HUMILITY IN VICTORY
adapted from Meta Parshiyot by R David Wolfe-Blank 5775 page 60-61
Metzora continues the subject of ceremonies welcoming the cured tzara’at back into community by means of offerings. These are: a bird; cedar wood; a piece of crimson wool; a hyssop branch; one or two lambs; a meal offering of flour; a jar of olive oil; and a ceremonial ritual which involved shaving off all of one’s body hair, including the eyebrows.
Discoloration in the walls of houses (mold? fungus?) is treated as Tamei (requiring isolation see parashat Tazria for a definition). Special procedures are required before entering the Mishkon are detailed for a woman who has menstruated or a man with a seminal discharge.
This is a challenging Torah portion. It has become more relevant as result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was surprising to find many blessings revealed as a result of personal isolation. The experience helps us understand the reasoning for the protocols in Torah required before resuming communal life.
First way: Abstract Tzara’at to an ethical issue Talmudic Teachings:
Rashi brings down from Talmud (Arakhin 15) that tzara’at afflicts a person who is guilty is speaking evil of another. According to our sages, the word “metzora” is a contraction of “motzi ra” (finding the bad) a person who highlights the bad, that is to say slanders another person (usually described as motzi shem ra).
The point is driven home over and over again in many Rabbinical interpretations and their commentaries. For example, “Why is a leper purified through bringing birds to the sanctuary? Because birds chirp loudly and they are to serve as a reminder that what caused all the trouble was speaking where one should remain silent.” (from Tsvi Israel quoted in Torah Gems page 294)
Although the importance of the education and ethical dangers of slander cannot be over emphasized, suggesting that an ethical failure is the root cause of a horrible disease is no longer historically are scientifically tenable. Blaming the victim was already obsolete after Job.
The second way: abstract it to a sociological issue:
Let’s look at how the haftorah (the one native to Metzora, not the haftorah for Shabbat HaGadol – which this year preempts native Haftorah which) deals with tzara’at:
Four lepers, in Samaria during a time of famine, decided to defect to the camp of the besieging enemy, the Syrian military of King Ben Hadad. They discovered that the entire enemy camp had fled for their lives terrorized by the mass audio hallucination of a great army marching towards them. The lepers he had some rich booty for themselves for later, and then went to spread the news to the city of Samaria. This caused so much excitement. The people became unruly. Consequently, the king was trampled at the city gate by a mob and died. We see lepers – outcasts of society – becoming rich and famous, and the rich and famous being trampled. (Kings 2 chapter 7:3- 20)
The message seems to be, when there is life, there is hope. Because, you never know how things are going to turn out. No matter how lowly or desperate someone may look or feel, they never should be entirely discounted. Surrender your faith to The Holy One of Blessing.
it’s totally off the point of the issues that the Torah seems to be raising, like details of the disease, how to discern, quaranrine and when they are declared Tahor (ready to integrate into community.). The sociological commentary speaks only of the community aspect and not the individual person.
The third way: Focus on the psychological issue:
A person with tzara’at was usually sent outside all camps in the desert, because as our sages say tzara’at comes from slandering others. The sin of slander does not consist of spreading lies about others, but seeking faults and others rather than seeking the basis of such faults in oneself. As a result, the one who slanders is told: if you are so good at finding fault go out of the camp, remove yourself from the community, remain isolated by yourself, meditate and become aware of the basis of your extra sensitivity to other people’s fault. Yefet quoted in Torah gems page 289
Too psychologically simple minded; judgmental; no spiritual message
Fourth Way: abstract it to mystical cosmology:
Kabbalah Teaching 1:
Metzora comes from the abrupt departing of the light of Wisdom (Hokhmah). Therefore it’s repair comes about through the re-introduction of light into the vessels through the potency of the Cohen, provider of the light of Wisdom and blessing. Based on Liqutai Torah 36:6.
Kabbalah Teaching 2:
In the temple the purification of the leper took place at the Eastern gate, the gate of Nikanor. Why there? Because the east represents the rising son of Hokhmah (Wisdom), needed by those suffering from tzara’at
Likutei Levi Yitzhak ת:שסב
Kabbalah Teaching 3:
Wisdom comes from Hokhmah and provides the sense of purpose and patience that comes through Torah study. Understanding comes from Binah and provides a sense of excitement, passion, and discernment. Both are necessary. When the Flash of Hokhmah – light of the Cosmos – dissipates, only passion and excitement remain. These alone can burn a person up, causing feelings of depletion and emptiness. When emptiness and exhaustion combined, parasitical moods such as depression or empty entertainments can begin to appear and tempt one to avoid dealing with the situation and pain.
