We know, that when we go to sleep at night, our Neshamot (souls) go up to Shomayim (heaven). Hashem, in His great mercy, returns our Neshamot to us the next morning. We wake up thanking Hashem for our new life, by saying; "Modeh Ani..." We wash our hands, as we were taught, to remove the “Ruach Ra’ah” - impure spirit on our hands. What is this bad spirit that is left on ourselves? Tum'ah (impurity) comes into existence when there is a loss of a spiritual presence. Huh?? Our Neshamot are close to Hashem when we sleep. Now that it returns from Hashem, there is an absence of that level of spirituality which causes an impurity. Similarly, Hashem is present when a woman is giving birth. He doesn’t send an angel to take care of this important act. Therefore, when Hashem leaves, there is an impurity which descends.


Life itself is not enough. The beginning of life brings with it an existing impurity. The mother must obtain purity. This is the meaning of life. We might come into this world, bringing with us Tum'ah (impurity), but we too can overcome that. We can make ourselves "Tahor" pure.


...But not so simple. A boy is born with an imperfection. This boy’s father perfects his son by giving him a "Brit Millah."


Again we see that life itself is not enough. The beginning of life brings with it an existing imperfection. The father can achieve perfection for his son by arranging a Brit. This is the meaning of life. We might come into this world with imperfections, but we can overcome them. We can make ourselves “perfect.” O.K. at least we can try!! So what about a girl? I guess he’s born perfect. But really, the lesson of self improvement applies to all.


...You eat a cheeseburger, all of a sudden, lightning strikes!!! WOW! I bet you wouldn’t do that again. That would surely make me religious. What kind of impression would that have on you? On one hand you’d be upset and cry out “IT’S NOT FAIR!!” On the other hand, you’d say, “WOW! That’s really cool, I do something wrong and lightning strikes. Someone up there really cares about what I do. My actions mean something, my life is significant."

This is TZORA'AT a disease which resulted from a person speaking Lashon HaRah. First it would attack his house as a warning for him to do T'shuva. If that didn't work, it spread to his clothes. If he ignored that warning sign too, it spread to his body.

You might think the person would have to call the exterminator for his house, or have to take his clothes to the dry cleaners, or make a doctor’s appointment to treat the disease.
This was no ordinary sickness. It was given by Hashem as a sign to the 'Metzorah' (person with Tzora'at) that something is wrong with him and must be fixed. Actually the Kohain was the one who would determine the status of this person and treat him, not the doctor. The Metzorah would visit the Kohain who would determine whether he is a Metzorah. If so, the Kohain would utter 1 word- "Tom'ei" (unclean) and such would be his status.

Just one word; That’s all it takes. You might say one bad word about another Jew, thinking, “What’s the big deal? I just said one word.” Now the Kohain says just one word and this man becomes a "Metzorah."
The “Chofetz Chaim” visited a potential supporter of the Yeshiva. The Chofetz Chaim sensed the conversation was heading towards Lashon HaRah. He noticed a telegram on the man’s desk. “It seems as if you’ve rewritten this telegram a few times.” "Yes," said the man, "Every word costs me money. I’ve taken great care to write only what’s necessary.” The Chofetz Chaim responded, “If only people were so careful with the words they use as you are with your telegram.” After that comment, you could be sure the man thought about what he was going to say.

The Metzorah tears his clothes and lets his hair grow long. Today that would be considered cool, but in the past, it was degrading for a Jew to appear like that. It shows a lack of self respect, and that's exactly what makes a person speak against his fellow.

when you respect yourself, you learn to respect others and not to bad mouth them. This was meant to make him more humble. The reason he became a Metzorah was for the Aveira of speaking Lashon HaRah. A person speaks Lashon HaRah because he feels better than the other guy. A truly humble person has no need to put down others. When we realize our faults, we should ask ourselves, so who am I to criticize the next guy?

If he is pronounced Tom'ei (impure) by the Kohain, he covers his upper lip. It was through his lips that the Lashon HaRah emerged. Furthermore, he cries out, "Tom'ei - Tom'ei" (impure-impure). Now everyone is warned not to go near him, lest they become Tom'ei too. It's best to stay far away from a person who speaks Lashon HaRah.

Every Jew is responsible for each other. This Metzorah did enough damage to people by gossiping about them. He now has to make sure he doesn’t do anymore damage by making other Jews Tom'ei.

Another reason for having to call out "Tom'ei - Tom'ei" is to have people Daven for him. He now realizes the importance of 1) being amongst people (So don’t speak negatively about them). 2) using one’s speech for good (Davening). The Metzorah leaves his family and friends to seclude himself. He has plenty of time to think over his behavior and resolve himself to changing his ways. While away from society, he grows to appreciate what a privilege it is to be part of the community.

© 1998 by R' Matis Friedman, H.A.F.T.R.
R' Matis Friedman's email address is shprophets@aol.com

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