Thursday, April 19, 2018

If It All Turned White It Is Pure

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Most of the parsha of Tazria tells us the laws of diagnosing and quarantining a Metzora. It begins to say that if a person notices a white patch develop on his skin, he should be brought before a Kohen, only a Kohen can pronounce a person ritually impure on account of Tzaraas. If the Kohen sees that hair inside the patch changed from its color to white or the white patch appears deeper than the skin around it, it is definitely Tzaraas and the Kohen pronounces him ritually impure. If however he doesn't see one of these signs, the Kohen will quarantine the person for seven days. On the seventh day, the Kohen reexamines the person. If he sees one of the signs or if the patch became bigger, he is pronounced impure. If it becomes smaller or darker than the usual shades of Tzaraas, it is not Tzaraas. If it is the same as it was the first time he was examined, the Kohen quarantines him for another seven days. 

On the seventh day, the Kohen reexamines him as before, and the same rules apply, except that this time, if the patch remains the same, it is not Tzaraas, and he is pronounced ritually pure of Tzaraas. 

In a case that the Kohen determined that it was indeed not Tzaraas, the person must wash his clothes and go to the mikvah and he is pure. In other words, even though he is not a Metzora, he was considered impure, but at a lower level of impurity. 

Then the Torah seems to continue with these laws, but for some reason, it starts with a verse, as if it is beginning a new subject. "If a person has a patch of (what appears to be) Tzaraas, he is brought to the Kohen." Then the Torah continues with more details about diagnosing a Metzora. It adds that if some skin within the white patch appears fresh, like normal skin, it is another sign that it is definitely Tzaraas. It is just an old patch of Tzaraas that fresh skin started to grow on. Then it says that if the patch spread over the entire person's body, meaning everywhere the Kohen can see, he is pronounced ritually pure. Later, if fresh skin appears somewhere on his body, the Kohen will pronounce him impure, because his whole body isn't completely covered. 

Why does the Torah start this as if it is a new subject? Why didn't it continue with something like, "And if the Kohen sees fresh skin...?" As it does in the following verse, "And if the Tzaraas erupts on the skin, that the Tzaraas covers all the skin with the patch, from his head until his feet, wherever the eyes of the Kohen can see. The Kohen examines it, if it covers all his skin, he pronounces the patch ritually pure, if it all turned white, he is pure." There is even a break in the Torah before and after these laws, indicating that it is a separate subject. If it is just adding more details about Tzaraas, it is not a new subject. So there must be something very unique here that the Torah deems it necessary to start it as a new subject. What is the new idea that we learn from here? 

To understand this, let us look at another difficulty in this passage. 

The verse says, "If it all turned white, he is ritually pure." The Torahs Kohanim and the Rambam say, that this only applies when the Kohen first pronounced him ritually impure, and then it spread all over. But if the person appears before the Kohen to begin with and it's all over his body, or after he was already pronounced ritually pure, it then spread all over, he is impure. 

However, Rashi, who explains the simple meaning of the verse, doesn't say anything, leading us to believe, that it doesn't matter what the circumstance is, "If it all turned white," he is pure. 

Torahs Kohanim and the Rambam tell us the law, Rashi, on the other hand, doesn't come to teach us the final law, rather, to teach us the simple meaning of the verse. It is common that the law is different from the simple meaning. The Torah has many levels of interpretation, there is the simple meaning, the legal, the esoteric, and more. They each teach us different things, they connect to different aspects of our lives. So it is okay if they disagree with each other. However, when we see this kind of disagreement, we have to ask: What is the underlying factors of this disagreement? And what can we learn from them? 

The Torahs Kohanim and the Rambam are looking at the legal aspect of the verse. All of the laws of purity and impurity are biblical decrees. That means that they are what they are, we don't use logic to infer anything else from them, and we apply the law to that specific case and no other scenario. 

Being that the law of, "If it all turned white," comes right after the law, that when fresh skin appears within a white patch, the Kohen pronounces him ritually impure, we must conclude, that only after he is pronounced impure, and then it spreads all over, is he pure. 

Rashi on the other hand, is explaining the simple meaning. According to the simple meaning, the reason that, "If it all turned white," is pure, is because of logical reasoning. Because, now that it spread all over his body, we recognize that it is not Tzaraas, rather the natural condition of his skin, and that is why he is pure, it was never Tzaraas to begin with. 

Now we can understand why it is a new subject. Because it is teaching us about a case that was never Tzaraas to begin with. Being that it has nothing to do with Tzaraas, it is a new subject. 

This will help us understand something that the Talmud says. 

The Talmud says, "The son of David (Moshiach) won't come until all the kingdoms will turn over to heresy. Rava asks: What is the verse (that proves this point)? 'if it all turned white, he is ritually pure.'" And Rashi explains, "Just as with a patch that spread all over the skin, when all the kingdoms will turn over to heresy, redemption will come." 

This Talmudic passage is also found where the Talmud tells us signs that we are in "ikvisa d'mishicha," the time just before the coming of Moshiach. 

Why will Moshiach come when the whole world will become heretical? There are two ways to understand this, in line with the two approaches to "If it all turned white," that it is either a biblical decree or a logical reasoning. 

The first way of looking at it, is that things will be so bad that there will be no choice but for Hashem to send Moshiach. Just like a biblical decree, it is from the top down, directly from Hashem, without our input. 

The second way of looking at it, is that the whole world becoming heretical is a point of clarity, when they will all recognize that they have nothing to do with Hashem, and it will become clear that only we do. Then Moshiach will come and they will want to learn from us, therefore, we will have a tremendous effect on the world, and we will all serve Hashem together, as it says, "For then I will convert the nations to a pure language that all of them call in the name of Hashem, to worship Him of one accord." This is from the bottom up, like logical reasoning it will come from the world's understanding.

This is similar to what the Talmud says about the Jewish people, "The son of David (Moshiach) won't come but in a generation that everybody is deserving or that everybody is undeserving. In a generation that everybody is deserving, as it says, 'And your nation are all righteous, they will forever inherit the land.' In a generation that everybody is undeserving, as it says, 'And He saw that there was no (righteous) man, and He was astounded that there was no one to intercede.' And it says, 'For My sake, for My sake I will do.'" 

Since the Rambam rules that, "The Torah assures us, that in the end Yisrael will do teshuva at the end of their exile and they will be redeemed immediately." Meaning, that we will do teshuva because we want to, and we will be deserving. We can conclude that the nations of the world, because of our influence, being a light on to them, teaching them what Hashem wants from them, to keep the Seven Mitzvahs that were given to the Children of Noah, they will deserve it too. 

By being a light on to the nation, they will become a help to us in completing our mission. This will surely hasten the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you!! I am so excited to print this out and read it during Shabbat!! Thank you!! Shabbat Shalom U'mevorach!!