Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Tazria and Metzora.

A Transcendent Connection

Our Torah reading begins with the commandment of circumcision. Now, the Torah had already taught us about this mitzvah when relating the story of Abraham’s circumcision. Why then does it mention it here a second time?

Our Rabbis explain that this communicates a fundamental lesson. We observe the mitzvos, not because of our Patriarchs’ observance, but because we were commanded to at Sinai. Our Patriarchs’ service prepared the ground for our relationship with G‑d, but the relationship itself was established through the giving of the Torah.

What’s the difference? The Patriarchs were inspired men, trying with all the energy they could muster to reach out to G‑d and establish a connection with Him. But at the giving of the Torah, G‑d reached out to man.

The Patriarchs reached the highest peaks that mortals could. We cannot expect to attain those heights. Nevertheless, our observance of the mitzvos possesses a measure of superiority over their divine service. The giving of the Torah changed the entire paradigm, lifting us above the human realm entirely. It enables us relate to G‑d on His terms and tap into the spiritual potential that He grants us.

Accordingly, the commandment for circumcision - and the other commandments mentioned in the Book of Genesis - were repeated at Sinai. For this repetition enabled their observance to be charged with this superior energy.
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A Dangerous Mission

Parshat Metzora begins with the description of the purification process for a person who became impure because of tzaraat, a skin condition resembling leprosy. It is an ailment that comes about because of a person’s conduct. Because he spread lashon hara, malicious gossip about another person, his own body is affected and his skin begins to decay.

How can he correct himself? After the kohen (priest) determines him to be impure, he is told to go outside the city limits and live alone, distant from others. As our Sages explain: “Since he created separation among others, he is forced to live alone.” As he lives his solitary existence, he hopefully learns the severity of his transgression and in this way, expiates his sin.

How does he become pure? A kohen comes out beyond the city limits and inspects his body to see if his skin ailment has healed. Now usually a kohen is not allowed to become impure himself; he must take utmost care in this regard. This is of essential importance to him. For if a kohen becomes impure, he may not serve in the Temple for the duration of his impurity. It is highly likely that impure objects will be located in the place where the person afflicted with tzaraat stays. And yet, the kohen makes an exception and goes out to help this person.

His conduct is an example for us in our present-day lives. Showing us the extent of the commitment we must make, extreme efforts are necessary, even when there is a risk to our own personal selves. Even though we may be prevented from entering G‑d’s Temple as a result, we have to do what we can to enable another person to attain purity and resume normal social relations with his fellow men.
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The Job of the Kohen

The large majority of the subject matter of this Torah reading focuses on the affliction of tzaraat. Tzaraat is not a natural occurrence; it is a sign and a wonder prevalent among the Jewish people to warn them against lashon hora, ‘undesirable speech.’” For speech is a uniquely human potential, reflecting our innermost tendencies. Therefore, if it is misused, it has severe consequences. When we speak words of gossip or slander, we are not merely hurting the person we are speaking about, we are harming ourselves and, in a larger sense, undermining the spiritual makeup of the entire Jewish people.

Speech does not originate in a vacuum. Instead, it reveals what is hidden in a person’s heart. When a person speaks undesirably, that indicates that he has undesirable character traits. The tzaraat afflictions are intended to draw his attention to these character faults and inspire him to correct them.

To assist a person in this task, the Torah ordained that when a person had a tzaraas blemish, he would have to appear before a kohen (priest) to have the blemish inspected and ultimately be declared pure. The kohanim were characterized by a desire for unity and love for their fellow Jew. For that reason, they were chosen to bless the people. Indeed, the blessing they recite before conveying the Priestly Blessing, emphasizes this quality, stating that they were “commanded to bless His people Israel with love.”

When a person with a tzaraatblemish came to a kohen, a two-tiered process took place. On one level, the kohen was watching the internal process of purification. On a deeper level, he was causing it. Every time he looked at the blemish, he imparted spiritual energy — love and care — to the blemished person, energy that enabled him to heal his character flaws and ultimately be purified from his affliction.
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Is Moshiach a Leper?

The term metzora refers to a person afflicted with tzaraat, a skin condition which resembles leprosy. The question arises: Why does such a negative subject feature in the name of a Torah reading?

Chassidus explains that tzaraat stems from intense spiritual energy that cannot be manifest because of a lack of adequate mediums of expression. When this energy is not harnessed correctly, there can be negative results.

The blemishes appear on the person’s skin, for a) the problems lie at the peripheries not at the core. At the core, the potential is awesomely positive; and b) when the problems on the peripheries are revealed, they can be corrected. Ultimately, through the suffering and purification process which a leper must undergo, the eventual outcome is also positive.

In this vein, we can understand why our Sages describe Mashiach as “a leper” and the Temple as “a house afflicted with tzaraat. ” Since there are blotches of evil in the world that prevent the light of redemption from being manifest, the power of these lights is turned inward and is reflected in the leprous blemishes to be visited on Moshiach and the Temple.

Moshiach’s suffering will not, however, be for all time. Instead, “the leper will be purified” and the inner light identified with him will be expressed throughout existence. And then, “the spirit of impurity will be removed from the earth.”
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Addressed at Sinai

As soon as a Jewish baby is born, what G‑d declared at Sinai applies to him. All souls of all generations, this baby’s soul included, were present at Sinai when G‑d addressed them – in the first person: “I am the Lord thy G‑d, Who brought you out from the Land of Egypt.” G‑d made His declaration known, so that in this very year, when a baby boy or girl will be born, and someone will walk by and see this newborn infant lying in the stroller, it will strike him: here is a child whom G‑d Himself told at Sinai, “I am the Lord thy G‑d who took you out of Egypt!”