Monday, April 18, 2011

Meaning Behind Pesach (Passover)

Throughout Tanach (all the books of the Bible) we see that when the Jews have some type of cleansing processes, the first thing they do is bring the Korban Pesach (the passover offering). Not just that, but they celebrate the holiday of Passover. What is it about Passover that it is the first thing to be done when the nation, as a whole is cleansed?

I think the most appropriate way to begin this discussion is to start off by discussing the genesis of this holiday. In Shemos (12:12-13):
יב  וְעָבַרְתִּי בְאֶרֶץ-מִצְרַיִם, בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה, וְהִכֵּיתִי כָל-בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, מֵאָדָם וְעַד-בְּהֵמָה; וּבְכָל-אֱלֹהֵי מִצְרַיִם אֶעֱשֶׂה שְׁפָטִים, אֲנִי יְהוָה.12 For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.
יג  וְהָיָה הַדָּם לָכֶם לְאֹת, עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם שָׁם, וְרָאִיתִי אֶת-הַדָּם, וּפָסַחְתִּי עֲלֵכֶם; וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה בָכֶם נֶגֶף לְמַשְׁחִית, בְּהַכֹּתִי בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
G-D is telling us that it is only because we sacrificed the Passover offering that He is "passing over" our houses. This seems very strange, why should this passover offering grant such great protection and, essentially, be the deciding factor of who is a Jew and who is an Egyptian? Apparently, if a Jew refused to sacrifice the passover offering and smear it's blood on his or her door post they would be considered just like Egyptians and the "plague" would enter their house indiscriminately.

There are many other places in the Torah where the Jews seem to have a mass repentance and then, only once they return to religious observance, do they celebrate the holiday of Passover. The first occurrence of the Jewish people keeping Passover outside of the first five books is found in Joshua (5:2,6-8,10):
ב  בָּעֵת הַהִיא, אָמַר יְהוָה אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, עֲשֵׂה לְךָ, חַרְבוֹת צֻרִים; וְשׁוּב מֹל אֶת-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֵׁנִית.2 At that time the LORD said unto Joshua: 'Make thee knives of flint, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.'
ו  כִּי אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה, הָלְכוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּמִּדְבָּר, עַד-תֹּם כָּל-הַגּוֹי אַנְשֵׁי הַמִּלְחָמָה הַיֹּצְאִים מִמִּצְרַיִם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-שָׁמְעוּ בְּקוֹל יְהוָה:  אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָה, לָהֶם, לְבִלְתִּי הַרְאוֹתָם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָה לַאֲבוֹתָם לָתֶת לָנוּ, אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ.6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the nation, even the men of war that came forth out of Egypt, were consumed, because they hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD; unto whom the LORD swore that He would not let them see the land which the LORD swore unto their fathers that He would give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.
ז  וְאֶת-בְּנֵיהֶם הֵקִים תַּחְתָּם, אֹתָם מָל יְהוֹשֻׁעַ:  כִּי-עֲרֵלִים הָיוּ, כִּי לֹא-מָלוּ אוֹתָם בַּדָּרֶךְ.7 And He raised up their children in their stead; them did Joshua circumcise; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised by the way.
ח  וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר-תַּמּוּ כָל-הַגּוֹי, לְהִמּוֹל; וַיֵּשְׁבוּ תַחְתָּם בַּמַּחֲנֶה, עַד חֲיוֹתָם.  {פ}8 And it came to pass, when all the nation were circumcised, every one of them, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. {P}

י  וַיַּחֲנוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בַּגִּלְגָּל; וַיַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת-הַפֶּסַח בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ, בָּעֶרֶב--בְּעַרְבוֹת יְרִיחוֹ.10 And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal; and they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening in the plains of Jericho.

It was only once the Jewish people had a mass circumcision and the generation that had the Sin of the Golden Calf and the Sin of the Spies, that caused the Jews to wander in the desert for 40 years, passed away did the Jewish people once again keep the Passover.

