Purification From Leprosy, From Galus
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Shabbos 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.

This is 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!"

These 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-Metzora.

Parshas 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.

The 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 Redemption.

Parshas 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.

Based 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.

Based 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.

To 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.

These 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.

Accordingly, 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.

To give 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.

This bittul 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.

The 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.

This 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.

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.

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.

Based 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.

Our 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.

This 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).

Through 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.

Based 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.

Afterwards, 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.

2. This 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?

These 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.

It must 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?

The 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.

3. The 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.

This 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.

This 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.


Our 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.




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.


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