Torah Fax
Friday, April 4, 2003 - 2 Nissan, 5763

Torah Reading:   Tazriah (Leviticus 12:1 - 13:59)
Candle Lighting Time: 6:05 PM
Shabbat Ends: 7:07 PM


Three are the people whom the Torah requires to shave their hair: The Metzora (one who is afflicted with a skin disorder that is sometimes called leprosy). This condition renders him ritually unclean and he must be quarantined. When he has recovered from this "disease" the Metzora must go through a purification process that includes the shaving of his hair. The second is a Nazir, one who had made a vow not to drink wine and cut one's hair. At the end of his term, or if he had become ritually unclean, the Torah commanded him to cut his hair. The third example of shaving off one's hair applied to the Levites when they were initiated into their role as the priestly helpers after the Mishkan, the portable Temple, was built in the desert.  They too had to go through a hair-cutting procedure.

All three categories that we enumerated are alluded to in this week's parsha. The Torah, when referring to their shaving of the Metzora, uses the word "V'hitgalach and he shall shave." The letter gimmel (which is also the number 3) in that word is written in a king-size form. This, commentators say, is an allusion to the three categories of people who must have their hair shaved.

What is the significance of having one's hair shaved and why was this applied specifically to these three categories: Metzora, Nazir and  Levite? What do these three individuals have in common?  Of all Jews, the Levites were unique in their commitment to Judaism. All through Egyptian bondage and the sojourn in the desert the Levites never succumbed to the temptation of assimilating. They were prepared to resist any attack against G‑d with all means at their disposal. When the Jews became involved with the golden calf, all the Levites refused to participate. When Moses called on them to kill those who were actively involved in idol worship, they did so without hesitation.

And while the Kohain-Priest was also a man of G‑d, there was a fundamental difference in their approach. The Kohain was identified with serving G‑d through kindness and love. The Kohain's principle obligation today is to bless the Jewish community from time to time. Aaron, the first High Priest, was the Jewish people's greatest defender and lover. However, the Levites were the force of determination and military-like zeal to the cause of Judaism. Their souls were on fire to serve G‑d with passion and zeal.

A Metzora, Kabbalah teaches us, was afflicted with this disease not because he was a lowly individual. On the contrary, historically, only the most spiritual individuals were afflicted with Tzara'at, like Moses and Miriam. When someone generated too much spiritual energy and was not capable of integrating into his system because of some imperfection he possessed, it manifested itself in the appearance of a skin disorder. Much like the way the body will break out with a rash or other physical symptoms due to the body's need to resist an intruding element, similarly, a highly sensitive spiritual individual, will "break-out" when some "foreign" undesirable substance enters their system. 

A Nazir is one who feels vulnerable to temptation. By becoming a Nazir, one is given extraordinary spiritual powers to deal with those pressures.  So the common denominator in these three types, the Levite, Metzora and Nazir is that each in his own way possesses extraordinary spiritual energy that needs to be channeled properly to avoid a negative and occasionally a catastrophic result.

 To illustrate: A person who is a zealot can very easily use his zealotry to harm innocent people. The more spiritual one is the more harshly he might view even a minor imperfection. This was seen with regard to a Metzora, who had to be quarantined to protect others from him. And the Nazir, while assuming a heightened spiritual demeanor, has to be cautious lest he become arrogant and condescending. Cutting off their hair was the Torah's way of curtailing their energy, not allowing it to go awry. It was the Torah's way of saying to these unique individuals:  "You have been endowed with tremendous powers. Use it wisely. Don't let that it be diverted to other areas. Don't let it be contaminated by "foreign" influences and don't allow it to go to your head."

As we approach the Holiday of Passover, when we all experienced the great revelation of G‑dliness at the time of the Exodus, it is important that we don't allow the heightened spirituality to harm us or others. We were thus commanded to eat Matzah and refrain from eating or even possessing Chametz (leavened bread, dough that is allowed to rise), which symbolizes humility. We have to be humble and get away from anything that would  pollute our souls as we rise to the greatest heights. And as we approach the climax of history, the coming of Moshiach, we are given extraordinary resources as a prelude to what is to come. The lesson of the Metzora, the Levites and Nazir is to know how to channel these resources properly.

Moshiach Matters

The Talmud tells us that Moshiach’s name is Metzorah (meaning one who is plagued with the unusual malady discussed in this week’s Parshah) and he is sitting among the poor and suffering waiting to bring the redemption (Sanhedrin 98b). This means that Moshiach is a real person, already among us who is suffering the pains of exile and waiting with bated breath to reveal himself. (The Rebbe, Parshas Tazria-Metzorah, 1991)

Moshiach - Its a Jewish issue. For more info, visit www.moshiach.com

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