The Kind Hezekiah is found to be a completely righteous king, but he followed a completely wicked king. Therefore, when Hezekiah inherited the kingdom, his subjects were idol worshipers. This can be seen in Chronicles 2 (29:6,7):

ו  כִּי-מָעֲלוּ אֲבֹתֵינוּ, וְעָשׂוּ הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה-אֱלֹהֵינוּ--וַיַּעַזְבֻהוּ; וַיַּסֵּבּוּ פְנֵיהֶם מִמִּשְׁכַּן יְהוָה, וַיִּתְּנוּ-עֹרֶף.6 For our fathers have acted treacherously, and done that which was evil in the sight of the LORD our God, and have forsaken Him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs.
ז  גַּם סָגְרוּ דַּלְתוֹת הָאוּלָם, וַיְכַבּוּ אֶת-הַנֵּרוֹת, וּקְטֹרֶת, לֹא הִקְטִירוּ; וְעֹלָה לֹא-הֶעֱלוּ בַקֹּדֶשׁ, לֵאלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.7 Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt-offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel.

After King Hezekiah had the Levites cleanse the temple and he destroyed all of the idol worship, he moved on to congregated everyone in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover holiday (Chronicles 2 30:1):

א  וַיִּשְׁלַח יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ עַל-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל וִיהוּדָה, וְגַם-אִגְּרוֹת כָּתַב עַל-אֶפְרַיִם וּמְנַשֶּׁה, לָבוֹא לְבֵית-יְהוָה, בִּירוּשָׁלִָם--לַעֲשׂוֹת פֶּסַח, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD, the God of Israel.

Also, later in Chronicles 2 we see that King Josiah (Yoshiayahu) inherited the kingdom from the wicked king Menashe. Menashe had completely devastated the religious practices of the Jewish country, but when Josiah came to power he went on a rampage destroying all the idols that his father had erected or allowed to be erected. Once he was finished cleansing the land we are told that he then (Chronicles 2 35:1):
א  וַיַּעַשׂ יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ בִירוּשָׁלִַם פֶּסַח, לַיהוָה; וַיִּשְׁחֲטוּ הַפֶּסַח, בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לַחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן.1 And Josiah kept a passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem; and they killed the passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month.
 There are more instances, but I think these cases are sufficient to point out that there is something about Passover that connects to the Jewish people only when they are following the Torah. Not only following the Torah, but there is a special emphasis that once the Jewish people are cleansed of some imperfection THEN they celebrate the holiday of Passover. Hezekiah celebrated the Passover only once he had destroyed all of the idols his father, Ahaz (Achaz), and had built and cleansed the Temple. Also, we are only told that Josiah (Yoshiyahu) kept the Passover once he abolished all of the idols in the land and had cleansed the Temple. Joshua and the Jewish people of his time only kept the Passover once they were cleansed from the previous generation that had sinned by the golden calf and the spies and only once everyone was circumcised, another form of cleansing the Jewish people, did they celebrate the Passover. Therefore, we must consider why the Passover offering is so connected to the Jewish people cleansing themselves of sin and returning to the proper service of G-D.

 I think the answer can be found in the establishment of the holiday. Passover is all about us becoming the Jewish people solely because we follow G-D's commandments. This is seen by the original Korban Pesach. The Jews were differentiated from their Egyptian neighbors solely because they showed the sign, blood on the door post, that meant they followed G-D's command. There were no other significant factors that separated the Jewish household from the Egyptians household. Even if you were a Jew, if you did not have the sign on the door post, you were treated as a regular Egyptian.

This is why by Joshua, Hezekiah, and Josiah the Jewish people decided to celebrate Passover once they had returned to the service of G-D, because they understood the meaning of Passover.What is the point of the Tanach telling us that, specifically, at these times did the Jewish people keep Passover? There must have been many Passovers that the Jewish people kept that the Tanach does not mention. The point of the Tanach telling us that at this specific time, once the Jews had returned to the service of G-D, the Jews kept Passover  is because of what Passover signifies. It is only when we are acting as the people of G-D that we are truly able to understand the meaning of Passover. Passover is all about realizing that you follow G-D because He is G-D. Did the idea that the blood on the door post would separate a Jew from an Egyptian make any reasonable sense? No, it was simply used as a divider of those who listen to G-D versus those who do not.

There might very well be reasons for the Mitzvos, they might all be logically explainable. This idea is a debate among many. (Rambam, Ramban and Maharal being a few) However, the most compelling reason to keep the Mitzvos is because G-D told us to.

