It says in Vayikra 14:2; “This shall be the law regarding the one struck by Tzaraas on the day of his purification: He shall be brought to the Kohen.” Vayikra Rabbah brings from the pesukim, Iyov 20:6-7 “אם יעלה לשמים שיאו וראשו לעב יגיע כגללו לנצח יאבד ראיו יאמרו איו”- “Though the eminence ascends to Heaven, and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung; those who had seen him will ask, ‘Where is he?’”
The Midrash explains how the pesukim relate to the trait of arrogance. It says that the word שיאו in the passuk stands for arrogance just like the word לעב. It also says in the passuk כגללו לנצח יאבד”” which implies that just as dung is Tamei, so too is the arrogant individual. In Iyov 2:12; it says, “They looked up from a distance and they did not recognize him.” The reason Iyov’s friends didn’t recognize him, was because Iyov was stricken with Tzaraas. It states in the Gemara Arachin 16a that this passuk is teaching that a person who acts in an arrogant manner becomes Tamei. In short, Tzaraas comes to a person because of his arrogance.
Zera Shimshon asks; who does the passuk identify arrogance by using the terms שיאו and לעב? Another question is; why is the middah of arrogance compared to clouds?
Zera Shimshon brings down the Gemara Pesachim 66B which states: “Rav Yehuda says in the name of Rav: Anyone who is acting in an arrogant manner, if he is a wise person, then his wisdom leaves him, and if he is a Navi, then his ability to prophesize leaves him.” The Midrash is telling us, if one is going to act in an arrogant manner he can end up losing both his wisdom and prophecy.
The word שיאו, is a term that implies superiority, which is hinting to leadership and an uplifted spirit that come from wisdom. The word לעב, literally refers to clouds, which is a reference to prophecy, which comes through the clouds as it says in Shamus 19:9; “Behold, I will come to you in the thickness of the cloud.”
From this we learn that if a person is a wise and a prophet, and acts with arrogance, in the end he will lose everything and he will become Tamei and stricken with Tzaraas. We see at the end of Iyov that arrogance is harmful and leads to a lack of Fear of Hashem.
So, what is the connection between Parshas Metzora and Shabbos HaGadol?
We know that there is a Minhag to read the Pesach Haggadah where we are portrayed as slaves. We must continually remind ourselves of our humble beginning and how low spiritually we were at Yatzies Mitzraim. It is important to remember that even though we became a great nation, we must remain humble and look at others though a prism of Chesed. Perhaps then we will be one step closer to becoming a Unified nation of Klal Yisroel and with that, we can bring about a sense of Achdus for we are equally fallible. Only then will we merit the Final Geulah and once again a chance to offer our Korban Pesach in the Third and Final Beis HaMikdash.
The Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol, the great or large Shabbos. How is this Shabbos different from every other Shabbos?
At a bris, we give the newborn baby the blessing of “zeh hakatan gadol yihyeh, this baby shall be a gadol.” Simply put, we are referring to becoming a bar mitzvah at age 13. The Shulchan Aruch refers to a girl of 12 or boy of 13 as a gadol, since they no longer are minors.
Are we then just blessing the newborn baby to become an adult? What does it really mean to be a gadol?
The Sfas Emes explains that a bar/bat mitzvah is called a gadol because they receive a new neshama (soul) at that time. Although the yetzer hara/evil inclination enters a person when they are born, the yetzer tov/good inclination only enters when they become 13/12. This is why they are now considered a gadol—because they now have a yetzer tov! The new neshama makes them great. Similarly, the Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol because on the eve of leaving Egypt klal Yisrael received their new neshama, and each year at this time we receive this extra dimension of self.
The Gemara Beitza tells us that every Shabbos we receive a neshama yeseira, an extra neshama. What does that mean? Are we more alive on Shabbos? The Sfas Emes explains the extra neshama gives us the ability to sense and experience both Hashem’s existence and our purpose in life. That’s when we become a gadol: when we experience a more expansive neshama. On Shabbos Hagadol we receive an extremely expansive and powerful ability to experience the miraculous ways Hashem dealt with us in Yetzias Mitzrayim (leaving Egypt).
We learn this idea of a Shabbos neshama from the words in Mishpatim (13:17), where it states that in six days Hashem created the heaven and earth, and “b’yom hashevi’i shavas (on the seventh day He rested) vayinafash.” The word vayinafash is a hybrid of three words, vay avdah nefesh, woe, we have lost our soul. This teaches us that at the end of Shabbos we lose a soul. Hence, we infer that at the beginning of Shabbos we receive an extra neshama. (Gemara Beitza)
The wording here is a little troubling. We start observing Shabbos with the expectation of losing a soul when Shabbos is over? Why the sobering tone? Why not just say that when Shabbos begins, we get an extra soul for the day? It sounds much more positive…
I heard a remarkable answer from Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz in the name of the Baal Shem Tov. Getting a message that we’re getting an extra neshama for the next 25 hours is uplifting. But it must be tempered with a warning to use it properly
My rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, was stricken with Parkinson’s. He had a chavrusa with a young man each Shabbos afternoon right after lunch. After a short while, the young man would often start to feel drowsy and fight to keep himself awake. He always marveled how the rosh yeshiva, despite the Parkinson’s, would not even put his head down. One Shabbos, he mustered the courage to inquire, “Rebbe, how is it that you learn Torah the entire afternoon and never seem to tire?” Rabbi Finkel replied, “Every Shabbos I receive an extra neshama. After Shabbos, it will return to Hashem to report. Hashem will ask, ‘What did you do for the 25 hours with the extra neshama I placed in you, Nosson Tzvi?’ I do not want the answer to just be that I ate chicken soup, kugel, cholent and slept. I want to take advantage of every moment I have with it, to return the neshama back to Hashem with accomplishment!”
