Friday, April 12, 2019

Parshas Metzora Messages 5779

Parshas Metzora

It is a very interesting thing to take note of:  From the beginning of the purification process -- the command of the Kohen, in verse 4, to take the stuff needed for it, until the very end of procedure, the person becoming pure from their Tzaraas affliction is not once referred to as someone with Tzaraas.  Rather they are referred to in almost every case as ‘the one being purified’.  

We learn an amazing lesson from this:  When one comes to try to be purified and to improve, they are no longer in their previous state:  They are now ‘the one being purified’.  No longer are they the same person as they used to be; they are a new human being, ready to continue moving forward in the process of ongoing purification and striving for holiness.

(Tal U’Matar)


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
When you will come to the Land of Canaan that I am giving to you as a possession, and I will put an affliction of Tzaraas in a house of the Land of your possession.’ (Vayikra 14:34)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Another type of Tzaraas-affliction, and the final kind we are taught about, is one on the wall of a house.  See 14:34-53 for the specifics and details of this and its purification process. There are different reasons that a house would be afflicted with Tzaraas, one of which, the Rambam zt”l explains (see also Vayikra Rabbah 17:4):

One who speaks Lashon Hara, the walls of their house changes.*  If the person repents from it, then his house will be purified.  But if they persist in their wickedness until the house is broken [see 14:43-45], then the leather implements in his house [or that used to be in it] which he sits and lays upon will change.  If he repents, they will be purified. But if he persists in his wickedness until they are burned [see 13:51-57], the garments that he wears change. If he repents, they will be purified. But if he persists in his wickedness until they are burned [see ibid.], then his skin changes and he gets Tzaraas. . .

(Mishneh Torah; Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 16:10)

* The term ‘change’ in this piece seemingly is used to mean that the thing develops a possible-Tzaraas-affliction.

~ ~ * ~ ~

Rashi zt”l, however, quotes from Toras Kohanim that a Tzaraas-affliction on a house was good news.  Because, as he brings from Vayikra Rabbah, the Emorim hid treasures of gold in the walls of their houses when Bnei Yisroel were in the Wilderness, and when the Jews would enter and take possession of the Land -- including the houses -- through the affliction on the wall, the house would be broken down [or the stones etc. removed from that area of wall], and the treasure would be found.  

~ ~ * ~ ~

Connecting the two reasons:  #1:  But the question is, says HaRav Avraham Leitner shlit”a, why should a fellow who deserved to be punished for slandering his fellow Jew be “punished” in such a happy way?

The main answer is:  Even if they did find a decent amount of money, Hashem, out of love for His children, when He “hits”, He does it with love (Mishlei 3:12).  His sole intention is not that we turn our backs to Him, but rather that we run towards Him. Afflictions on houses was the start of a series of punishments. If the fellow got the sweet message, and did Teshuva, good for him.  But if he ignored it, the messages became harsher and less pleasant.  First he received afflictions on his garments, because the clothing of a person is closer than his own home.  If that reminder didn’t work, then the fellow himself suffered.

While one gets “hit”, it is done with sweetness, allowing the person who is receiving his first reminder (and hopefully his last), that Hashem still loves him dearly and he finds a treasure when knocking down the walls.  כי את אשר יאהוב ה׳ יוכיח -- ‘Only who is loved, does Hashem “hit”’!

(At Home With Torah)

#2:  Asks HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l a very similar question; what kind of punishment is there in this?

And he answers:  Even though this person merited a treasure, if they were completely innocent, they would have gotten it without any loss or pain [i.e. of the whole process, and having their home, or part of it, taken apart].  

But the fact that Hashem gave them this treasure through loss and pain, is a message that this person sinned and is deserving of a punishment.  Just they also have merit, through which the treasure was revealed to them. And therefore, they need to worry about the sin they committed and do Teshuva.

(Darash Moshe)

#3:  In a simple interpretation, it would seem from how the Sefer HaChinuch quotes and explains things that perhaps a Tzaraas-affliction on a house could come for either reason given.  Whether to hint to a person to better their ways, or to make known a hidden treasure.  The latter would occur at the beginning, when we had just conquered the Land, and as to why it would be revealed in that particular way, the Sefer HaChinuch says that it is known that Hashem [often times] does good for people in a hidden kind of way.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Remember the Torah of Moshe My Servant, that I commanded him in Choreiv for all of Israel, Decrees and Ordinances.  Behold I am sending to you Eliyah(u) HaNavi. . . etc.’ (Malachi 3:22-23, Haftarah of Shabbos HaGadol)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Says the Chofetz Chaim zt”l:  The last Navi (Prophet) ends his book with the warning from Hashem to remember the Torah of Moshe, the Servant of Hashem.  And because of this, the Jews will merit the Redemption, like the saying of our Sages z”l, Sanhedrin 99b. . .

And the Navi concludes, from what Hashem said; ‘that I commanded him in Choreiv for all of Israel’ -- meaning, that there is not a Jewish person who is able to exempt themselves from the keeping the Mitzvos of the Torah.  

And further in it is an exalted matter; that we were commanded regarding the Decrees and the Ordinances together, for only then the Torah is called complete -- if we uphold it with all its details and fine points.  

And because we will do what what is incumbent upon us, surely Hashem will uphold His Word to send to us Eliyahu HaNavi to tide us of our Redemption.  

The last Mitzvah of the Taryag (613) Mitzvos of the Torah is also regarding the matter of learning Torah, like it is written, (Devarim 31:19) ‘And now, write for yourselves this Song and teach it to the Bnei Yisroel, etc.’, which comes to teach us that the main thing of all main things is the learning of the Holy Torah and the upholding of its Mitzvos.  And this is all of man [i.e. our whole life].  

(Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah)


|~Maaseh~|  The following is from Shabbos Gems, by HaRav Avraham Leitner shlit”a:  Ask any business man and you will hear that one of the biggest challenges in business is competition.  While most normal people see themselves as individuals who need to conquer the whole market, others are careful to still see themselves as part of a connected nation and will actually go out of their way to help a fellow competitor, as in the story below.
Although this is not my own edition, nevertheless I felt it had to be shared with others.  I’ve taken it from Rabbi Ashear, copied and pasted it exactly as he wrote it.

Rav Yoel Gold told a story of a Jewish man who makes his living by selling electronics on Amazon.  One day, this man was posting new items for sale, including 70 iPads that he had decided to sell for $400 apiece.  He created the listing, set the price and posted it, anticipating a steady influx of sales. To his surprise, by the next morning, all 70 iPads had been sold!  This was bizarre because he had never sold out of an item that quickly. He calculated that he just earned $28,000. He went to check his account and then he froze in horror when he saw that accidently, he set the price at $40 each, instead of $400!  He was devastated. Instead of having $28,000, he only had $2,800, a very big loss.
As he sat in his office, in a panic, trying to figure out what to do next, a new email appeared in his inbox.  He did not recognize the sender; it identified him as Yehuda from Lakewood. He clicked the message and opened it up. “Hi,” Yehuda wrote, “I’m an Amazon seller like you.  I sell iPads too, and I'm always looking around at other sellers to see what they’re up to. Last night, I saw that you posted iPads for $40 apiece. It was obviously a mistake.  From your name I realized you’re a fellow Yid.  I didn't want you to lose so much money, so I bought all of the iPads.  I’ll return them to you so you can resell them at the appropriate price.”

The man was floored.  Yehuda offered something that no competitor would normally do.  Yehuda knows that his income is determined by Hashem. Yehuda knows the value of helping another person in need.  He saw the opportunity and grabbed it on impulse. He acted on his Emunah and made a great Kiddush Hashem.


Gut and meaningful Shabbos to all!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Parshas Tazria Messages 5779

Parshas Tazria

Expounds HaRav Yisroel Salanter zt”l:  Why is Parshas Tazria, the majority of which is matters of afflictions and dealing with those who have Tzaraas, right next to Parshas Shemini, which speaks a lot about matters of forbidden foods?  Because the afflictions of Tzaraas come mainly as a punishment for the sin of Lashon Hara (slander of a fellow-Jew).

Go out and see:  While most people are careful about not eating forbidden foods, and they check very well to make sure that they do not, Chas V’Shalom, swallow even a small worm; behold, on the other hand, they are not careful with the respect of others, and a person “swallows their fellow alive” in the jaws of Lashon Hara.  Therefore the Torah put the two Parshiyos next to each other, to say:  Just like you are careful with forbidden foods, so you should be careful with forbidden speech.

(Peninei HaTorah, quoting Seforim)


It is brought in Seforim that the letters of נגע (affliction) if rearranged spell ענג (pleasure; delight) -- a word that is connected to Shabbos, like it says, Yeshayahu 58:13: ‘And you will call to the Shabbos “a delight”’.  And the letters of צרעת, Tzaraas, rearranged spell עצרת (gathering; restriction) -- a word that is connected with Yom Tov, like it says, Bamidbar 29:35, ‘And on the eighth day [of Sukkos] shall be a restriction/gathering [i.e. a Yontiff] for you’.

Shabbos and Yom Tov are consequently the opposite of the affliction of Tzaraas:  For while the affliction of Tzaraas symbolizes the concealment of G-dliness; the coarseness of the “natural world” that covers up the internal part of the creation; Shabbos and Yom Tov are the absolute converse of this, for they open the eyes of people, and open their heart to see and to feel the Maker of the World through His Work.  They tear the “skin” that covers up the internal, and bring out the Hidden Light from the midst of the “nature.”

(Quoted in Maayanah Shel Torah)


TZARAAS:  Says HaRav Nosson Scherman shlit”a:  For hundreds of years, the popular translation of צרעת [tzaraas] has been “leprosy,” and it was commonly accepted that prevention of the disease’s spread was the reason for the quarantine of a suspected victim of tzaraas and the exclusion from the camp of a confirmed מצרע [metzora], the person smitten with the malady.  Rav Hirsch zt”l demonstrates at length and conclusively that both of these notions are completely erroneous.  Very briefly; he shows that the symptoms of tzaraas, as outlined in our Parsha, are far different from those of leprosy.  Furthermore, if the reason for the metzora’s confinement is to prevent contagion, then some of the laws would be ludicrous.  For example, if the malady covers the victim’s entire body (13:13), he is not tamei (ritually impure), but if his skin begins to heal, he becomes tamei.  In the case of a house that is afflicted (14:36), the Torah prescribes that before the house is pronounced tamei, all its contents should be removed, because they would become ritually impure if they were left inside at the time of the pronouncement.  But if there were a danger of contagion, it would be irrational for the afflicted household items to be excluded from the quarantine! In perhaps the most telling example, the Talmud teaches that if the symptoms of tzaraas appear on a newlywed or during a festival season, the Kohen does not examine the affliction or declare it to be tamei, in order not to interfere with the celebration.  But if the purpose of these laws is to prevent the spread of disease, it would be absolutely imperative to enforce the laws at times of great overcrowding and mingling!

Clearly, as the Sages teach, tzaraas is not a bodily disease, but the physical manifestation of a spiritual malaise, a punishment designed to show the malefactor that he must mend his ways.  The primary cause of tzaraas is the sin of slander.  As the Sages say, the word מצרע is a contraction of מוציא רע, one who spread slander (Arachin 15b).  Similarly, the Sages teach (ibid. 16a and various Midrashim) that the affliction is a punishment for the sins of bloodshed, false oaths, immoral relations, pride [i.e. haughtiness], robbery, and selfishness.  The pattern that emerges is that it is a Divine retribution for the offender’s failure to feel the needs and share the hurt of others. G-d rebukes this anti-social behavior by isolating him from society, so that he can experience the pain he has imposed on others -- and heal himself through repentance.