This is the essence of Pesach. Pesach is a recognition that G-D is the one who freed us from Egypt. We celebrate the holiday because we recognize that G-D is our leader. Therefore, the Tanach emphasizes the celebration of Pesach only when the Jewish people recognize the reason and significance of this holiday. The Tanach is, in essence, telling us that this is how one should celebrate the holiday, because the commitment and zeal that these people are showing is the essence of the holiday.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why Does a Metzora (Someone Afflicted With Tzaraas) Bring a Guilt Offering

(Corrected and clarified)
This week's Parsha discusses a person who is afflicted with tzaraas (tzaraat for you Israeli's/Sephardim/or random people who say t instead of s for a tav without a dot). We are told that the Metzora needs to bring three sacrifices, one an Guilt-offering (Asham), a sin offering and an Olah (Vayikra 14:12-13):

י  וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי, יִקַּח שְׁנֵי-כְבָשִׂים תְּמִימִם, וְכַבְשָׂה אַחַת בַּת-שְׁנָתָהּ, תְּמִימָה; וּשְׁלֹשָׁה עֶשְׂרֹנִים, סֹלֶת מִנְחָה בְּלוּלָה בַשֶּׁמֶן, וְלֹג אֶחָד, שָׁמֶן. 10 And on the eighth day he shall take two he-lambs without blemish, and one ewe-lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth parts of an ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.

יב  וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן אֶת-הַכֶּבֶשׂ הָאֶחָד, וְהִקְרִיב אֹתוֹ לְאָשָׁם--וְאֶת-לֹג הַשָּׁמֶן; וְהֵנִיף אֹתָם תְּנוּפָה, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה. 12 And the priest shall take one of the he-lambs, and offer him for a guilt-offering, and the log of oil, and wave them for a wave-offering before the LORD.

יט  וְעָשָׂה הַכֹּהֵן, אֶת-הַחַטָּאת, וְכִפֶּר, עַל-הַמִּטַּהֵר מִטֻּמְאָתוֹ; וְאַחַר, יִשְׁחַט אֶת-הָעֹלָה. 19 And the priest shall offer the sin-offering, and make atonement for him that is to be cleansed because of his uncleanness; and afterward he shall kill the burnt-offering.

The reason for bringing a Guilt-offering with a sin-offering and an Olah seems to be similar to the reason why a woman who just gave birth has to bring a Sin-offering with an Olah. There are a few differences based on the specifics of the case, for example, the woman has to bring the Olah first and the Metzora has to bring a Guilt offering on top of the other two, but I think the reason a Sin/Guilt offering has to be brought AT ALL is similar. As seen in this previous post (, a woman needs to bring a Sin-offering because of some sin she committed. The same is true for the guilt and sin offering of the Metzorah, he or she committed some sin, therefore a Guilt-offering must be brought. So, as usual, we must ask the question of "What was his/her sin?"

Most people only relate the affliction of Tzaraas with Lashon hora (slander). This is a popular misconception made so popular because of all the commentaries on the incident in Bamidbar (12) where Miriam slanders Moshe and is afflicted with Taraas. Yes, slander seems to be one way that a person can acquire Tzaraas, but Tzaraas is so much more than just a punishment for slander. The Midrash Tanchuma brings down different reasons for why a person is afflicted by Tzaraas (Metzorah 4):

זאת תהיה תורת המצורע. ילמדנו רבינו, על כמה דברים נגעים באים על האדם. כך שנו רבותינו, על אחת עשרה דברים הנגעים באים על האדם. על עבודה זרה, ועל חלול השם, ועל גלוי עריות, ועל הגנבות, ועל לשון הרע, ועל המעיד עדות שקר, ועל הדיין המקלקל את הדין, ועל שבועת שוא, ועל הנכנס בתחום שאינו שלו, ועל החושב מחשבות של שקר, ועל המשלח מדנים בין אחים. ויש אומרים, אף על עין רעה
This is the Law of the Metzora: Our Rabbis teach us , How many things bring about the affliction of Tzaraas on a man? Our Rabbis have taught that there are 11 things a person can do that brings about Tzaraas on them. Idol worship, Desecration of G-D, Illicit relations, Stealing (hidden), Slander, False testimony, A judge that distorts judgement, A false oath, Entering into an area that is not yours, thinking thoughts of falsehood, causing a rift between brothers and, there are those that say, having an evil eye. 

