Monday, April 14, 2014

1) more on haseiba and 2) a thought of the Brisker Rav on the closing words of Malachi

1) My son mentioned that he saw R’ Asher Weiss quote the following question from the Aderes: The mitzvah of haseiba is a takkanah derabbanan, so if you eat matzah without haseiba, it means you were yotzei the chiyuv d’orasya and are just missing the kiyum derabbanan.  Why does the Rosh hold in this case that you have to eat all over again?  Just have in mind when you eat the k’zayis matzah in koreich that you also are being yotzei the derabbanan of matzah.  B’shlama if you missed matzah d’oraysa, the mitzvah derabbanan of maror is mevateil the mitzvah d’oraysa of matzah that comes with it.  But the rule is that derabbanans are not mevateil each other, so you should have no problem.

Last week we mentioned the chakirah of the Brisker Rav whether haseiba is a separate kiyum from matzah and 4 kosos or part and parcel of those mitzvos.  I thought this would answer the question of the Aderes.  According to the Rosh, since haseiba is part and parcel of the mitzvah matzah, it means eating without haseiba is not a kiyum of anything.  The chachamim were metakein that if you do not do the mitzvah is the tzurah they enacted of having haseiba, you lose your d’oraysa kiyum of matzah as well.

This answer will not work 1) according to RYBS’s hesber in the Rosh that you are yotzei the d’oraysa of matzah but are missing the additional kiyum of sipur yetziyas Mitzrayim done through matzah; 2) it also will not work if you assume the Brisker Rav meant in the Rosh that you are missing the “mitzvah b’shleimusa,” but have the ikar kiyum, as R’ Sasson commented last week; 3) my son found it strange that Chazal should be mafki’ah your kiyum of matzah just because they want you to do an additional mitzvah of haseiba.  (This does not bother me so much because of Tos Sukkah 3 and the PM”G we discussed once before.)

2) Even though usually it is preferable to daven mincha ketana, I saw a chiddush quoted in the name of R’ Chaim Berlin that on erev Pesach it is better to daven mincha earlier, as we know the afternoon tamid was offered earlier to allow time for the korban pesach to be brought.

3) The haftarah of Shabbos haGadol ends with the charge of “Zichru toras Moshe avdi,” followed by the famous pesukim of “Hinei anochi sholeiach lachem es Eliya haNavi.”  Malachi was the last of the prophets; his closing words literally mark the close of an era.  We cannot imagine what that transition must have been like.  People must have wondered, “How can we live without nevuah – how will we know what G-d wants?”  The Chofetz Chaim explained that Malachi was answering that question with his closing words.  Zichru toras Moshe avdi” – everything you need is already in Torah.  You just need to learn and you will discover the answers you need.

I saw a slightly different twist on this idea in the Brisker haggadah.  It seems the GRI”Z understood that the close of prophecy at the time of Malachi is not just a metziyus, but a din.  How do you know that the guy standing in Times Square who says G-d spoke to him is not for real?  The answer is because Malachi told us “Zichru toras Moshe avdi,” that all the answers are found in Torah and there is no more prophecy.  Malachi has to add “Hinei anochi sholeich lachem es Eliya haNavi…” not just because he wants to end on an uplifting note, but because he needs to add an exception to the rule.  There is no longer a “din” nevuah, but we still expect and anticipate one additional navi – Eliyahu haNavi, who will herald Moshiach’s coming.

4) On a final note, just to give those of us exhausted from cleaning a better appreciation for why we do what we do, I am going to plagarize a post of my wife's quoting a story from Nor the Moon by Night by Devora Gliksman:
On a fundraisng trip for the yeshiva, R' Shliomele visited R' Shimon Wolf Rotschild, of the wealthy and famous Rotschild family. R' Shimon Wolf showed R; Shloimele around his beautiful estate, finally pausing beside a house built of the main house.

"And this," R' Shimon Wolf gestured proudly, "this is my Pesach house. I built it jut to be used on Pesach. The rest of the year it is kept locked."

R' Shloimele just shrugged his shoulders. R' Shimon wondered why he wasn't impressed.
R' Shloimele explained that his holy grandfather -- the Sanzer Rav - though not a wealthy man would have spent anything any amount of money to perform a mitzvah properly. Had he felt hat keeping Pesach properly necessitated building a separate house, he would have done so. Therefore, if he feels he needs it, why shouldn't Baron Rothschild?"

