April 28, 2001 - 5761
Prepared by Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg
Temple Sinai, Hollywood, FL
Edited by Rabbi David L. Blumenfeld, PhD
Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations
Annual Cycle: Lev. 12:1-15:33; Hertz Chumash, p. 460
Triennial Cycle III: Lev. 14:33-15:33; Hertz Chumash, p. 473
Haftarah: II Kings 7:3-20
(12:1-8) The laws governing a woman's state of ritual impurity after childbirth.
(13:1-59) Laws concerning tzara'at, the severe skin disease resembling leprosy. If judged by the priest to have this affliction, the person had to be declared unclean and kept quarantined.
(14:1-20) Instructions concerning the ritual of purification and the sacrifices that the metzora (person afflicted with tzara'at) must bring in order to complete the process of ritual purification.
(14:21-32) The sacrifices that the person brings if he/she cannot afford the regular ones.
(14:33-57) The law of tzara'at on a house; a summary of chapters 13-14.
(15:1-33) Rules governing discharges of various bodily fluids and their effect on the ritual purity of the individual.
Theme 1: Acting Properly With Property
The priest shall order the house cleared before the priest enters to examine the plague, so that nothing in the house may become unclean; after that the priest shall enter to examine the house. (Leviticus 14:36)
- What is it that the Torah seeks to spare? A person's earthenware vessels, even a mere cruse or ewer. If the Torah is so concerned about inexpensive property, how much more about property that one prizes most. If concerned about the property of a wicked man, (since leprosy in a house was considered punishment for the sin of slander) how much more so about the property of a righteous man (Talmud, Negaim. 12:5)
- A man says to a friend, "Lend me a "kav" of wheat" and the friend replies, "I have none"... Or a woman says to her friend, "Lend me a sieve," and her friend replies, "I have none. Or she says, "lend me a sifter," and the friend replies, "I have none." What does the Holy One do? He causes leprosy to affect the friend's house, and as the household effects are taken out, people seeing them say, "Did not that person say "I have none"? See how much wheat is here, how much barley, how many dates! The house is justly cursed with the curses of want that the owner professed. (Leviticus Rabbah, 17:2)
We can argue all we want about what kind of a "plague" it was that afflicted the house, but to the Sages, the real issue was why the house was afflicted at all? We live in an age where there is a search for spirituality. Some would profess that material possessions are the root of evil in society and a hindrance to true spirituality. How do these rabbinic texts treat material property? It seems that G-d cares about what we own. Why? What responsibilities does ownership of property place on us? How can it play a role in enhancing our spirituality? How is this approach different than other religious approaches? Why is materialism not such a bad thing in our tradition?
Theme 2: To Separate in The Mind - To Become One With The Divine
You shall put the Israelites on guard against their uncleanness, lest they die through their uncleanness by defiling My Tabernacle which is among them. (Leviticus 15:31)
- The Sages explain that the separation the Torah requires of us here, to distance ourselves from impurity, refers to the law that married couples must abstain from sexual relations within 12 hours of the expected onset of niddah - menstrual impurity. The lesson that the Torah comes to teach us is this: We must always see to it that we remain alert at all times (even in advance) of all prohibitions which might become relevant. In other words, one should constantly think about what is happening and what he is doing, and not do things by rote... By doing this, he is fulfilling the mitzvah of the parashah of niddah each day. We should apply this lesson to everything we do. We should anticipate things and be consciously aware in advance and not do things automatically. For example: When we say the tefillah of Shemoneh Esrei, before each blessing we should establish in our minds what the next blessing is. Accordingly, we should not just say the Gevurot, blessing just because our tongues are in the habit of doing so. (Moshe Feinstein; Darash Moshe Volume 2; Artscroll/Mesorah Press p. 145-6)
- Even though they are unclean, the Divine Presence still abides among them. (Sifra)
What is the problem with saying a prayer or performing a Mitzvah "unpremeditatedly"? If we recite the Hamotzi before we eat bread, wouldn't it be sufficient that we said it? What difference would it make if we would pause and devote our full attention to the mitzvah?
In this regard, can you remember a time when a relationship in your life changed because you gave it more forethought and paid more attention rather than simply go through the same old motions again? Is there perhaps a relationship in your life today that calls for such an approach?