All of these perverse actions have one thing in common, they all constitute a betrayal of someone else by either tricking them into believing something or actually betraying them. The person who worships idols is betraying G-D by turning his or her back on G-D. The person who steals or testifies falsely is betraying the one he or she is causing harm to. The best way to understand why a person gets Tzaraas is to look at examples of it in the Torah, Neviim and Kesuvim.

The first case of Tzaraas in the Torah was when Moshe was speaking to G-D by the burning bush (Shemos (4:6):
ו  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה לוֹ עוֹד, הָבֵא-נָא יָדְךָ בְּחֵיקֶךָ, וַיָּבֵא יָדוֹ, בְּחֵיקוֹ; וַיּוֹצִאָהּ, וְהִנֵּה יָדוֹ מְצֹרַעַת כַּשָּׁלֶג.6 And the LORD said furthermore unto him: 'Put now thy hand into thy bosom.' And he put his hand into his bosom; and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, as white as snow.
This was a form of punishment, apparently, because just a few verses earlier Moshe had said: (ibid:1):
א  וַיַּעַן מֹשֶׁה, וַיֹּאמֶר, וְהֵן לֹא-יַאֲמִינוּ לִי, וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי:  כִּי יֹאמְרוּ, לֹא-נִרְאָה אֵלֶיךָ יְהוָה.1 And Moses answered and said: 'But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice; for they will say: The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.'
This was inappropriate for Moshe to say. He slandered the Jewish people. How could he claim that they will not listen to him when G-D was sending Moshe? Therefore, he was punished with Tzaraas.

The next case is when Miriam slanders Moshe (Bamidbar 12:10):
י  וְהֶעָנָן, סָר מֵעַל הָאֹהֶל, וְהִנֵּה מִרְיָם, מְצֹרַעַת כַּשָּׁלֶג; וַיִּפֶן אַהֲרֹן אֶל-מִרְיָם, וְהִנֵּה מְצֹרָעַת.10 And when the cloud was removed from over the Tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow; and Aaron looked upon Miriam; and, behold, she was leprous.
She was punished with Tzaraas because she had spoken slanderously against her brother. Therefore, she was punished, just like Moshe was, with Tzaraas.

The next case is found in Melachim 2 (5:1) by Naaman the Aramean:
א  וְנַעֲמָן שַׂר-צְבָא מֶלֶךְ-אֲרָם הָיָה אִישׁ גָּדוֹל לִפְנֵי אֲדֹנָיו, וּנְשֻׂא פָנִים--כִּי-בוֹ נָתַן-יְהוָה תְּשׁוּעָה, לַאֲרָם; וְהָאִישׁ, הָיָה גִּבּוֹר חַיִל--מְצֹרָע.1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and held in esteem, because by him the LORD had given victory unto Aram; he was also a mighty man of valour, but he was a leper.
The question here is why does this man deserve to be a Metzora? Weren't only Jews punished with Tzaraas because of its close connection to G-D? (meaning G-D places this disease on the Metzora) The truth is that this Naaman was a righteous gentile, as is seen in this chapter. He believed in G-D and his power (ibid:11):
יא  וַיִּקְצֹף נַעֲמָן, וַיֵּלַךְ; וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה אָמַרְתִּי אֵלַי יֵצֵא יָצוֹא, וְעָמַד וְקָרָא בְּשֵׁם-יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו, וְהֵנִיף יָדוֹ אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם, וְאָסַף הַמְּצֹרָע.11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said: 'Behold, I thought: He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper. 
He clearly believed in G-D, but it was this incident that made him realize that the only G-D is the G-D of Israel (ibid:15):
טו  וַיָּשָׁב אֶל-אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים הוּא וְכָל-מַחֲנֵהוּ, וַיָּבֹא וַיַּעֲמֹד לְפָנָיו, וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה-נָא יָדַעְתִּי כִּי אֵין אֱלֹהִים בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ, כִּי אִם-בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל; וְעַתָּה קַח-נָא בְרָכָה, מֵאֵת עַבְדֶּךָ.15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him; and he said: 'Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; now therefore, I pray thee, take a present of thy servant.'
So, what was Naaman being punished for originally? It seems like he was punished for entering into an area where he didn't belong (ibid:2):
ב  וַאֲרָם יָצְאוּ גְדוּדִים, וַיִּשְׁבּוּ מֵאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל נַעֲרָה קְטַנָּה; וַתְּהִי, לִפְנֵי אֵשֶׁת נַעֲמָן.2 And the Arameans had gone out in bands, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.
G-D had granted Naaman power over Israel, but he had no right to abduct a young girl from Israel. This is, apparently, why he was a Metzora.