On Shabbos Hagadol we receive and should feel a super-charged sense of purpose to connect to Pesach. This feeling will leave after Pesach. We need to absorb the lesson of vayinafash, to properly utilize every moment we have with our extra neshama. Use it to understand and relay the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim to our families. Use it to daven and study more Torah. We can then return that neshama to Hashem with a “mission accomplished.”
A Torah leader is referred to with the title “gadol.” In truth, we all have areas where we excel and can be a gadol. Let’s use our greatness and the extra sense of mission we receive from this Shabbos and from Pesach and apply it to our lives forever. When we find and use that which is gadol in ourselves, we will become true gedolim, true giants.
Last year, I had the privilege of hosting Rabbi Noach Orlowek, a prominent mashgiach and noted lecturer. I offered him the use of my study, lined wall-to-wall with seforim. When I came down in the morning, I saw only one sefer pulled out — the sefer Chofetz Chaim – the laws regarding lashon harah (evil speech.) Rav Orlowek later asked me, “Would it be alright to bring this sefer to my room?” Rav Orlowek has no doubt learned the sefer many times, but of all the choices at his disposal, he put this at the top of his list. This encounter taught me how important it is to constantly review these laws, especially when we counsel and teach others.
Parshas Tazria deals with the affliction of tzora’as, a skin affliction usually caused by lashon harah. However, the Gemara (Eruchin) lists a few other sins which cause this spiritual affliction. One of the other causes is tzora’as eyin – being stingy. I believe this sin can also be included under the category of negative speech, as we can sometimes be guilty of being stingy with our words. Sometimes, we have nice words we could say and we hold back. This is a form of miserliness — withholding complimentary words.
There is a lot of press on the damage caused by lashon harah and negative words. But if we really want to use our speech properly, we need to focus on the power of positive speech. In Mishlei (18:21) it says, “Mavess v’chaim b’yad haloshon” — death and life is determined by the tongue. Everyone recognizes the appropriateness of the word “death,” but what about “life?” The answer is, we must certainly prevent our speech from doing harm, but we must also strive to do good! Proper speech can be both healing and life-giving.
Hal Urban, an expert on sales and marketing, wrote a book about using positive words to sell products. Based on his research, he concluded a person speaks an average of 40,000 words a day! Just imagine if we were able to use all forty-thousand words to compliment and encourage! Wouldn’t the recipients of these words be truly transformed?
An environmental group in Indiana wanted to make a point. They made a chain of pennies on the road as far as they could. The chain extended for 40 miles! It consisted of 3.3 million pennies, amounting to $33,000 dollars. Just as one penny added to another can total an enormous sum, so too, our words can build towers of goodness.
I am close to a noted Rabbi who is sought out by many for his counsel. Alas, his doctor found a growth in him that required surgery. It was a life-or-death procedure. He told me that when he was diagnosed, he decided to do something as a zechus (merit.) Together with his wife, they took upon themselves not to say another negative word about anyone…ever. Period! He counsels thousands of people, so this is no easy task. Baruch Hashem, the surgery was successful and he’s back in full force! This was a real fulfilment of the verse Mavess v’chaim byad haloshon –death and life is determined by the tongue.
We can do it. We just need to train ourselves.
This Shabbos, we will also read the section for Parshas Hachodesh. Here, the Torah discusses the mitzvah of establishing the lunar calendar and declaring the new month based on the sighting of the new moon. This mitzvah was the precursor to the miracle of Hashem taking the Jews out of Mitzrayim. The Sfas Emes notes the word “chodesh” – month – has the same letters as chadash – new. We thus learn that Bnei Yisrael always have the ability to become something new, creating lifelong changes.
The Zohar says that when the Jews were in Egypt, they had a “speech deficiency”- they were not able to express themselves properly. This is illustrated by the name of our holiday where we leave Egypt — “Pesach.” The name is a combination of two words:peh sach – mouth speaks. At that time, we acquired the freedom to express ourselves properly, both to Hashem and to man.
Let’s do it! Choose one person a day to give compliments and endearing words. It can be anyone you choose – a spouse, child, parent, friend or coworker. It’s a total win-win! Make a checklist of people and don’t go to sleep until one is checked off. In a pinch, send an email or text if it’s late, since most people would not appreciate being woken up, even if we have the nicest things to say!
With this new commitment, may we merit that this Pesach should be the Final Redemption.