Friday, April 28, 2017

Sudden Redemption

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The Haftora for parshas Metzorah, and Tazria - Metzorah when they are together, is from the book of Melachim Beis (II Kings), and is part of a string of miracles done by our prophet Elisha.

The setting of the Haftora is that Ben Hadad, the king of Aram, gathered his whole army and laid siege around the city of Shomron (Samaria), the Capital of the Northern Tribes. Aram didn't allow food into the city, and the people were starving. King Achav wanted to kill Elisha, because he was certain that Elisha could do something about the situation, by praying to Hashem, and he wasn't. When he came to Elisha, the prophet told him, that by this time tomorrow, a se'ah of flour will sell for a shekel, and two se'ahs of barley will sell for a shekel. The kings officer scoffed at the words of Elisha, "Even if Hashem made windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?" The prophet told him, "You will see it with your eyes, but you will not eat of it.

In the Haftora of parshas Tazria, we read about how Elisha miraculously cured Naaman, the commander of Aram's army, from Tzaraas, a skin ailment. Elisha refused to take any payment, but his servant Gaychazi chased after Naaman and took his money. Elisha told Gaychazi, that because of what he did, he would now be afflicted with Naaman's Tzaraas.

The Haftora opens with four Metzorahs (a Metzorah, is someone afflicted with Tzaraas), they were Gaychazi and his three sons. 

The four Metzorahs were outside the city, because a Metzorah is not permitted to go into the city. They reasoned, there is no food in the city, so there's no use going there, and staying here is futile because we will starve to death. Let's go to Aram's camp, maybe there we could get something to eat. When they came to the camp, it was deserted. Hashem made a miracle, they heard sounds of a great army descending upon them, and they panicked. Aram left everything behind and fled.

This was an opportunity for Gaychazi to do Teshuva, by not taking Aram's loot for himself as he took Naaman's money earlier. At first he made a move for the money, but then he came to his senses. 

The Metzorahs went and notified the guards at the city's gate, who notified the king. The king had some riders check it out and when they confirmed that it was true, the people went out and found so much food in the camp, that a se'ah of flour sold for a shekel, and two se'ahs of barley sold for a shekel, just as Elisha said.

The king's officer who scoffed at the words of Elisha, was appointed to stand by the city's gate. In their haste the officer was trampled by the people who were rushing to get food, and he died. He saw the food but couldn't eat from it, just as Elisha said.

The connection to our parsha is that parshas Metzorah, and Tazria - Metzorah speak about the Metzorah. The Haftora tells the story of the four Metzorahs. And the comparison teaches us, that even in the case of a Metzorah, there is good to be found and accomplished.

The theme of the Haftora is the miraculous sudden change from darkness and captivity to light and redemption. And this is a lesson to us, that Moshiach will also come suddenly and miraculously.

Most years Tazria and Metzorah are read together, and when they are, this Haftora is read. Metzorah speaks about the purification process of the Metzorah, which could be seen as a redemption. It also tells us, that when Tzaraas afflicted a house, the effected area had to be knocked down. Rashi tells us, that the Emorites hid their valuables in the walls of their homes, and when we conquered them, Hashem put Tzaraas on the walls that had treasures hidden in them. When the walls were demolished, the hidden treasures would be revealed. This can be seen as a redemption as well. 

However, Tazria speaks about pregnancy and birth, and then it goes into the details of diagnosis of a Metzorah. We must conclude that somehow Tazria is also about redemption. How is this possible?

In the Talmud there is a discussion about Moshiach. The rabbis say that he is the Metzorah of the House of Rebbe. Here we see another connection between a Metzorah and Moshiach.

As mentioned above, Tazria speaks about pregnancy and birth. This exile is compared to a pregnancy, the suffering we endure is the pain associated with pregnancy. Now, at the end of the exile, it has become unbearable, this is the pain of labor. But soon Moshiach will come, like a baby that is born, we realize that it was all worth it. Redemption.

Tazria means to plant. That is what the exile is about. Our hard work, pain and suffering during the exile, is what brings the redemption, when we will reap the fruits of our labor.

The same is true about Tzaraas. Of course Tzaraas is a horrible affliction, which was brought on by speaking badly of another. But getting Tzaraas was not the end, rather it was the beginning of a process of becoming a better person. He would be sent out of the city, and sit alone, which gave him time to think about what he did and work on himself to become a new person. When he was healed, it too was the birth of a new person, and a redemption.

We each have our own ailments to break free from. Working on ourselves to become better is like planting seeds and the reward for your hard work is a personal redemption.

May our efforts to better ourselves, especially in our service to Hashem, by adding in Torah and mitzvahs, bring the ultimate redemption, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.


  1. Great to hear from you Rav Yitzi, and with a double dose this week!
    Permit me to comment on a d'var torah you wrote about a year ago concerning the parsha alignment between Israel and out of Israel which occurred last year. You mentioned the reason why it took so long for us to coincide with them and asked why didn't we combine parshios earlier and be together with them. I don't remember exactly what you wrote but permit me to share what someone recently showed me.
    We know that as the Shulchan Aruch states in ch. 428, Tsav must be before Pesach, Bamidbar before shavous and Vaeschanan after Tisha b'av and Nitsavim before Rosh Hashana. Someone showed me a response of the Maharit (siman 4) where he asks this same question, why not combine earlier on years like last year?
    He explains that since Shavous is like a Rosh Hashana the gemara says to finish the curses (of bechukosai) before the "new year" (tichle shono v...)We have Bamidbar as a "buffer" between the tochocha and shavous so as not to have them right near a holiday. To have too many parshos as a buffer whould take away from this fact being noticed by ppl that the curses should end before shavuos, the new year for produce. The same with the tochocha of Ki Savo before rosh Hashana, hence the buffer of Nitsavim. Vaeschanan is after Tisha b'av because of the parsha of V'noshantem bo'arets. He does mention there that Syria and other places had the custom of combining Korach and Chukas but he says that probably we wait for Matos Masei because those are the ones we normally combine so we keep it that way.
    Don't know if I added anything new but just wanted to share it and sorry it's a bit long

  2. Thank you for the wonderful insight.