Tuesday, May 01, 2012

the city of Shomron

We learn from Parshas Metzora that a person afflicted with tzara'as must sit alone outside the camp.  The haftarah tells the story of four metzora'im who, because they were sitting outside the city of Shomron, were the first one's to discover that the siege placed by Aram on the city was broken.  Hashem caused the army of Aram to think that they were under attack and so they fled, leaving behind all their food, wealth, and provisions for Bnei Yisrael to plunder (Melachim II ch 7).

I want to focus on where this story took place -- the city of Shomron.   Melachim I 16:24 tells us that Shomron was built by Omri, a king who was "more wicked than all those before him" (ibid 16:25).  Despite his wickedness, Omri managed to pass the throne to his son and then to his grandson -- three generations -- certainly outside the norm for malchei Yisrael.  Why did Omri merit such a special reward?  Chazal answer (Sanhedrin 102b) that it was because he built this new city of Shomron and thereby fulfilled the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael.  Omri may have built Shomron for his own personal gain, to serve as his capital city; Omri may have done everything else wrong in his life; yet, Omri's family was zocheh to retain the throne because he dedicated himself to the mitzvah of yishuv ha'aretz.  Rav Teichtel in his Aim haBanim Smeicha (p. 61 in the new edition) writes that we can derive from here not to discount or dismiss the contributions to yishuv ha'aretz of those who are notreligious (see the explanation he quotes from R' Yosef Engel as to how Omri's reward was midah k'neged midah).  Is the chiloni or chofshi zionist who puts his strength into building and protecting our country any worse or any less deserving of credit than the wicked Omri?   (Consider this a belated Yom haAtzmaut post.)

Switching hats to halacha, the Mishna in Keilim (1:7) tells us that the din of sending a metzora out of a city applies only to walled cities.  Many of the Rishonim (Bartenura, R'Sh) qualify this din and explain that the Mishna means specifically a city that was walled since the days of Yehoshua bin Nun.   The problem with this chiddush is it does not fit the story of Shomron.  Shomron was built by Omri -- it did not even exists in the days of Yehoshua.  So why, as we read in our haftarah, were the metzoraim being expelled from its walls?   R' Akiva Eiger on the Mishna answers by quoting the Targum which interprets the pasuk on Melachim to mean that Omri rebuilt Shomron, but was not its true founder (this of course makes all the more remarkable the level of reward he earned for doing so).  See Ksav v'Kabbalah who also addresses himself to this issue.


  1. 1) Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, zt"l, notes that all the materials that went into building the Batei Mikdash were originally just plain things like pieces of wood, stone, etc. When they became part of the Beis HaMikdash they became holy. So too the secular Zionists might have been "chofshi" but they became part of a holy project even though they had no intention in that direction.
    2) Was the qualifications "from the time of Yehoshua" always in force or did it start after the destruction of the Beis haMikdash I?

  2. chaim b.6:50 PM

    always in force

  3. Okay, then here's the cynical answer: the people of the Ten Tribes worshipped idols. They murdered. They wife-swapped. Might it be reasonable to assume that they weren't so medakdek when it came to the details about whether a city was walled from the time of Yehoshua?

  4. Were that the case, why keep the dinim of metzora at all?
    You are saying they violated all kinds of issurim, but when it came to metzora they were extra machmir and kicked people who didn't deserve it out of their homes?

  5. As opposed to today when we see frum people who, chalilah, violate all sorts of issurim but only eat food which is mehadrin min mehadrin?
    And if that were the case then either they didn't care about the "from the time of Yehoshua" stipulation or perhaps they were really being extra-frum by saying "Well the halacha technically doesn't require us to but we'll add a chumra and kick these buggers out anyway".