Thinking on the matter further, R' Shloimele saw a downside to a Pesach house:
"The gemara says that chumetz can be interpreted as to the yetzer hu'reh. Our searching for chumetz and destroying it is a mushol for searching out and destroying the yetzer hu'reh, thereby doing teshivah. We know that the only way to do complete teshivah is to put ourselves again in the same situation where we have done an aveirah and, when the opportunity presents itself, not repeat that aveirah. Therefore, it is only fitting that the house where had eaten chumetz be cleaned out and used for mitzvos -- the mitzvos we perform at the seider, the mitzvos we perform during Pesach. Having a separate house set aside for Pesach does not accomplish that purpose."
 Have a chag kasher v'sameiach! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

haggadah on Shabbos haGadol

Yesh lachkor what the relationship between Shabbos haGadol and Pesach is: Is that the upcoming chag of Pesach impacts Shabbos, as the geulah of Pesach is already tangible in some sense, or is it that Shabbos takes on added importance because it impacts the upcoming chag, as it is only through kedusha Shabbos that the kedushas ha’moadim can come into being?

The Shulchan Aruch devotes a siman to telling us that Shabbos is called "Shabbos haGadol."  We expect the Shulchan Aruch to tell us do's and don'ts -- l'mai nafka minah that the Shabbos has a special name?  I saw R' Chaim Kanievsky quotes from R' Elyashiv that you should wish people "Good Shabbos haGadol," not just "Good Shabbos," because of this din.

No matter how hard cleaning is, I think the bigger avodah is figuring out what to do with kids on chol hamoed.  If your kids are in strollers still or are little and you think having to pack a diaper bag or bags and bags of snacks and drinks is hard, just wait until they become teenagers.  I’m too young to start sounding like a grumpy old man, so I’ll leave it at that.

The Rama quotes a minhag to read the haggadah on Shabbos haGadol, but the GR”A objects, as we read in the haggadah itself that sippur yetzias Mitzraim can only be done when you have a chiyuv of matzah and maror (or maybe you actually need matzah and maror physically present – see R’ Zolti’s discussion in Mishnas Ya’avetz).  It’s hard to understand what bothered the GR”A.  One would hope that you are not first cracking open the haggadah on leil haseder and looking through the Artscroll notes on the bottom to try come up with something to say!  You can learn the haggadah any day of the year.  So what’s so bad if on Shabbos before Pesach you take out the haggadah and go through it even if it is not the zman hamitzvah?
This GR”A reminded me of the gemara (Megillah 3) that you have to even be mevateil talmud Torah to read the megillah.  Why does the gemara call reading the megillah “bitul Torah” – isn’t reading the text of Tanach also a kiyum of talmud Torah?  Apparently reading b’toras kriah is a different type of engagement with the text than study.  Here too, of course one can learn the haggadah any time.  What the GR”A may have found problematic was formalizing it into an act of recitation rather than talmud Torah.  That smacks of an imitation of the mitzvah of haggdah, which can only take place on leil haseder.

That’s not to say that if you just read the text at the seder it’s enough.  Achronim writes that you get a kiyum mitzvah of talmud torah for reading pesukim even if you don’t understand them, but you get no mitzvah of talmud torah for reading torah sheba’al peh unless you know what it means.  So what if you open a chumash on leil haseder and just read the pesukim that tell the story of yetzias Mitzrayim without understanding what you are saying – are you yotzei?  I find it hard to believe that you are.  The point of reading the haggadah is not talmud torah, but rather is about engendering the feeling of “k’ilu hu atzmo yatzah m’Mitzrayim.”  I haven’t bothered to look for ra’ayos and am just speculating m’sevara.

