From Leprosy, From Galus
Sichos in English
Parshas Tazria-Metzora; 6th Day of Iyar, 5751
1. This is a time when every person is obligated to do all that depends on
him to bring about the coming of Moshiach immediately, for the appointed times
for Moshiach’s coming have passed.
clearly true at present after the conclusion of the month of Nissan. Surely, in
the immediate future, Moshiach will come and everyone will point to him and say,
"Behold, Moshiach has come!"
concepts, the imminence of Moshiach’s coming and every Jew’s responsibility
to act to bring his coming closer are connected to this week’s Torah reading,
Tazria begins with the mention of the laws concerning a woman giving birth to a
son. This is an allusion to the coming of the future Redemption, which is often
described using the metaphor of birth.
birth of a son can be interpreted as a reference to the strength and permanence
that will characterize the ultimate Redemption, for this Redemption will not be
followed by an exile. In this context, the woman is an allusion to the Jewish
people, whose service will ultimately bear fruit in the advent of the Era of
Metzora also shares a connection to Moshiach’s coming. Our Sages teach: What
is Moshiach’s name? The Leper of the School of Rebbi, as implied by the
prophecy, "He has borne our sicknesses and endured our afflictions."
Moshiach will sit among the lepers and be a leper himself.
on the above, we can appreciate the derivation of the name of the parsha
from the verse, "This is the law applying to the leper on his day of
purification." Although the commonly accepted name of the parsha is Metzora
(Leper), in some communities it is referred to as Parshas Tahara, purification.
on the above, we can appreciate both names as applying to Moshiach: Metzora
refers to Moshiach as he exists within exile, and Tahara refers to Moshiach’s
state after he reveals himself and redeems the Jewish people.
explain the above concept: Commenting on the verse, "When a man will have a
blemish on his skin," the Alter Rebbe explains that "adam"
(the Hebrew term used for man) refers to a person who is completely developed in
all aspects of his personality. The blemish is only superficial, i.e., it
affects only the lower and more superficial elements of his being which have not
yet been refined. The Alter Rebbe continues, explaining that leprous blemishes
are actually spiritual in nature; for example, they are not deemed impure until
they are determined to be so by a Kohen.... Until then, they are not impure, but
are a reflection of sublime G-dly lights.
two explanations of leprous blemishes - that they reflect the superficial
aspects of one’s being that have not yet been refined and are a reflection of
sublime G-dly lights - are actually interrelated. Since they are actually a
manifestation of sublime revelations, even when there is a descent and nurture
is derived by undesirable forces, the effects are only superficial.
we can appreciate the purification of a leper’s blemishes in a different
context: The purification process does not represent the introduction of a new
quality, but rather the revelation of the inner, true dimension possessed by
these blemishes: their existence as sublime lights. This is reflected by the
phrase, "on the day of one’s purification." This implies that the
purification from leprosy is connected with "day," i.e., with
revelation, revealing the inner nature of these sublime lights. It is precisely
the sublime nature of these Divine lights that allows for the possibility of
nurture by undesirable forces. These lights are too powerful to be clothed
within vessels and therefore, there is the possibility for descent. When these
powerful lights shine on vessels which cannot accomodate them, they cause the
vessels to feel a yearning, as it were, to rise above their immediate situation
and to become included within the light of G-d. This state is described as
ratzu. This allows for the possibility for nurture to be derived by the
external forces because there is no downward influence of holiness directed
toward worldly involvement.
an example of this on the personal level: After a person feels tremendously
inspired in prayer, the energy he feels may be expressed in anger directed at
another person. What is necessary? To develop equilibrium with such feelings of ratzu,
it is necessary to put a stress on shuv, involvement in the world. This
is characterized by bittul. The yearning for G dliness has an element of yesh,
self-concern, for in any love relationship, the person expressing love remains
conscious of his personal identity. Conversely, in the approach of shuv,
one must be like a subject who is totally overwhelmed when in the presence of
his master and who feels no self-importance whatsoever.
will find expression in various efforts to draw Divine light downward, thus
fulfilling G-d’s desire for a dwelling within the lower worlds. This shuv
has the potential to draw down the sublime lights that are too transcendent to
be clothed in vessels to be revealed within this world.
fusion of these two tendencies of ratzu and shuv comes about
through the revelation of a light that transcends both qualities. This is
reflected in the quality of Tiferes (beauty) which has the power to create a
synthesis between chesed (kindness) and g’vura (might), because
within it is revealed a light that is utterly transcendent in nature.
process is reflected in the description of the purification of a leper as toras
ha’metzora (the law of the leper). Seemingly, the verse should have stated
"taharas ha’metzora," the purification process for the leper.
