Friday, April 20, 2007

Tzara'as: A Qoton Qlassic

This week's parshiyos are Tazria and Metzora which deal with the laws of one who is afflicted with tzara'as. Here is an excerpt from a post last year dealing with those laws:

The Torah says that one who is afflicted with tzara'as is supposed to call out "Impure! Impure!" The Talmud explains that this is done so that others know that he is ritually impure, so that they can stay away from him. However, if this is the only reasoning behind the calling out, then the Torah should have obligated him to call out "Do not become impure [through contact with me]" not merely "impure". Therefore, Rabbi Dovid Povarsky (1902-1999) explains that there is another reason for the calling out: The Talmud elsewhere says that the purpose of the calling out is so that the afflicted could publicize his suffering and rouse the mercy of others to pray for him. Since the punishment of tzara'as is to counter one's anti-social tendencies, this dual explanation for the calling out "impure!" makes sense. This is because when the metzorah calls out "impure", his intention is to help the other man by warning him not to become ritually impure like himself, while the man who hears this declaration, if he is as selfless as he should be, understands it as a cry for help and then assists the metzora by praying for him. Accordingly, the double expression of "Impure! Impure" used by the metzora is justified because one refers to the metzora and one refers to he to whom the metzora is talking. This also explains why the Torah portions concerning the laws of the metzora are often read during the Sefiras HaOmer mourning period, for the mourning is because Rabbi Akiva's students were punished for not showing acting properly in their interpersonal relations . The lessons of the metzora are the antitheses to improper social behavior.

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