The Sefas Emes quotes the Midrash that at the time of creation every day had a match – the days come in pairs – except for Shabbos, which was the odd man out.  Hashem said to Shabbos that Klal Yisrael would be its match.  It was not until the geulah from Mitzrayim, when we became a nation, that the day of Shabbos was completed with its match.  True, Shabbos existed beforehand as a commemoration of creation, but that commemoration is incomplete without a Klal Yisrael to reveal it to the world.  (The 10 makkos parallel the 10 ma’amarim of the creation of the world.  The latter conceal G-d’s presence in nature; the former reveal that concealment.  Shabbos allows us time to stop and contemplate, so that we hopefully come to recognize, “Mah rabu ma’asecha Hashem…,” as we say in the shir shel yom for Shabbos.  Yetzias Mitzrayim, geulah, is the culmination of peeling away of the layers of teva so that recognition is obvious to all.)

We end “Ha lachma anya…” with the declaration that next year we hope to be in Eretz Yisrael and celebrating in Yerushalayim.  We have at the end of the seder as well the declaration of “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim.”  The halacha is that on leil haseder you bring out your best dishes, your finest silverware.  You might even be sitting on leil haseder in Cancun or the French Riviera in the greatest hotels, waited on hand and foot.  At the start of the seder you look at the beautifully set table, at all that you have, and you think to yourself, "Ah, what could be better than this?"   Therefore, the haggadah sticks in a reminder – don’t forget that you’re still in galus.  As nice a galus as it can be, it’s still not where we belong.  With all the luxuries we may have wherever we are, we still yearn to be in Eretz Yisrael (heard from R’ Meir Goldvicht).
In case I don't write anything on Monday (my brain stopped working much earlier this week already) let me wish everyone a wonderful Pesach in advance.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

hasieba and the chiyuv 4 kosos for ketanim

A) Rav Soloveitchik pointed out that from the language of the Rambam (Chameitz u'Matzah 7:7):

לפיכך כשסועד אדם בלילה הזה צריך לאכול ולשתות והוא מיסב דרך חירות
It seems that the mitzvah of haseiba is a din in seudas Pesach (k'she'soed adam...).

The Rambam and Rosh disagree whether someone who ate matzah or drank the 4 kosos without haseiba fulfills his mitzvah or not.  The Brisker Rav (does everybody have a Brisker Haggdah these days?) explains the underlying issue as follows: is haseiba an independent mitzvah, or just a tnai in how to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah or kosos?  If it is an independent mitzvah, then one can fulfill matzah or 4 kosos without fulfilling the mitzvah of haseiba.  If it is a tnai, then missing haseiba undermines the mitzvah of matzah or 4 kosos itself and you have eat and drink all over again.

Rav Soloveitchik had a tremendous question on this hesber.  The gemara has a din that if bandits force someone to eat matzah, he is yotzei the mitzvah.  If haseiba is an integral part of the mitzvah, how can that be?  It’s one thing to force matzah down someone’s throat – surely the gemara is not speaking of a case where they force the person to sit with haseiba as well?!

As we know from the haggdah, Rabban Gamliel teaches that if you fail to talk about pesach, matzah, and maror you are not yotzei the mitzvah.  What mitzvah?  The Rishonim (Rambam, Tos, Rambam) debate whether Rabban Gamliel meant the mitzvah of matzah, maror, and pesach, or whether he meant the mitzvah of haggadah.  In other words, are pesach, matzah, and maror necessary to fulfill the mitzvah of sipur yetzias Mitzrayim, or is sipur yetzias Mitzrayim a necessary ingredient of the mitzvos of pesach, matzah and maror?

Based on this chakira, the Rav suggested (See Moadei haRav, also R' Genack's sefer Gan Shoshanim siman 20) that eating matzah without haseiba is good enough for a kiyum of matzah qua matzah, but the Rosh holds that one must still eat again in order to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah qua an essential element of the mitzvah of haggdah. 

B) The gemara (108b) quotes a machlokes regarding whether ketanim are chayavim in 4 kosos:

 ת"ר הכל חייבין בארבעה כוסות הללו אחד אנשים ואחד נשים ואחד תינוקות א"ר יהודה וכי מה תועלת יש לתינוקות ביין

Rashbam explains:

 ואחד התינוקות. שגם הם נגאלו

I saw suggested (see here) based on this Rashbam that the hesber of the machlokes is whether the sevara of af hein hayu b’oso ha’nes creates a chiyuv on ketanim or not.  The problem is that the Mishna in Megillah (19b) quotes R’ Yehudah’s view that a katan can even be motzi a gadol in krias hamegillah.  Many Rishonim (Ramban, Tos, see Tos R’ Akiva Eiger there) explain that a katan becomes mechuyav just like a gadol because of af hein.  If so, how does R’ Yehudah’s view there jibe with his view here that af hein does not create a chiyuv in 4 kosos? 
I have a simpler question.  On that same amud in Pesachim the gemara writes that women are obligated in 4 kosos because of af hein.  Rashbam explains:
שאף הן היו באותו הנס. כדאמרינן (סוטה דף יא:) בשכר נשים צדקניות שבאותו הדור נגאלו 
According to Rashbam (as Tosfos on the spot notes and takes issue with) the sevara of af hein involves being a cause of redemption, not just a participant.  This sevara cannot apply to ketanim, so the Rashbam must mean something else entirely when he says  שגם הם נגאלו. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

a father fasting ta'anis bechorim for a katan

1) If a katan is a bechor, the Rama brings down that the child’s father should fast on his behalf.  R’ Chaim Kanievsky was asked whether the child can make/participate in a siyum to exempt his father from the chiyuv and he answered in the affirmative.

I like the lomdus behind the question: does the Rama mean the chiyuv ta’anis is on the katan, but since the katan can’t physically fast the father is mekayeim the ta’anis on his behalf, in which case the katan can make the siyum, or does the Rama mean that the chiyuv ta’anis is on the father, not on the katan, in which case the katan’s siyum doesn’t help?

R’ Chaim seems to assume as a davar pashut that the siyum of a katan is enough of a simcha to override the fast.  I couldn’t find it last night, but I seem to recall that the Rogatchover raises this as a question.  If the idea of a siyum is to celebrate completing a mitzvah, maybe the siyum of a katan who has no chiyuv in mitzvos doesn't count.  Can a woman make a siyum (whether women have to fast ta'anis bechorim seems to depend on stiros in Midrashim) to remove the chiyuv of fasting?   

2) Someone came to R’ Chaim Kanievsky and said that he decided to fast instead of doing the usual siyum for ta’anis bechorim.  R’ Chaim paskened that since he made a siyum in past years, he needs to do a hataras nedarim to break the minhag. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

the pshat that led the Rashba to sing the Meshech Chochma's praises

The Meshech Chochma asks why the Torah writes with respect to the korban of a metzorah who is poor and brings birds instead of sheep that the kapparah takes place “lifnei Hashem” (14:31) – a phrase that is absent in all the other pesukim that deal with the metzorah's korbanos.  He answers by reminding us of a comment of the Ibn Ezra back in parshas Vayikra with respect to korban oleh v'yoreid.  If someone could not afford a sheep, he could bring two birds, one as an olah one as a chatas.  Why does the poor person have to bring two birds, asks Ibn Ezra, but only one korban if he brings an animal?  He answers that an animal korban chatas has two parts: the fats offered on the mizbeiach, and the food portion that is eaten.  A bird chatas has no fats that are offered on the altar; Therefore, it must be paired with an olah bird to make up the difference.  Coming back to our parsha, since a poor metzorah need only offer a chatas bird but not an olah, you might have thought his kapparah is incomplete.  Our pasuk therefore writes that the kapparah is “lifnei Hashem,” and Hashem does not need a portion to grant complete kapparah.

Now for the behind the scenes of what makes this Meshech Chochma special.  If you have the edition with R’ Kopperman’s notes or you take a look before the mafteichos in some editions of the Ohr Sameich, they quote the following story: the Meshech Chochma once had a dream in which he witnessed the giants of Klal Yisrael learning in the yeshiva shel ma'alah.  At that gathering, the Rashba stood up and declared that there is a Jew in Dvinsk who was mechavein l’amito shel Torah more than he was.  The Rashba writes in a teshuvah that it made no sense that there should even be a passing hava amina (see Chulin 22) that an olas ha’of could be brought at night -- it must be a girsa error.  We already know from pesukim that avodah always takes place during the day, no exceptions.  But the Ohr Samayach says the hava amina is a good hava amina.  Based on the Ibn Ezra, we know that an olas ha’of corresponds to the fats of an animal korban.  Since those fats can be burned on the mizbeiach even at night, one might have thought that an olas ha’of could be brought even at night as well, kah mashma lan that it can’t.  The Meshech Chochma then woke up and reportedly was in a good mood that entire day.  After all, it’s not every day that the Rashba sings your praises in the yeshiva shel ma’alah!