Why does it use the word "toras"? To indicate that, in a
spiritual sense, the purification of a leper comes about through the Torah.
study requires bittul, as implied by the juxtapostion in the passage in
our prayers, "My soul will be as dust to all. Open my heart in Your
Torah." It is bittul that makes one an appropriate recipient for the
Torah is associated with the attribute of tiferes, as our Sages declared:
tiferes is the giving of the Torah. Thus, the Torah has the potential to
unite ratzu and shuv and cause the sublime lights to be drawn down
and revealed within the vessels of this world. This revelation, in turn,
prevents the external forces from deriving nurture.
on the above, we can consider leprosy an analogy for exile and the purification
from this impurity as an analogy for the Redemption. Exile is characterized by
the concealment of G-dly light. This darkness, however, has its source in
sublime lights which are too transcendent to be revealed within this material
world. Since the source of this darkness is so high, it affects only the lower
and more superficial elements of our existence.
efforts to refine the world in the time of exile do not involve the introduction
of a totally new idea, but rather the revelation of the true nature of the exile
itself. Therefore, the exile need not be nullified entirely, but rather,
transformed into Redemption.
concept is revealed in the relationship between the Hebrew words for exile and
redemption, gola and geula. The difference between these two words
is only one letter, the Alef, which stands for G-d: Alufo Shel Olam (L-rd
of the world).
our service in the present era, we can reveal the sublime G-dly lights that are
not revealed in the time of exile. In particular, this is brought about through
service that is characterized by bittul and mesirus nefesh. These
qualities bring the yechida of the Jewish soul into expression and lead
to the expression of the Divine level of yachid. This brings about the
fusion of ratzu and shuv and causes the sublime Divine lights to
be revealed within the vessels of this world.
on the above explanation, we can understand the sequence in the two portions
that are read this week. As a preface to the concept of leprosy described in
both parshiyos, the Torah speaks of a woman giving birth, which is an
analogy of how our service at present can lead to the Redemption. In
continuation, the Torah reading mentions leprosy, the exile, for in truth the
exile relates to sublime G-dly heights which ultimately will be revealed in this
world in the Era of the Redemption.
Parshas Metzora, whose very name alludes to exile, begins with the description
of the leper’s purification process, the revelation of the true nature of the
exile. This is emphasized by the fact that Moshiach is called a leper and is
described by our Sages as living among lepers. This teaches us that Moshiach
also exists in the world in the midst of the exile. He is also in exile and he
waits anxiously to become revealed and to proceed to redeem the Jewish people.
week, we study the second chapter of Pirkei Avos. The first teaching of that
chapter states: "Rebbi said: Which is the right path that a man (adam)
should choose for himself? That which is honorable (tiferes) to himself
and brings him honor (tiferes) from man." There are several
difficulties which are raised by this teaching: a) The very question,
"Which is the right path?" is problematic. Can there be a right
path other than the path of the Torah and its mitzvos? b) Why does the
Mishna use the term "adam," which refers to a person whose service of
G-d is already complete? c) What is the connection between this statement and
its author, Rebbi? And why does the Mishna refer to him in this manner and not
by name, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi?
questions can be answered within the context of the concepts explained above
regarding Moshiach’s coming: In Rebbi’s generation, his colleagues said:
"If Moshiach is among those alive today, he is surely our holy teacher
[i.e., Rebbi] for he suffers physical afflictions and is the epitome of
piety." Therefore, Rebbi speaks about an adam, a person who, like
himself, has reached a perfect level of fulfillment and has to elevate only the
superficial elements of his being, and yet suffers the pains of exile.
be emphasized that, at present, since we, as the final generation of the exile,
have already completed all elements of service demanded of us by G-d - every Jew
in this generation is on the level of adam. The question is: Since we
have completed everything demanded of us, what is the right - i.e., the most
direct and most effective - path to bring about the actual coming of Moshiach?
answer brings out the advantage of the quality of tiferes, which, as
explained above, has the ability to fuse together the two directions of ratzu
and shuv. Conduct in this manner has the potential to hasten the coming
of Moshiach for Moshiach will serve two functions: king (as he is called Melech
HaMoshiach) and teacher (for he will teach the Torah to the entire people),
which represents a similar fusion of two opposite tendencies. To explain: Our
relationship to a king depends on the quality of kabbalas ol, i.e., a
person goes beyond himself and nullifies himself to the king’s authority. In
contrast, teaching implies the establishment of an internal bond. Thus, the
fusion of these two qualities parallels drawing down transcendent G-dly light
into revelation within our limited world.
above concepts can be associated with the present month, the month of Iyar. In
contrast to the month of Nissan, which is associated with redemption and
revelation from above, Iyar represents man’s contribution, the advantage
achieved through service on this plane. Thus, the relationship between these two
months also relates to the concept of drawing down transcendent G-dly light into
revelation within our limited world. The fusion between these two months is
established through the second of Iyar, Tiferes she’b’Tiferes, the
birthday of the Rebbe Maharash.
allows for the revelations associated with Nissan, the month of redemption, to
be drawn into the world through our service. Iyar is an acronym for the names
Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yaakov and Rochel. The three Patriarchs represent the three
columns of the s’firos, and Rochel represents the vessels which receive
this Divine light.
parallels the concept described above. Rochel is also remembered for her
mourning over the Jewish people having been sent to exile. G-d promises Rochel
that "There will be a reward for your efforts," and that ultimately,
the children will return to their borders, i.e., the Redemption will come.