(The Stone Edition Chumash)


As we spoke about above, Tzaraas often came as a punishment for Lashon Hara.  It is interesting to note that the different symptoms of Tzaraas correspond to some of the mal-effects caused by Lashon Hara:  

1) Often, a sign of impurity of a possible-Tzaraas-affliction was that it spreads on the skin, or whatever it was on.  This corresponds to the fact that slander spreads amongst people and circulates.

2) Another sign of certain types of Tzaraas was that the hairs in the area of the affliction would turn white (or goldenish/yellowish, see 13:29-37).  This corresponds to the terrible effects slander can, Chas V’Shalom, have on people:  It changes them from their usual selves and can make them upset at the subject; Lashon Hara impacts for the worse those in “its wake.”

3) The appearance of a Tzaraas-affliction was deeper than the skin:  This, similar to the last thing, corresponds to the fact that slander gets under the surface; even if someone might not show any difference of behavior towards the subject after listening to lashon hara about them, there might still linger some ill feelings towards them in their heart.

Indeed, Tzaraas is a measure-for-measure punishment -- in more ways than even the above points!

(Tal U’Matar)


Rebbe Uri of Strelisk zt”l said: “When one desires to say something forbidden, and he holds back, it’s as though he fasted eighty-four days.”

Rebbe Aharon of Belz zt”l added: “And I say, nach un nach, un nach,” which means that it’s like fasting for eighty-four days, and much, much more than that.

(Brought in Torah Wellsprings)


|~Maaseh~|  My father and Rebbe, HaRav T. S. Chesler shlit”a related that he was once in some kind of mart, and he bought an item, and of course, brought it to the checkout, paid, and then left the store.  

However, as the cameras were set up in the place, it would have appeared, if someone had only looked at the films, that he had just picked up the item -- not paid -- and left.  

From this little story, he brought out a lesson in judging others favorably:  Sometimes it looks to us like someone has done something wrong, but there is a chance that we are not seeing the whole picture and there is more to it. . .


Gut and meaningful Shabbos to all!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Oy, Baruch Dayan HaEmes: Another Huge Loss! The Skulener Rebbe zt"l

The following, (pictures included), is via YeshivaWorldNews:

YWN regrets to inform you of the Petira of the Skulener Rebbe, Hagaon HaRav Yisroel Avrohom Portugal ZATZAL. He was 95.
The Rebbe was Niftar on Monday afternoon at John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore where he had been hospitalized for nearly two months.
The Levaya will be held on Tuesday morning at 11:00AM at the Skulener Bais Medrash on 13th Avenue and 54th Street, and the Kevura will be in Monsey at the Vishnitzer Bais Hakvaros. 
  • The New York City Police Department, in conjunction with Misaskim and various City and State agencies, have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of all people coming to pay kavod ha’achron to Kvod Kedushas Admor Skulen’er zatzal. Please make sure to follow all safety instructions!
  • Street closures will be as follows: from 52nd Street to 61st Street, and from 12th Avenue to 16th Avenue, starting at 9:30 AM sharp!
  • If you are parked on 54th Street between 13th Avenue and 14th Avenue, or on 14th Avenue from 52nd Street to 60th Street, please move your cars immediately, or they will be towed by the NYPD starting at 9:00 PM tonight!
  • For safety reasons, as per the NYPD, the front of the shul will be a complete frozen zone for the duration of the levaya.
  • The levaya is scheduled to begin at 11:00 AM.  As of now, there are only two scheduled maspidim!
  • After the hespeidim, the route of the aron will be, down 54th Street to 14th Avenue, making a right turn on 14th Avenue towards 58th Street.
  • Transportation to Boro Park.  Mass transit will be working. Whoever can, please take the D train, get off at the 55th Street station, walk down 55th Street to 14th Avenue.  If you are coming by car, please note you will need to find a parking space outside of the frozen zone. If you are coming by private bus, the buses will go on 60th Street, turn onto 15th Avenue, you will be dropped off to walk to the levaya.  After that, the buses will be parked alongside the cemetery on 20th Avenue, 21st Avenue, and Bay Parkway.
  • Kevura will take place in Viznitz Bais Hachaim in Monsey.
  • There will be buses from Boro Park to Monsey, after the levaya. The buses will be lined up on New Utrecht Avenue, from 60th Street to 56th Street.
  • All buses heading to Monsey should take Route 59 until Route 306, turn onto Route 306 until Kearsing Parkway, make a right onto Kearsing Parkway. All buses will unload at the corner of Kearsing Parkway and Jill Lane. From there, all people will walk on Jill Lane until Blueberry Hill Road, make a right onto Blueberry Hill Road, where the Monsey levaya will take place.
  • After the Monsey levaya and kevura, all buses will be lined up on the corner of Parker Boulevard and Route 306.
  • Please be advised, the entire Blueberry Hill neighborhood will be on complete lock-down. No vehicles will be allowed entry or exit. If you have a car parked anywhere in the frozen zone, it will be towed by the Ramapo and/or Spring Valley Police Departments.
  • All private vehicles coming to Monsey for the levaya, should park their vehicles at the Rockland Boulder Stadium, located at 1 Palisades Credit Union Park Drive, in Pomona, NY. There will be buses from Rockland Boulder Stadium to the levaya, at 10-minute intervals. After the kevura, buses will be at Parker corner 306 to return people to Rockland Boulder Stadium.
  • Vehicles coming to Monsey should take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to Exit 12, at the end of the ramp make a left onto Concklin Road, continue until Route 45 at the light, make a left onto Route 45, and a right onto Pomona Road, and the stadium will be on the right side.
  • If you are bringing children, please make sure to keep them close, as a large crowd is expected.  Please make sure all children know your cell phone number, so you can be called in case they chas v’sholom get separated from you.
  • If you have elderly people at home being cared for by an aide, and/or babies and children being cared for by babysitters, please make sure their shift changes are planned accordingly.
The Paroches has been removed from the Aron Kodesh at the Skulener Bais Medrash
The Rebbe was the son of Hagaon HaRav Eliezer Zusia Portugal ZATZAL, who founded the Skulener Chassidus.
Born in 1898, the previous Rebbe was barely 18 years old when his own father passed away and he became Rav of Skulen (Sculeni), where he served for 20 years. The young Rav established yeshivas that taught Torah to the uninitiated. His exemplary personal conduct and his beautiful, melodious voice inspired all who heard him sing his own tunes and compositions.
Outside the Skulener Bais Medrash moments after the Rebbe was Niftar
In 1959, the Rebbe was imprisoned together with his father, who served as father–and mother–to thousands of Holocaust orphans who called him father to this very day.
An international effort to free the previous Rebbe and his son was undertaken, and eventually, through the intervention of United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, the previous Rebbe and his son were freed and immediately immigrated to the United States in 1960.
The Rebbe was one of the oldest admorim in the world.
He ran the “Chesed L’avraham” organization founded by his father.
His children are:
SONS – Rav Yeshaya Yaakov (Montreal), Rav Meyer (Boro Park), Rav Efrayim Chaim Yehuda (Monsey), Rav Tzvi Noach (Lakewood), Rav Shmuel Mordechai (Boro Park).
DAUGHTERS – Rebbitzen Leah Liba (wife of rav Chaim Dov Stern – Bnei Brak), Rebbitzen Chaya Sara (wife of Rav Shimon Yoel Weinberger), Rebbitzen Nechama (wife of Rav Dov leib Kleighoft (Boro Park).
Boruch Dayan Ha’Emmes…