In Torah by the appearance of white blotches hints at this state. Their presence suggest distance from healthy balance to a state that is far from equilibrium. The white hairs are a sign of unhealthy parasites beginning to find their homes, and nest, in the unhealthy out of balance situation.
As Equilibrium is restored through the light of Hokhmah (Wisdom) with the help the Cohen, passions are calmed, and the parasites no longer have a place to hold on to. Torah, life, patience, and the calm that Shabbat brings are reinstated. (Based on Derek Mitzvotekha page 202-6).
This is somewhat abstract and divorced from ordinary experience, and the ordinary translation of the Torah.
5th Way – Integrate all Aspects:
Hasidic Teaching: let’s look up the Ishbitzer Rebbe deals with tzara’at:
High achieving sufferers tend to lack containment of their judgment, as in the case of a person who has a hard time extending a sense of generosity to others. These people have to an opportunity to work on 1) meditating on the agreement that the Divine offer boundless energy to everyone; 2) radiating generosity even another’s benefit means a lessening of one’s own personal gain, 3) radiating generosity even when another’s benefit means no personal gain at all and possibly a loss.
Low achieving sufferers tend to lack containment in the dimension of their speech. Lacking mental and emotional focus such a person becomes overly voluble, spilling over to speak without discrimination to whoever – what should be someone’s private business, causing unintended damage to everyone.
Healing is possible to both these sufferers through the reintroduction of the light of Hokhmah that is in Torah.
Or said another way, we must bring into the unbalanced energetic dynamic a higher state of healing charge, like Hokhmah. A problem can never be fixed at the level on which it exists. At the energy level in which a problem configures, problems dance in endless recombination without resolution. On and on and on. The same problem, raised to a higher level, is resolved automatically or reveals its route to balance in a different dimension.
In this way we see that rabbinical interpretation of Metzora as Motzi Ra, bringing out Evil through indiscriminate speech, is actually the end result of a lengthy process. The pathological process begins with the removal of the Wise light of Hokhmah. This leads to an upsurge of imbalance passion (from Binah ) which spills over inappropriate boundaries, resulting in inconsiderate communication, and slander. This 1) gives rise to negativity 2) causes social damage, and the final result is 3) physical problems in the body. Based on Derek Mitsvotekha May Hashiloah ( paid 68 to 70 and the I that is you page 153.)
It’s hard to integrate all the commentaries and still remain in an innocent heart space.
METZORA – COUNTS HOD IN NETZAH
Metzora speaks about unhealthy aspects that come through human biology through bodily emissions. This releases waste matter that the body cannot use creating space for heling. In the Tree of Life this manifests as Netzah and Hod, related to the right and left hip and leg, and are therefore more vulnerable than the upper parts. It is like a filtration system.
This is similar as it relates to Metzora, skin disease. Skin is the outermost part of the body, and is therefore, associated with Malkhut/Sh’khinah. Look at the Feminine Tree of Life above and visualize the innermost point as Keter (Crown- related to bones in the body), the other circles particular types of tissue, leaving and the skin and its affect as Malkhut/Sh’khinah, the outermost circle in the diagram. (Sefer Yetzirah 1:2, commentary attribute to Raavad). Dis-ease stemming from imbalance is revealed physically through the skin. It is a process that starts beneath the skin in all areas of life – body, heart, intellect, and spirit. Maybe. What do you think?
Because Netzah and Hod are more interested in action than the previous S’firot, they are vulnerable to omissions and mistakes. Pleasure is most intense in Keter (Crown), the first S’firah, which acts as the interface between the Ayn Sof (Infinite) and Finite. Physicality increases and spiritual potency diminishes, as the Light of the Infinite (Ohr Ayn Sof) is integrated through the S’firot.
By the time it comes to Netzah and Hod, the sense of purpose (Kavanah) has devolved into simple endurance: dedication has become more like persistence. Here is where we are most vulnerable in manifesting our good plans and resolutions. Hod’s Gratitude and Humility serve to soften Netzah’s drive and allow it to sustain. This Torah portion hints at rebalancing the places of our greatest vulnerabilities.