Parshas Sazria.




In this Parsha we learn about various types of tzaraas (leprosy[1]). What is the significance and purpose of this disease?




It is easy to notice that tzaraas is the only specific disease described by the Chumash[2]. This illness plays a significant role and a large portion of the Written Torah and the Oral Law is dedicated to it. As usual, the laws of tzaraas have many levels of understanding: the simple meaning, the practical application, the hints and the Kabbalistic secrets. We will only describe briefly some of the subjects involved. Some of the ideas will be described in our commentary to this Parsha and some – to the next one.


It is well known that physical sicknesses ruin our bodies and can often be contagious. In such a case, people try to stay away from the sick individual in order not to catch his disease. However, spiritual illnesses are not readily distinguishable and even though they can also be contagious, people often don’t take the necessary precautions to stay away from those who are spiritually sick. Hashem, in His infinite mercy wanted to purify His people of spiritual diseases and to quarantine those individuals whose spiritual sickness is infectious.


The general idea of tzaraas was a unique physical projection of a spiritual deficiency. In most cases this sickness was sent for sins towards other people and for bad qualities[3]. In particular, gossipers, stingy and proud people were affected by it. When the Jewish people were on a higher level, their spiritual faults would be visible on their very skin. In reality this showed that they were greater than us. In our day, we are too thick-skinned and even though our sins do cause our souls to get tzaraas, this does not get projected onto our skins. However, when a person dies, the tzaraas that affects his soul is visible to all and he is quarantined from everyone else[4]!


Our sages describe[5] that usually Hashem does not want to immediately punish the person’s body. He first sends a reminder to the sinner through sending tzaraas to his house. As part of the procedure, the stingy man now has to take out all his utensils from his house into the street. Now everybody can see his possessions that he had pretended not to have in order to refuse lending anything to his neighbors[6]. If he does not repent, then Hashem sends tzaraas to his clothes. If this does not help, only then does Hashem punish the sinner by sending leprosy to his skin. He has to stay outside the city until he learns his lesson and leprosy disappears. After purifications[7] he is able to come back to live with the rest of society.


May we deserve to rectify our bad qualities, our speech and even our thoughts and then our people will live in unity and friendship and merit a great blessing from Above. The Second Temple was destroyed through baseless hatred and gossip[8] and when these sins are rectified we will be worthy of the Final Redemtion!


Parshas Metzorah.




In this Parsha we learn about the discolorations that can appear on the walls of houses and render them unclean. At times the house would have to be completely demolished. What is the significance of these laws and what do they hint to?




The Torah states that when we would enter the Land of Israel, Hashem would send the tzaraas on some of the houses there. The way this is described in the Torah seems to be positive, as if we are being told good news[9]. One of the reasons was due to the fact that when the Jewish people would demolish their houses they would find the treasures that Canaanites had hidden in the walls. There is however a much deeper reason for the plague of tzaraas[10]. The Canaanites often practiced various types of witchcraft, demon worship and idol worship which polluted the spiritual environment around them. At times they even built the buildings for the sake of their idols. When the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel, and inherited the houses of the Canaanites, some of these houses were so polluted they were completely inappropriate for serving Hashem. Indeed, a person living in such a house would be prone to sinning since even the wood and stone had absorbed the negative energy that was generated there. Hashem would then send tzaraas on such a house so that it would get totally demolished.


The Talmud[11] describes how Rabbi Chiya wanted to teach Torah to children. He made nets, caught deer, slaughtered them and gave meat to the poor. He then made parchments out the skins and wrote the five books of the Torah on them and taught them to five children. The question is asked: why did not Rabbi Chiya simply buy the Torah scrolls or at least the parchments? The answer[12] is that he wanted these scrolls to be as holy as possible and for that he needed the intent (kavonah) to be pure from the very beginning. Even the parchments themselves had to be made Leshem Shamayim and through the mitzvah of feeding the poor. Then the effects of the scrolls would be immense[13]!


As we mentioned in our commentary to the previous Parsha, besides the simple meaning the laws of tzaraas also have hints and secrets. We will only mention one important allusion regarding these laws. In general, when tzaraas appears on the walls of a house, its’ situation remains uncertain for up to three weeks. The house is given “another chance” for three weeks in a row until it has to be completely demolished[14]. The Tikuney Zohar[15] states that the “house” hints to a person. The stones, the wood and the earth hint to the three levels of souls (Nefesh, Ruach and Neshama). The three seven day periods hint to three additional gilgulim of an individual, since our lives are about seventy years (Tehillim 90:10). Thus even the worst sinner is given at least three more chances. This is hinted to in a verse in Iyov (33:29) “This is what Hashem does twice and three times with a person[16]”. Each next time extra changes are being made to his structure of souls. The first time additional Neshama is used to help him do Tshuvah. Since the Neshama of an individual is above his body the change is relative minor, like the change of the house after one week[17]. In the second and third gilgulim the changes affect the Ruach and Nefesh which are the very core structure of the person, just like the laws of the house in the last two weeks. If the person starts rectifying his sins, he will be sent back again numerous times, but if he does not, he won’t be given any further chances[18]. If it is still possible to rectify his soul through suffering, then he spend the needed time in Gehinom and other places intended for atonement and purification. Whatever remains of his soul afterwards may merit the Eternity. If this soul can not get rectified, it will eventually be destroyed, this however happens rarely to a Jewish person[19].