Rav Kopperman adds in his notes that this yesod also helps us explain a difficult Rambam.  The Rambam suggests that the reason the entire korban mincha of a kohein is burned on the mizbeiach, as opposed to just a small kemitza portion, is because were only a small portion offered it would look like the kohein is not offering anything – he brings a korban, but the majority of his “gift” amounts to a meal for himself.  The Tur asks: but someone brings a chatas ha’of, he eats the whole thing and the mizbeiach gets nothing – why in that case are we not concerned with it looking like the person’s gift is really just an excuse for dinner?   Based on the Ibn Ezra, the difference is clear.  True, the owner eats the entire chatas bird, but along with that chatas he has to being an olah that is entirely consumed on the mizbeiach to complete the parallel to an animal korban.  The two birds are two halves of a single whole, not two separate parts. 

Friday, April 04, 2014

the most difficult galus to endure?!

The following letter from R' Shalom Gold was posted here with reshus to reprint and pass around given that Hamodia chose not to publish it:

To the Editor, Hamodia

There is what seems to be "a statement of authentic Torah-true hashkafah" that appears occasionally in Hamodia (the most recent on the 4th of Adar II) and in other publications, that I believe must be examined very closely and dispassionately. The pronouncement raises extremely serious problems of a religious nature.

The Hamodia article quoted a rav who said, "The most difficult golus to endure is a golus suffered from other Jews and therefore we plead for a final redemption from this terrible golus." I experienced a great deal of personal anguish just writing that sentence. First of all, it's absolutely false. We are not in Czarist Russia, Inquisitionist Spain, Crusader-ravished Rhineland, Cossack-scorched Poland, nor fascist Nazi Germany, nor assimilation-ridden America. Klal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael is experiencing the most magnificent era in 2,000 years.

Rav Avraham Pam movingly put the present period in time in its proper Jewish-Torah perspective. He said that a rule in Jewish history is that following every period of suffering comes an era of Hashem embracing His people, comforting them, and pouring out His goodness, just as a father whose son has suffered will embrace him and console him. Rav Pam highlights four such historic episodes. The fourth one, Rav Pam said, was, that following the worst horror of all, the Shoah, Hashem embraced us with "hakomas Medinas Yisroel" (precisely his words).

Hashem does not embrace His people by casting them into the worst golus of all. To say that, is a denial of Hashem's goodness, an ugly rejection of His benevolence, and shameful ingratitude.
Three months after the establishment of Medinat Yisrael, Rav Dessler wrote that he who does not see the dramatic change and the complete reversal of the fate of the Jewish people, "min hakatzeh al Hakatzeh, "from one extreme of six million slaughtered to the other extreme end "the settling of our people in their own medina in our Holy Land" is blind. "Woe to one who will come to the Day of Judgment still blind and not having been able to see something so real." (Michtav M'Eliyahu, Volume 3, page 352)

Rav Dessler wrote this at a time that the infant state was locked in a struggle for its very existence. No one then could predict the outcome, yet he rejoiced. He did not predict that the State wouldn't last for ten years.

The plain facts are that the greatest growth of Klal Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel in just about every conceivable area has been mind-boggling. Little Israel whose air force ranks after the United States, Russia and China. Way up there with the biggest. An army whose might is so clearly the result of the efforts of "He who gives you the strength to be mighty." Agricultural accomplishments of global proportions. Israel is a world agricultural power. It staggers the imagination. (Google Israel – Agriculture and read Wikipedia.) It would help if you have a TaNach handy to see the prophecies fulfilled before your very eyes. Focus on Yechezkel chapters 36, 37 and 38.

For me, every visit to my local fruit and vegetable store is a powerful religions experience. In the middle 50s I learned in Ponovitz and subsisted on tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon. Today, in my local store I am overwhelmed by the dazzling amounts of produce. If this is golus then I can't begin to imagine what geulah is. I once said that every rabbi is zocheh to one good line in his career. Min is, "If you want to speak to G-d go to the Kotel, but if you want to see Him, go to Shuk Machaneh Yehudah."