The next case is found in the same chapter where Elisha's servant, Gehazi, is afflicted with Tzaraas (ibid:27)
כז  וְצָרַעַת נַעֲמָן תִּדְבַּק-בְּךָ, וּבְזַרְעֲךָ לְעוֹלָם; וַיֵּצֵא מִלְּפָנָיו, מְצֹרָע כַּשָּׁלֶג.27 The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever.' And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
The reason for this affliction was because Elisha did not want to accept any gifts from Naaman, but Gehazi wanted money. Gehazi chased after Naaman after he had departed from Elisha. He told Naaman that Elisha changed his mind and wanted to accept some gifts after all, a pure lie! Therefore, Elisha informed Gehazi that he would be a Metzora. All because of his greed that caused him to lie.

The next case we have is Azariah (also known as Uzziah) the son of Amaziah, King of Yehuda becoming a Metzorah (Kings 2 15:5):
ה  וַיְנַגַּע יְהוָה אֶת-הַמֶּלֶךְ, וַיְהִי מְצֹרָע עַד-יוֹם מֹתוֹ, וַיֵּשֶׁב, בְּבֵית הַחָפְשִׁית; וְיוֹתָם בֶּן-הַמֶּלֶךְ עַל-הַבַּיִת, שֹׁפֵט אֶת-עַם הָאָרֶץ.5 And the LORD smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a house set apart. And Jotham the king's son was over the household, judging the people of the land.
(He is referred to Azariah in Kings because that was his actual name. However, he is referred to Uzziah in Chronicles because the Kohein (Priest) that kicks him out of the temple when he becomes a metzora is named  Azariah.)
What did he do to deserve the affliction of Tzaraas? This is told to us in Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles 2 26:16,18,19):
טז  וּכְחֶזְקָתוֹ, גָּבַהּ לִבּוֹ עַד-לְהַשְׁחִית, וַיִּמְעַל, בַּיהוָה אֱלֹהָיו; וַיָּבֹא אֶל-הֵיכַל יְהוָה, לְהַקְטִיר עַל-מִזְבַּח הַקְּטֹרֶת.16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up so that he did corruptly, and he trespassed against the LORD his God; for he went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.
יח  וַיַּעַמְדוּ עַל-עֻזִּיָּהוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ, וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ לֹא-לְךָ עֻזִּיָּהוּ לְהַקְטִיר לַיהוָה--כִּי לַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי-אַהֲרֹן הַמְקֻדָּשִׁים, לְהַקְטִיר:  צֵא מִן-הַמִּקְדָּשׁ כִּי מָעַלְתָּ, וְלֹא-לְךָ לְכָבוֹד מֵיְהוָה אֱלֹהִים.18 and they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him: 'It pertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron that are consecrated it pertaineth to burn incense; go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thy honour from the LORD God.'
יט  וַיִּזְעַף, עֻזִּיָּהוּ, וּבְיָדוֹ מִקְטֶרֶת, לְהַקְטִיר; וּבְזַעְפּוֹ עִם-הַכֹּהֲנִים, וְהַצָּרַעַת זָרְחָה בְמִצְחוֹ לִפְנֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּבֵית יְהוָה, מֵעַל, לְמִזְבַּח הַקְּטֹרֶת.19 Then Uzziah was wroth; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense; and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy broke forth in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense.
Uzziah (Azariah) was trying to enter into a place he did not belong, which was considered to be a betrayal of G-D and the Kohanim (Priests). It was thier right to offer up incense to G-D and G-D designated it for them.  Also, the Tzaraas did not actually come upon Uzziah until he was considering evil thoughts against the priests. Thus, when G-D saw Uzziah would not back down until he was made a Metzora, that is exactly what happened.

All of these cases from Tanach teach us that it is obvious that it is more than just Loshon Hara (slander) that causes a person to be afflicted with Tzaraas. Any betrayal that a person commits is deserving of this punishment. However, the only people to ever be afflicted with this "disease" were righteous individuals or people that were close to G-D. This can teach us something very valuable about betrayal. Betrayal is bad, but it is even worse when you are considered to be someone who should know better. Yes, we get upset when someone steals from us, but it is even worse if the person who stole from us turns out to be our best friend! That is possibly the worst feeling ever. Not only that, but it effects our psyche and we are forever unable to trust people.

Why was Moshe's slander so bad? Because he was supposed to become the leader and stick up for the Jewish people even when G-D wanted to destroy them. Why was Miriam's slander so bad? Because she was the one who protected her little brother in the reeds and was supposed to defend him from others. Why was Namaans abduction so bad? Because he was supposed to restrain his own men from kidnapping Jews and he kidnapped one himself. (Notice how the verse tells us the Arameans only kidnapped one young woman and it happened to be that she served in Naaman's house.) Why was Gehazi's lie so bad? Because he was the close confidante of Elisha and he ended up using Elisha's righteous name to get money out of Naaman. Finally, why was Uzziah's attempt to take over the Kohanim's job so bad? Because he was the one who was supposed to defend G-D's Torah through being the king not a priest. The verse tells us that Uzziah was completely righteous, but his success led him to be haughty and that was his betrayal.

This is why a Metzora must bring a guilt offering and an Olah. The guilt offering is to invoke forgiveness for a betrayal and the Olah is an attempt to try and reestablish the relationship with the person who was betrayed. At least, that is how I see it based on these cases in Tanach and the Medrashim.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rambam Yisodei Hatorah Perek 6 Halacha 4: When Part Of G-D's Name Is Already Written

כתב אל"ף למ"ד מאלהים יו"ד ה"א מיהוה אינו נמחק. ואצ"ל יה שהוא שם בפני עצמו. מפני שזה השם מקצת שם המפורש הוא. אבל הכותב שי"ן דל"ת משדי צד"י בי"ת מצבאות הרי זה נמחק:
If the Alef and Lamed from the word Elokim is written or the letters Yud and Hey from the word Hashem (spelled yud kay vav kay) you can not erase them. You don't even need to mention Yud and Hey because it is a name (of G-D) by itself, because it is the shortened version of the explicit name. However, if the Shin and Dalet from Shakai or Tzadi and Beis from Tzivakos (is written) these can be erased (before the name is completed). 

This is, seemingly a simple Rambam. The Alef Lamed and Yud Hey can be names of G-D by themselves. However, the SHin Dalet and the Tzadi beis are not names in and of themselves. Therefore, it makes sense that one group, the group that the shortened version is a name of G-D in and of itself, can not be erased. However, the letters that do not refer to G-D by themselves are allowed to be erased.

There is still a question to be asked, why are these two letters Yud Hey or Alef Lamed not allowed to be erased based on the idea that they can refer to G-D in and of themselves? If they are not allowed to be erased they should have been stated in the Rambam's earlier halacha that talks about names that are not allowed to be erased. If they are allowed to be erased then it should not matter that the intention was to complete them to the full name of Hashem (Yud kay vav kay) or Elokim.

I think the answer teaches us something about kedusha (holiness). The whole reason these names are holy is because we have the intention of writing them out in their full name. Yes, the shorthand version should be allowed to be erased because it is not the main name of G-D. However, it is our intentions that give this name holiness. Holiness only comes through the thoughts and actions of people connected with something that has inherent holiness. It is the combination of the two that bring about holiness. If you are lacking any inherent meaning then no matter how much a person wants it to be holy, it is impossible for that object to be holy (like the tzadi beis that has no holy meaning). This is why the Tzadi Beis is allowed to be erased, but the Yud hey is not.

Why A Mother Who Just Gave Birth Has To Bring a Burnt Offering(Olah) and a Sin Offering(Chatas)