May we deserve that our dwellings be sanctified so that Hashem’s Presence will be in our houses. May we all deserve to purify our intents and actions so that our mitzvos will have a great effect and our religious articles will possess a great holiness. May we speedily rectify all our misdeeds from other gilgulim and finally merit the redemption!




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[1] We used the word “leprosy” throughout our commentary. There is really a question if the tzaraas of the skin is indeed the same sickness as what is commonly known as leprosy today. It is definitely true that the “tzaraas” of clothing and of houses has nothing to do with leprosy of skin and indeed the last two types of tzaraas are miraculous in nature and were not occurring in recent history (see Ramban, Vayikra 13:47, Rambam, laws of tzaraas, 16:10). However the tzaraas of the skin is a sickness that can happen in our day as well. In fact, the prohibition of cutting out the skin with a mark of tzaraas is applicable to us today (see Sefer Hachinuch, 584). However Rav Arye Kaplan writes that even the tzaraas of the skin was somewhat miraculous and it was not the disease we call leprosy (see “The Living Torah”, pg. 558).


[2] In later prophets another disease is described, king Asa had sickness of legs (Melachim 11:15:23). (Note, that it is possible to consider certain male or female discharges (zav and zava) described in this Parsha a minor sickness as well.)


[3] See Talmud, Arachim 16a.


[4] See the Zohar 3:301b; 3:47a; 3:53a; Chofetz Chaim in Shmiras Haloshon, Shaar Hazechira, 6.


[5] Vayikra Raba 17:4; Midrash Tanchuma, Sazria, 10; Rabeynu Bachye 13:58.


[6] See Vayikra Raba 17:2.


[7] Regarding the secrets behind the complicated procedure of purification of a leper, see Zohar 3:53a.


[8] See our words to Parshas Shmini.

[9] See Sifra, Metzora 5:4; Vayikra Raba 17:6; Rashi 14:34.


[10] See Zohar 3:50a.


[11] Kesubos 103b, Bava Metzia 85b.


[12] See Maharsha, Bava Metzia 85b.


[13] This is one of the reasons why the great mekubalim usually practiced their meditations and made their rectifications in remote places away from society. The greater the tikun, the more pure the environment has to be. They were afraid to do rectifications inside the houses since the buildings may have been built with wrong intent or through certain sins (stealing, not paying the workers on time etc). This would have a negative impact on those inside the buildings. This is an important lesson for us as well. The more pure the construction is, the more can be achieved through it. If a synagogue is built on donations of people who acquired the money in dishonest ways, it’s no wonder the prayers in such a shul have little effect. If a Yeshivah is taking money from sinners, it’s not difficult to understand why the students have little success in their learning.

[14] As opposed to the other types of tzaraas where the period of uncertainty is at most two weeks.


[15] This is discussed in tens of places, see for instance pg. 103 (GR”A’s edition – pg. 117) and Tikuney Zohar Chadash, 85. See also the GR”A’s commentary there, Kisvey Arizal, Shaar Hagilgulim, fourth Hakdama; Magid Mesharim, Parshas Tzav.


[16] Indeed the Mekubalim explain that this verse deals with gilgulim of an individual (see Ramban’s commentary on Iyov 33:17 and Rabeynu Bachye in Kad Hakemach 73b). Throughout the whole story of Iyov he is complaining to his friends that he is totally righteous and yet is being punished so horribly. None of their arguments convince him until his youngest friend Elihu ben Barkiel explains to him that a person can have many lives and his suffering is not for the sins in this life but in a previous one. Indeed according to Arizal, Iyov was a gilgul of Terach, the father of Avraham, the idol manufacturer, (see Shaar Hapesukim, beginning of Sefer Iyov). After hearing this Iyov does not complain any longer.


[17] This is compared to grafting a tree. The three levels of souls and their changes are also hinted in the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah, 16b): “A change of place, a change of name, and a change of deeds”, (see GR”A on Tikuney Zohar Chadash, 85).


[18] This is also hinted in the verse (Shemos 34:7): “He keeps His kindness to thousands of generations …but visits the sins of a person upon his children … up to four generations”. The “children” here are the future gilgulim of the same individual. A righteous person may come back many times until he achieves perfection and his good deeds are kept for him from gilgul to gilgul. But a sinner is given just three more chances.


[19] See Ramchal, Maamar Haikarim, about Gan Eden and Gehinom.