Little Israel is a world leader in medicine, science, technology, and so much more.
And – the greatest explosion of Torah learning in Jewish history has taken place here with the generous help of the secular Zionists, and the religious Zionists (the Mizroochnikim).

And this you call "golus by Jews." We have never had it better.

Now take a closer look at that "great article of faith" and you should be struck by the realization that for that statement alone the charedi community should be held in absolute contempt. The ugly assertion that we, your fellow Jews, impose upon you an exile worse than any you have ever experienced, is more than enough reason for us to reject you and all you supposedly stand for. That despicable hashkafah is not Torah.

Furthermore, if the golus you suffer by the hands of fellow Jews is so bad, in fact the "worst golus," why don't you leave, run away, save yourselves from "this terrible exile." Breath the fresh air of France, the tranquility of the Ukraine, join the Moslems of England. Save your souls from enslavement to us. The "goldeneh medina" beckons. Be free of the yoke of tziyonim and mizroochniks, get a green card. Boro Park here we come. Why stay here and suffer. Go be rid of us.

Come to think of it – since the Eritreans and Sudanese like it here so much, so maybe an exchange of populations can be arranged.

I am very surprised that the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation did not soundly condemn this "hashkafah" which can only be described as mega-loshon hora against Klal Yisrael for subjecting their brothers and sisters to such awful golus.

There is, of course, a secondary gain from this statement that is warmly welcomed. The people of Chutz L'Aretz don't even have to consider aliyah at all. Who would willingly subject his family to the "worst golus of all."

Take note: the ugly "golus by Jews" hashkafah places you right down there with the world's anti-Semites, who accuse Israel of apartheid.
I suspect that the purveyors of that lie have been entrapped in the web of their own extreme rhetoric, "gezeras hashmaed," "destroyers of Torah," "chareidi haters." You have begun to believe that it is really so. What a pity.

I suggest that Hamodia publicly disassociates itself from that abhorrent, poisonous hashkafah, asks for forgiveness from all of us, and expresses thanks and gratitude to Hashem for all His kindness. If you may be in a truly penitent mood, ask yourselves whether you are really the victims of unbridled, undeserved hatred, or have you contributed in great measure to what may be a reaction to your own contempt for everything that is sacred and holy to the "people who reside in Zion." Think about it. Think about it honestly and seriously.

The nation's flag is "a shmatteh on a shteken" ("a rag on a stick"), the national anthem was written by a drunk. As a matter of fact, the flag is beautiful, and a study of Hatikvah will reveal its power to move a nation.

Yom Haatzmaut is nothing, Yom Hazikaron raises the serious issue of, chas v'shalom, standing for two minutes silence of which you have made into some bogus nonsensical crime (you really made many friends with that). Yom Hashoah is all wrong. Even Yom Yerushalayim is unknown in your community. You don't say the Prayer for the Welfare of the State, nor do you pray for the safety of the soldiers who protect you so that you can learn Torah (that one really made you very popular). In fact, I can't think of a single area in which you participate with the rest of Klal Yisrael. In one of my more aggressive moments I asserted that since the State and the IDF have been doing so well for 66 years without your prayers, let's better leave it that way. We don't want to rock the boat, you know.

An absolute rejection of the ugly hashkafah will hopefully signal the beginning of a new era of love and friendship between Jew and fellow Jew. When you truly see the hand of Hashem in action for the past sixty-six years, you will want to say with great kavanah the prayer for the State and for the soldiers who risk their lives day and night so that we can all live safely in G-d's land.

Sholom Gold

16/9 Agassi St.

Jerusalem 98377

Thursday, April 03, 2014

the cure for the metzorah -- new chiyus

Zos ti’hiyeh toras ha’metzorah…”  It’s interesting that we find this special lashon of “toras…” used specifically in connection with parshiyos that deal with tumah, e.g. toras hametzorah, toras ha’zav.  (It is used by korbanos, e.g. “zos toras ha’olah,” to convey that learning the parsha is equivalent to actually bringing a korban.)  It’s also ironic that it is used here, as the Midrash quotes the pasuk of “U’l’rasha amar, ‘Mah lecha l’sapeir chuki’” on our parsha. 

