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Meitzar, Metzora, Mitzrayim

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Metzora

Apr 4, 2014

Parshas Metzora 5774

Meitzar, Metzora and Mitzrayim

The metzora at the completion of his purification process brings a sacrifice comprised of two birds. One is slaughtered and its blood is sprinkled upon the mizbe’ach. The other is sent free.[1] The gemara tells us the significance of the korban. The nature of a bird is to chirp as if constantly involved in meaningless chatter.[2] The affliction of tzara’as comes upon one who is broken in this area.

The Sochatchover Rebbe[3] points out the similarity between the sacrifice of a metzora and the Yom Kippur service. On Yon Kippur two sacrificial goats are offered. One is slaughtered upon the mizbe’ach and the other is sent off to its death.

There are two parts to these korbanos, one that is brought close and one that is sent away. To understand this one must understand the nature of sin.

When one, God forbid, commits a sin, the actual act is an evil one. It has been forbidden by the word of G-d. There are consequences for those who defy the commandments of Hashem.

There is another, perhaps, more hidden aspect of an aveira. It is an act of betrayal. G-d is the Creator of all. He sustains all in His infinite mercy. He loves those who He created and wishes to relate to them. When one commits a sin, one renounces his relationship with G-d. He has placed a barrier between him and the one who cares for him lovingly. This is the true tragedy of sin.

The two aspects of sin find a parallel within the korban of the metzora. One bird is sent away. This is the evil aspect within the act of the aveira itself. By sending away the bird, the metzora is committing an act of repelling from himself the evil of his slanderous speech. The bird that is brought upon the mizbe’ach is a korban. The word korban is related to the word karov, which means to bring close. This brings about reconciliation between the sinner and the Creator he sinned against. The damage to the relationship has been repaired.

The same holds true, on a national level, through the bringing of the two sacrificial goats.

In the Yom Kippur service we recite passages dealing with the history of the world from its inception. We are told of the creation of Adam HaRishon, his dwelling place in Gan Eden, and his forcible removal, the catalyst being the slanderous words of the nachash. The narrative continues to tell of the formation of Klal Yisroel. It tells of the Avos HaKedoshim. It tells of the special status of the tribe of Levi and the Kohen Gadol who emerged from it, culminating with the Kohen Gadol entering the Holy of Holies to gain atonement for the Children of Israel.[4]

What is apparent is that the entrance of the Kohen Gadol into the Kodeh HaKadashim on Yom Kippur is akin to Adam HaRishon purifying himself from sin and reentering Gan Eden.

In some manner the crime of sinful speech is to be compared with the sin of Adam HaRishon. This is clear based on the similarity between their sacrifices.

How is this so?

When G-d breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of Adam HaRishon, the Torah says, “Veyhi ha’Adam linefesh chaya[5] - And man became a living soul. Unkelos, however translates the passage as – “And man became a speaking soul.”

It is clear then, that to speak is to live.

G-d created a world that within the confines of the world His presence is a hidden one. It is through the power of speech that his presence is revealed. The power of speech enables one to bridge the gap between the world of thought, which transcends this mundane world, and the physical world. It is through this faculty that one can illuminate the purpose of all that is contained within creation. One is then able to see that the mundane lowly world is not as mundane as one might assume.

The nature of a slanderer is to deprive all who he encounters of the respect they rightfully deserve. We are given the power of speech in order to unearth the true purpose of creation. Speech is to be used to reveal the hidden greatness of man. Masters of lashon hara are wrapped up in themselves at the expense of all others. They take great ones and make them small.

Slanderers set themselves up in the opposite direction of the purpose of creation.[6]

Through the complex process of the slander of the nachash, Adam HaRishon’s stature was drastically minimized. He was transformed from a being capable of living forever into one confined to a finite existence.[7]

Repentance for the sin of improper speech involves a return to the purpose of creation enabling one to eventually be fit to reenter Gan Eden.

The name “Mitzrayim” shares the same root as the word “metzora”. Their common root is the word “meitzar”, which means limitation.

The Egyptians did not seek to eliminate the Jewish nation. They sought to limit them. They attempted to deeply bury the greatness of their nobility by enslaving them. They enslaved them mind, body, and soul. The spark of humanity within the Children of Israel was all but extinguished. They were at the brink of losing all hope for the emergence of the greatness of purpose within them.

The toxic fumes of tzara’as filled Mitzrayim.

Hashem revealed himself to all of creation. All who witnessed His miraculous intervention saw with clarity G-d’s koach hadibbur, power of speech, fill the world. He was revealed as the Creator of the world and the One who instills the world with His purpose. With this, G-d counteracted the slander of the Egyptians.

There were still those who still saw themselves as small insignificant creatures. They still view themselves through the prism of the Egyptians. Prior to the exodus from Egypt, they were commanded to undergo circumcision. They refused. Circumcision is for those who reveal G-d’s purpose in this world. It is for those who instill their children, their continuity, with the capability of revelation. Thus, the organ with which they do so, must be revealed, and not be covered over.

The slavery took hold of their minds. They could not rise and attain greatness.

When the circumcised ones of the Bnei Yisroel offered the Pesach sacrifice the aroma filled Mitzrayim. Those who were uncircumcised begged to partake from the tantalizing roasted meat of the sacrifice.

But they were unable to do so.

Only one who has undergone circumcision may partake of the sacrifice. En masse, they underwent the circumcision rite, and they joined their brethren in celebrating the Passover feast.

Was this just an act of painful self mutilation forced upon the unwilling because of the irresistible aroma of roasted meat?

No it was not.

The medrash tells us that the aroma that filled Mitzrayim was not one of roasted meat. It was the aroma of Gan Eden that was absorbed in the Korban Pesach. As the smell of Gan Eden filled their nostrils, they finally came to the realization that Gan Eden is attainable. They have a part in G-d’s final plan. They came in contact with their own potential for greatness.

And then they did two things.

They sent away the evil within themselves by performing bris milah and then they rekindled their bond with the Creator by offering the Korban Pesach, thus emulating the korban of the metzora and the avoda of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur.

As the blood of the Korban Pesach mixed with the blood of the bris milah HaKadosh Boruch Hu passed and took each and every one of them and kissed them. He then blessed them saying, ‘With your blood you shall live … with your blood you shall live.”[8]

[1] Perek 14, posuk 4 - 6

[2] Meseches Erchin, daf 16b

[3] Sefer Shem MiShmuel

[4] Machzor Yom Kippur, Mussaf Service

[5] Parshas Breishis, perek 2, posuk 7

[6] The word “oneg” represents the three stages through which G-d’s sustaining life force reaches this world – Eden, Nahar, Gan. The metzora reverses the stages and that is why he is afflicted with a "nega.”

[7] Meseches Chagiga, daf 21a

[8] Medrash Shmos Rabbah, parshah 19, piska 5

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