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Parashat Tazria-Metzora - 5775

My friends,

This week we read two portions, Tazria and Metzorah. Both portions deal with the laws of Tuma-ah, uncleanliness, when such a person must stay away from the camp and can only return when the Kohen (priest) declares him 'Tahor', clean.

Our sages had difficulties with the laws of the Metzorah (translated as one who is afflicted with leprosy). The Kohen diagnoses and determines whether it is Tzara-at, at which time the person is sent out of the camp to be in isolation for a week or two.

Since the Kohen was not necessarily a medical person, what gives him the knowledge to decide whether it is Tzara-at or some other skin disease? Our sages explain that Tzara-at is a punishment for someone who speaks 'Lashon Harah' - gossip, slander about others. Because he/she talked about this person and the slander will be spread among other people, the slanderer's punishment is Tzara-at, which becomes obvious to all.

Tzara-at can also affect a home. In this Parasha, we are told that upon entering the Land of Israel, if a person notices a Tzara-at in the walls of the house, the Kohen is invited to evaluate and he decides if it is indeed Tzara-at in the wall.

"If, when he (the Kohen) examines the plague, the plague in the walls of the house is found to consist of greenish or reddish streaks that appear to go deep into the wall" (Lev. 14:37), the Kohen locks up the house for seven days. If on the seventh day the plague has spread to other walls, the affected stones are removed and replaced with new stones.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin gives this contemporary explanation to this verse:

"The walls in a house are excellent witnesses as to what is going on in that home. They can be witnesses to blessings or curses. Is the family involved in conversations, filled with kindness and love about each other and about our neighbors and community, or is the home a source of anger, hate and slander about others?"

A home is more than a house. If positive acts of kindness and loving words take place in this house, then it is worth calling it a home. Otherwise, this place is just a house with stones that have been plagued by all they have heard and seen. The affected stones must be removed before the Shechinah, G-d's presence, can dwell in this house, making it a home.

We have just celebrated Israel's 67th Anniversary. May your home be filled with kind words and acts of support for the home of our people, for Eretz Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram