Due to the seventh day of Pesach falling out on Friday, for the next few weeks, Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La'aretz will be off a parshah. Since we are publishing from Eretz Yisrael, we will be following the order of the Parshiyos here. Please click here to read a Dvar Torah for this week's parshah in Chutz La'aretz. We will even out by Parshas Bechukosai.
This week, we read the double parshah of Tazria-Metzora, which the majority of deals with the halachos of Tzara’as; translated best into English as leprosy, though that is most likely not what it actually was. Tzara’as was a series of lesions that would appear on your skin, on your house, or on your clothes, when you committed one of a number of sins. The three most discussed reasons for getting Tzara’as are for speaking Lashon Hara, for acting haughty, and for having an extreme desire for money.
It was not so easy to tell that the lesions you saw were actually Tzara’as, you had to be well learned to know for sure. So when you suspected the appearance of Tzara’as, you had to go to the local Kohen to ask him to confirm; no one else was allowed to make this confirmation. The Sifsei Chachamim on Rashi in Vayikra 13:2 goes so far as to say that even if the Kohen is an Am Ha’aretz, an unlearned person, someone (a non-Kohen) must teach him the proper way to check, in order that the Kohen should be the one to officially announce the appearance and healing of the lesions.
What is the meaning behind this commitment to the Kohanim that they are the only ones who can confirm an appearance or mistaken appearance of Tzara’as?
The Kli Yakar explains that Kohen bloodlines are different from all others. Aharon, the original Kohen, encompassed three middos that were passed down to all his descendants. The first was his well-documented propensity for peace. Aharon HaKohen went to great lengths to make peace between spouses, family, and friends. Therefore, he is the perfect person to testify on a punishment for the sin of Lashon Hara, which is caused by hate. The second middah is that Aharon was known as a very humble person (see Shemos 16:8), the exact opposite of haughtiness.
Finally, Shevet Levi, of which the Kohanim are a part of, did not receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael with the other tribes. For the Kohanim, the only income they received was the Terumah donations of their neighbors and the meat of the korbanos for the few weeks they worked each year in the Beis Hamikdash. They exhibited the middah of taking what was given to them and not desiring more. What better person to discuss the desire for money with than someone who didn’t want it!
These middos personify the Kohanim, and are the reasons why they are the only ones who can discuss the punishment of Tzara’as. In many ways, Tzara’as is a gift. While it was embarrassing and inconvenient for those who got it, it allowed you the knowledge that you had done something wrong. While nowadays we have to rely on ourselves and the people around us (but more on ourselves) to tell us where we need to improve, in the days when we had Tzara’as, we could tell instantly when we needed to work on ourselves. It was a direct message from Hashem that we should do Teshuvah. How lucky we would be to have that same knowledge!
And what better person to deliver the message than someone who understands the evil of these particular sins, and whose family has fought through the generations to rid themselves of them. The Kohen is truly the right messenger to deliver this powerful and thankfully, clear message.
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