<I>Tazria-Metzora</I>: Miraculous Halachot

Tzora'at is a "sign and a miracle." -- Rambam

Aloh Naaleh,

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While halakhah generally deals with the mundane and not with the supernatural, there are occasions that miraculous events do elicit halakhic responses. What naturally comes to mind are the miraculous events of redemption such as the Exodus, Purim and Hanukah, all of which served as bases for holidays that then engendered kedushat hayom, kriyat megillah, Hallel and the like.

We do not usually associate halakhic responses with other types of miraculous events, but this week’s parasha presents us with exactly that situation. Tzora'at is defined by the Rambam as a "sign and a miracle," and engenders halakhic action. The various kinds of tzora'at, says the Rambam, have no physical common denominator, for tzora'at of the walls of the house and tzora'at of clothing and tzora'at of the body are all different physical manifestations. What binds them together is that they are all part of a miraculous warning system that reacts to man's moral and ethical failings, particularly with respect to the manner of speech and expression.

Lashon hara - slander, gossip and defamation - lies at the root of human failings that result in tzora'at. The Rambam describes the slippery slope of reckless and irresponsible speech that begins with badmouthing the righteous, leads to criticism of the prophets, which in turn leads to "denying the root," i.e., the fundamental beliefs of the Torah.

Rabbenu Bahya Ben-Asher, in his Torah commentary, says that this miracle, i.e., the physical manifestations afflicting the sinner in all forms of tzora'at occurs only in Eretz Israel. This is so due to the unique nature of Eretz Israel. Eretz Israel is the land in which the Shechinah dwells and this imposes unique obligations upon its inhabitants. Eretz Israel brings with it the privilege of closeness to God. But that very closeness requires its inhabitants to develop a superior moral sensitivity.

Our generation has merited the unique privilege of living in the Holy Land. May we continue to merit this privilege by refining our moral sensitivities in both bein adam lehavero as well as in bein adam laMakom.
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Carmi Horowitz, a musmakh of RIETS and graduate of Harvard University, made Aliyah in 1979 and is a professor of Jewish History and Literature and the rector of Lander Institute, Jerusalem Academic Center.

The foregoing commentary was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.




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