enraged and slapped the elderly man across the face: “What audacity you have to speak in such a manner!”

When the visitor arrived at the home of the Chafeitz Chaim and was let into his study, he was horrified to learn that the man he had slapped earlier was the Chafeitz Chaim himself. Immediately he broke out in tears, apologized, and begged for forgiveness.

The Chafeitz Chaim smiled warmly and said, “There is no need to apologize; I deserved the admonition. I have dedicated my entire life to informing K’lal Yisrael about the terrible sin of lashon hara (slander). Today, I gained a new insight: not only is lashon hara about others prohibited, but a Jew should not even speak negatively about himself.”

In light of the above, we can understand why the person says “something like a plague.” When one sees a blemish in his house he should not jump to the conclusion that it is bad, but he should be patient and say, “It appears that there may be a problem” and seek a solution.

(עיטורי תורה)


"כנגע נראה לי בבית"
“Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house.” (14:35)

QUESTION: TheBa’al Haturim writes that there are two pesukim with the words “nirah li.” One is “Meirachok Hashem nirah li” — “G‑d appeared to me from the distance” (Jeremiah 31:3) and our pasuk is the other. What is the connection between these two pesukim?

ANSWER: Though the plague affecting the house seems superficially very distressing, in reality it contained good tidings. By breaking the walls of their houses, the Jewish owners found treasures which were hidden there by the Amorites during the forty years the Jews were in the desert (Rashi). The link between the two pesukim is that when the human eye of the Jew sees that “kenega nirah li babayit” — “Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house,” he should know that, “Meirachok Hashem nirah li” — G‑d, so to say, is appearing from the distance, and in His merciful way, He is bestowing riches upon the Jew.

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי' נ"ז)

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Alternatively, according to the Gemara (Arachin 16a) one of the things that causes plagues is arrogance.

Regarding someone who is arrogant King David says (Psalms 138:6), “For though Hashem is exalted, He notices the lowly, but the arrogant He chastises from afar.” The Gemara (Sotah 5a) says that, “Though G‑d is exalted, He is close to the humble, but with the arrogant He cannot dwell together.” Thus, when one sees a plague in the walls of his house, he must conclude that G‑d is punishing him for his deeds and refuses to dwell with him, only becoming revealed from a distance.

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי' נ"ז)


"וכי יטהר... וספר לו... לפני ה' מזובו"
“And when he is cleansed... then he shall number to himself... before G‑d for his issue.” (15:13-15)

QUESTION: What is the connection between these two pesukim and the 49 days of Sefirat HaOmer?

ANSWER: When the Jews were in Egypt, they sunk into the 49th level of impurity (Zohar Chadash, Shemot 31a). Upon leaving Egypt, they began to elevate themselves. Between Pesach and Shavuot they were cleansed of all impurity and were worthy of receiving the Torah.

In these three pesukim there are 49 words, which may be a remez (hint) to the 49 days of Sefirah, during which the Jewish people elevate and purify themselves. The Torah is teaching us that “Vechi yithar” — the way to accomplish purification and spiritual elevation — is through “vesafar” — “counting” (sefirah). The words “vesafor” or “usefartem” derive from the root word of “sapir” (ספיר) — brilliance and brightness. During Sefirah one is to refine each day one of the seven emotion-traits (מדות), and each attribute contains elements of the other seven, a combination of 49 in total.

The 29th day of Sefirah is Pesach Sheini, and the 29th word of these pesukim is “Hashem.” The reason for this is that when the Jews were impure and unable to offer the karban Pesach, they came to Moshe and asked him what they could do. Moshe’s reply was: “Imdu ve’eshme’ah mah yetzaveh Hashem” — “Wait, so that I may hear what Hashem will command.” Then Hashem told Moshe about Pesach Sheini (Bamidbar 9:8).

The 33rd word in these pesukim is מועד"," which also means “holiday,” alluding to the 33rd day of Sefirah, Lag BaOmer.

(ר' גרשון העניך זצ"ל מראדזין - היום יום א' אייר)


"ורחץ במים את כל בשרו"
“He shall bathe his entire flesh in water.” (15:16)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Eruvin 4b) explains that this refers to a mikveh of at least 40 se’ah of water (approx. 120 gal.).

What rationale can be given for mikveh purification?

ANSWER: A gentile woman considered becoming a giyoret (convert to Judaism). She contacted a Rabbi, who informed her of the requirements and also mentioned immersion in a mikveh. She was ready to do everything except for the mikveh ritual, which she found difficult to comprehend. He advised her to write her dilemma to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

She received the following response: According to the Gemara (Yevamot 22a), a person who undergoes conversion is considered a newborn. When an embryo is formed in the mother’s womb, it is in a placenta surrounded by water on all sides. Similarly, the convert immerses himself entirely in the waters of the mikveh and emerges a newborn person.

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The Rebbe’s reply provides an insight into mikveh purification in general. Every person has a pure neshamah at birth. Afterwards he may do things which defile his soul. Immersion in the mikveh is a form of rebirth and through it he returns to his original state of purity.

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The Shelah writes: “When one immerses in the mikveh, he should recite the pasuk, ‘Leiv tahor bera li Elokim — ‘A pure heart create for me, O G‑d’ (Psalms 51:12), because through immersion he becomes a newly created person.

Also, the first letters of the words 'טהור ברא לי' — ‘pure create for me’ — spell out the word ‘taval’ (טבל) — ‘to immerse.’ ”

(שער האותיות ע' ק"ה)

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According to an interpretation of the Kesef Mishneh (Avot Hatumah 7:16, see Pardes Yosef 14:8), a person who immerses in a mikveh becomes pure when he first emerges from the water and not while he is actually immersed. This ruling may reflect the spiritual correspondence between immersing in a mikveh and birth, for a child is considered born when his forehead emerges from his mother’s womb.


"ורחץ במים את כל בשרו"
“He shall bathe his entire flesh in water.” (15:16)

QUESTION: 1) Since it says, “he shall bathe his entire flesh,” is not the word “bamayim” — “in water” — superfluous?

2) The Gemara (Eruvin 4b) explains that this refers to a mikveh of at least 40 se’ah of water (approx. 120 gal.). The Rabbis derive this figure by estimating the amount of water needed to cover the entire body. Is there any Biblical support for this figure?

ANSWER: A hint in the Torah for the 40 se’ah of a mikveh occurs in this pasuk: “Verachatz” — “he shall immerse” — “bamayim” (במים) can be a juxtaposition of “bemeimem,” (במי-מ). "מ" has the numerical value of 40. Thus, “bemei mem” means “in water consisting of 40 (se’ah).”

(ילקוט יצחק)

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The famous Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Karliner, once said, “Mikveh (for men) is not a mitzvah, and atzvut (עצבות) — sadness, melancholy — is not an aveira. However, atzvut can cause the individual more harm than some of the most serious aveirot, and mikveh can accomplish for the individual more than some of the greatest mitzvot.”

(ר' שלמה זצ"ל קארלינער)