In this week's Parsha, Tazriah, we see that the Torah commands a woman to bring two Korbanos (sacrifices) by the verse saying (Vayikra 12:6):
ו  וּבִמְלֹאת יְמֵי טָהֳרָהּ, לְבֵן אוֹ לְבַת, תָּבִיא כֶּבֶשׂ בֶּן-שְׁנָתוֹ לְעֹלָה, וּבֶן-יוֹנָה אוֹ-תֹר לְחַטָּאת--אֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל-מוֹעֵד, אֶל-הַכֹּהֵן.6 And when the days of her purification are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtle-dove, for a sin-offering, unto the door of the tent of meeting, unto the priest.
There are two important questions here, both which are asked by the famous Abarbanel. He says, in his commentary on the Torah:
השאלה הד׳ למה חייבה תורה ליולדת להביא
חטאת ועולה כי הנה ענין העולה לא
היה לה צורך במקום הזה והחטאת גם כן
לא היתה ראויה כיון שלא ימצאו לה עון אשר
חטא . ולמה בכל המקומות זכר שיקריבו החטאת
קודם העולה כמו שהתבאר במה שקדם וכאן
זכר ראשונה החטאת :
The fourth question is why does the Torah obligate the woman who gives birth to bring a sin offering and a burnt offering? There is no need for her to bring a burnt offering in this place and also the sin offering is not proper for her since we do not find that she sinned. Also, why is the sin offering mentioned before the burnt offering (Olah) whenever the Torah mentions the bringing of these sacrifices (korbanos), but here the Torah mentions the Burnt offering (Olah) first? 

The Abarbanel really hits the nail on the head here. Why on earth should the woman that gives birth have to bring any Korbanos (sacrifices)? It is especially peculiar because she is said to have to bring a burnt offering and a sin offering. Why on earth would she have to bring these two types of sacrifices? What sin did she commit? Also, the reason for bringing an Olah is brought down at the end of the Midrash Tanchuma in Parshat (Parshas) Tzav (13):

 זאת תורת העולה וגו'. כך שנו רבותינו, היתה עולה כולה קדושה, מפני שלא היתה באה על עונות. אשם היתה באה על הגזילות. אבל העולה, לא היתה באה לא על חטאת ולא על גזל, אלא על הרהור הלב היא באה. וכן מי שהיה מהרהר בלבו דבר, היה מביא קרבן העולה לשום דברים העולים על הלב
These are the laws of the Olah: The Rabbis taught that the Olah is entirely holy because it was not brought for sins. The guilt offering was brought for theft; but the Olah was not brought for sin or theft, rather it is brought  due to thoughts of the heart [to sin] (but no actual sin). Therefore,  someone who would think in his/her heart about something would sacrafice an Olah for these thoughts (lit. things) that rose up in his/her heart.

The Abarbanel offers his answers for this question, but I would like to offer my own thoughts. The woman needs to first bring the Olah, even though in every other circumstance the sin offering is brought first. What is unique about this Olah?

The classic answer for what sin this woman committed is that she swore that she would never be with her husband again. Essentially, she was screaming in pain, "You did this to me, YOU (exploitive deleted), I hate you!"

With this in mind I think it is fairly simple to understand why a woman in this situation would have to bring both an Olah and a sin offering. Normally, a person brings the sin offering first because that is the more severe situation. The Gemara in Zevachim goes into the reasons why a sin offering is brought first, but I think it is readily understandable. You bring a sin offering first because actions speak louder than words or thoughts. A normal sin is something that effects a persons relationship with G-D or another person. In order to fix that, a person must first show signs of regret, manifested by the sin offering. Essentially, the sin offering shows, "What I did to you was wrong and I apalogize." Then you can bring an Olah which says I am sorry that I even thought about doing this terrible deed. However, the reason the Olah is brought second is because the action is much worse than the thought.

However, by a husband and wife, the relationship is what creates the bond between them. In essence, the action against the other person in this situation is less severe than the thought. The husband and wife might do things which upset each other, but the connection between them is strong enough that they will still love each other and continue to live together. However, when the woman yells, "I am never going near you again!" She is cutting that relationship status that is so strong. In this situation, it is the Olah that must come first because the thought of destroying that relationship is much more severe. The unspoken bond and the tight intangible connection that husband and wife have is broken once the thoughts of severance pop into her head. Therefore, the sin offering takes the back seat to the Olah in this situation. The Olah is brought to show that the wife really wants the relationship. Once that is settled then the sin offering can be brought and the husband and wife's relationship can be restored.

This allows us to understand why the woman must bring an Olah offering, a sin offering and why they must be brought in this order. The most important part about these korbanos is the reestablishment of the husband and wife's relationship. With this idea, the requirements on the woman can be understood in a meaningful way.

(As a side note, Rashi brings down the Gemara which says the Torah might have written the Olah before the sin offering, but really the sin offering comes first in practice. This answer makes very little sense to me. There is no explanation as to why the Torah would write it this way. If anyone knows the answer please let me know.)