Both Tazria and Metzora deal exclusively with various types of spiritual impurity - on a person, in a person and on a person's possessions - and how we relate to and cleanse ourselves from them. The special focus is on an unusual class of skin blemishes, called "tzara'at", often rendered in English as "leprosy", though what the world today thinks of as leprosy is not at all what the Biblical word refers to. Yet, the very first few verses of Tazria speak about issuing seed, the process through which new life comes into being. What connection can these two subjects have?

The tzara'at affliction is caused by speaking negative words about others, even if what is said is true. (See Maimonides, at the end of his "Laws of Impurity and Tzara'at)". The function of these blemishes and their cure is to straighten out a person who has gone off track, to take a person who is thought of as dead, and help him change his ways and put him on the correct track, the track of life. Similarly, we have to see all negative events in our lives as indicators, guideposts meant to get us going in the correct direction. All of our efforts in this dark period are…preparation for the sprouting that will occur at the time of the redemption…

Even more, the word "tazria", issuing seed, hints towards all of our spiritual efforts in exile. All of our efforts in this dark period are in fact "seedlings", the preparation for the sprouting that will occur at the time of the redemption. This is what is meant by the well known statement that the revelations that each of us will experience in the Time to Come are solely based on our actions and efforts now, during this exile. Those revelations are the fruit that comes from our planting now.

That our weekly portion focuses on this affliction and hints to this dark exile, yet is called Tazria, "Giving Seed", teaches us that what is required of us now is an effort filled with new "seed". We have to feel that even if things are difficult, it is only because we are in the early part of the farming process. Now we are planting the seeds, but these seeds will soon sprout and blossom into the future and final redemption and the wondrous revelations of the days of the Mashiach.

The second portion that we read this week is called Metzora, referring to someone struck with these afflictions. Rebbe Yechial Michal of Zlotshuv explains that the blemishes were an indication of our negative inclination doing its job well! What is its true role? To set up obstacles for the good inclination. When faced with an obstacle the good inclination will get moving, bringing extra holiness into the world, ultimately transforming our negative inclinations to good. We should be happy when we have difficulties because this way we are constantly being reminded of what our purpose is, to be constantly regretting negative actions and coming closer to G‑d. He goes even farther and says we should search for it like a salesman would search for good merchandise because he knows in the end his profit will be great. Each day has the strength to take us from one gate of spiritual impurity and bring us into one gate of purity…

"He should tell the priest, 'I have seen something like a blemish in my house'"(Lev. 14:35) Regarding the Hebrew word for "like a blemish", "kinega", Rashi says that even a very knowledgeable person, who knows for sure it is a impure blemish, should not say it is definitely an impure blemish, only that it appears to be one. He should not make the decision by himself but rather wait for the priest. In this case we are talking about one's own house, how much more so when speaking about the house of another! We learn from this, Rabbi Mordecai Cohen says, no matter if a person is very knowledgeable, scrupulous in mitzvah observance, and righteously jealous for G‑d's honor in this world, nevertheless, he must guard himself and be infinitely careful not to verbally sin by judging too quickly and saying that there is a blemish in a Jewish home.

Wednesday and Thursday of this week are Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Iyar is a unique month, because every day has its own commandment, the counting of the Omer, our 49 day countdown from the exodus from Egypt to the ultimate freedom of receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. Each day has the strength to take us from one gate of spiritual impurity and bring us into one gate of purity.

Nissan is the month of redemption. Iyar is the month of healing that is a result of redemption. Whereas the letters of the word "Nisan"contain the word "nes", meaning "miracle", the letters of the word "Iyar"are understood as an acronym for the words, "I am G‑d, your Healer". The Bnei Yisaschar says that the healing ability of Iyar comes from the Jewish people eating manna in the desert after leaving Egypt, which automatically healed the sick.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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