Someone who is tamei and has been kicked out of the machaneh feels like he doesn’t have a place anymore; he feels burdened by aveiros and distant from G-d.  We all sometimes feel that way.  Therefore, explains the Sefas Emes, the Torah stresses that it speaks to us not only when we feel connected, but there is a “toras hametzorah” as well -- even periods of seeming disconnectedness also fall within the framework of Torah.  You never fall outside the borders; there never is true disconnectedness from G-d.  There is a torah of “Mah lecha l’sapeir chuki” when instead of learning a person needs to work on himself and his tikun hanefesh until he is re-energized.

As we mentioned last week, tzara’as is a punishment for lashon ha’ra.  There is a view in Chazal (Archin 15) that the sin of lashon ha’ra is so severe that a ba’al lashon ha’ra cannot even mend his mistakes through teshuvah.  If so, asks the Shem m’Shmuel, what is our parsha all about? How can we speak of the metzorah getting a kapparah and being healed if he cannot fix the mistake of lashon ha’ra?

The Midrash tells the story of a peddler who came to town hawking an elixir for life, a sam hachaim.  Rav Yanai followed him around to see what he was selling.  Finally, the peddler revealed his “wares” – he quoted the pasuk, “Mi ha’ish he’chofetz chaim… netzor leshoncha mei’ra u’sefasecha midabeir mirma sur mei’ra v’asei tov…” Rav Yanai exclaimed that he had never understood the pasuk until he heard it from that peddler.  Surely Rav Yanai knew this pasuk beforehand.  What new insight did he gain from this episode?

The key word in the story, explains the Shem m’Shmuel, is “sam.”  Avoiding lashon ha’ra is like a vitamin.  Combined with doing other right things, “… sur mei’ra v’aseh tov,” it can give a person a long and healthy life.  But a person cannot walk in front of a bullet or a speeding train and then take a “sam,” a vitamin or some other medicine, and get better!  It’s a “sam hachaim” – but it’s not life itself.  That was the chiddush Rav Yanai learned.  Metzora chashuv k’meis,” a metzorah is like a dead person, Chazal tell us.  A ba’al lashon ha’ra is not in intensive care – he’s c”v in the morgue already.  What he needs is new chiyus, not just a bandaid or an antibiotic.

Two people bring their smashed up cars into the dealer and leave with cars that have no dents.  In one case, the repairmen banged out the dents, did the repairs, and fixed the car so it drives again.  That’s teshuvah – it’s a tikun for the dents in the neshoma.  However, sometimes that’s not enough.  Sometimes the car is so broken that repair is impossible.  The damage from lashon ha’ra can be so great that teshuvah alone can’t fix it.  But that’s not the end of the story.  When you can’t fix the car, you don’t stop driving – you get a new car.  Our parsha teaches that even when teshuvah won’t work, you can still recover and find new chiyus, you can become a new person.  It’s not a cure for the past – it’s a new beginning with no record of the past.  Obviously, this type of renewal is a difficult avodah, but the important point is that it is possible.

Where does this new chiyus come from?  I think the answer goes back to the first chapter of the Torah.  You open the Chumash and the first things you learn about G-d are 1) He speaks; 2) His words create things.  Vayomer….” followed by “Vayehi…” I take the pasuk of “Vayipach b’apav nishmas chaim,” which the targum translates as a “ruch m’malela,” a soul that can speak, in that context.  Man being created in G-d’s image means that man is endowed with that same capacity to create and to destroy through words (see Nefesh haChaim in the first few chapters who discusses the idea of “tzelem Elokim” as being the capacity to create worlds).  Yosef tells his brothers that their redeemer from Egypt will use the words “pakod pakadti.”  Why wasn’t Yosef afraid that any charlatan would use that formula and pass himself off as a false messiah?  R’ Tzadok explains that it’s not saying the words alone that counted – the words were the vehicle which created the geulah.  Words, when used properly, create new worlds.  (Galus hadibur probably has something to do with that capacity being lost, but that’s another story.)  The metzorah is somewho who has used words to destroy, who by doing so has severed his connection to that “nishmas chaim” within, and therefore is left for dead.  Rediscovering how to use words properly means regaining that nishmas chaim, that capacity to be like G-d, that cpacity to build and create with one's words, starting, of course, with rebuilding and recreating oneself.