Friday, April 17, 2015

Metzora 5632 First Ma'amar

The first half of this week’s parsha describes the procedure that a metzora/leper must undergo in order to return to a state of purity.  Chazal teach us that tzora’as/leprosy is a consequence of slandering.[1]  The Midrash says that the word metzora alludes to this because the word can be split into two words, motzi ra/spew out evil (speech).

The Sfas Emes understands the word ra/evil here, homiletically as an allusion to the evil inclination.  God created us with a good and an evil inclination.  Chazal teach us that we are expected to serve God with both the good and the evil inclinations.[2]  How can we serve Him with our evil inclination?  The evil inclination provides us with challenges and opportunities to grow.  Acknowledging this makes it easier for us to accept the challenges that occur in our lives.  We can even welcome them since they are the means by which we are able to grow closer to God and accomplish our mission in this world. 

The Sfas Emes understands Chazal’s play on the word metzora  - motzi ra - as an allusion to spewing out or expelling the evil inclination.  If we expel our evil inclination and do not accept it for the tool that it is meant to be, then instead of helping us it becomes rather a hindrance in our service to God, a source of impurity.

This concept may be alluded to in the procedure for purifying the metzora.  The procedure calls for two pure birds.  The Sfas Emes says that these birds may represent the two inclinations within us, the good and the evil.  However, even though one of those birds represents the evil inclination, the Torah also refers to it as pure just as it refers to our soul – which contains the evil inclination – as pure.  The key is not to reject any part of the root of our soul but rather to take advantage of everything that God has given us even if at first glance it appears to be unhelpful.  In reality, we need all of it to achieve the mission for which God sent us into this world.

[1]                      VaYikra R. 16:4
[2]                     Brachos Mishna 9:5

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