Parashat Tazria - Metzora

Parashat Tazria - Metzora
VaYikra 12:1 - 15:33
Haftarah
2Melachim 7:3-20

[Purification - by Yoram Raanan]

Parashat Summary

G-d describes the rituals of purification for a woman after childbirth
Methods for diagnosing and treating a variety of skin diseases, including tzara'at (a leprous affection), as well as those for purifying clothing

Priestly rituals to cure tzara'at when it afflicts humans
Rituals to rid dwelling places of tzara'at
Male impurities resulting from discharge or seminal emissions
Female impurities caused by a discharge of blood


Hashem's Numerous Kindnesses to the Unborn


12:1 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
Hashem spoke to Moshe saying,
2 Daber el-benei Yisra'el lemor isha ki tazria veyaldah zachar vetame'ah shiv'at yamim kimei nidat devotah titma
"Speak to the Children of Yisrael, saying, If a woman conceived seed and gives birth to a male child she will be ritually unclean for seven days; as the days of her menstrual flow, she will be unclean.
3 Uvayom hashmini yimol besar orlato
On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
4 Ushloshim yom ushloshet yamim teshev bidmei tahorah bechol-kodesh lo-tiga ve'el-hamikdash lo tavo ad-mel'ot yemei tahorah
For thirty-three days she will remain [in the status] that the blood [she sees] is ritually pure.  She shall not touch anything holy and she shall not come into the Sanctuary, until the days of her purity are completed.
5 Ve'im-nekevah teled vetam'ah shvu'ayim kenidatah veshishim yom vesheshet yamim teshev al-demei tahorah
If she gives birth to a female she will be unclean for two weeks as during her menstruation   For sixty-six days she shall have a waiting period during which her blood is ritually clean.

Hashem prefaced the laws concerning a child-bearing woman with the words, "Isha ki sazria" - If a woman conceived seed.."

This phrase brings to our notice His great kindness even to the unborn. The growth of the fetus in the mother's womb inspires a person with gratitude to the Creator for having miraculously provided for him even then.

The Midrash describes that period:
The Angel in charge of conception is called לילה (Lailah). When the Almighty wishes a human being to be born, He bids the Angel Lailah, "Bring me this and this neshamah (soul) from Gan Eden!" The neshamah, though, resents being uprooted from its Divine source, and complains to Hashem, "I am pure and holy, linked to Your Glory. Why should I be degraded by having to enter a human body?" "It is not as you say," Hashem corrects it. "The world where you will live surpasses in beauty the one from where you emanated.* You were fashioned for the sole purpose of becoming part of a human being and being elevated by his deeds."
*The meaning of this phrase is that although in Olam Habah the soul enjoys undisturbed tranquility and bliss, nevertheless, the present world, despite all its tribulations, is of greater beauty. Only as long as a person lives on earth does he have the opportunity to study Torah and fulfill the mitzvot, thus accumulating merits.

Hashem subsequently compels the soul to merge with the seed for which it was destined. Even before the fetus is formed, the angel inquires of Hashem, "What shall be its fate?"

At that point, the entire future of the unborn child is preordained. The Almighty determines whether it is to be male or female, whether he (or she) shall be healthy or suffer from some sickness or handicap, his appearance, the degree of his intelligence, as well as all his mental and physical capabilities. Moreover, all particulars of his circumstances are already decided - will he be wealthy or poor, what shall he possess, and who will be his future spouse.

We see that all details of a person's life are predestined. However, there is one exception. Hashem does not decree whether someone will become a tzaddik or a rasha. Each one decides how to fashion himself by means of the faculties and capabilities that were preordained for him.

While in the mother's womb, the child is taught the entire Torah. He is shown a vision of both Gan Eden and Gehinnom, and the angel in charge of him entreats him, "Become a tzaddik! Do not become a rasha!" When the child enters the world the angel strikes his lips, causing all the Torah knowledge previously imparted to him to be forgotten. Nevertheless, that knowledge was absorbed by his subconscious mind, enabling him to retrieve it during his lifetime.

While Hashem appointed an angel in charge of pregnancies, He Himself directly supervises childbirth.

The keys to three matters, which are vital to mankind, were not entrusted to an angel but rest in the hands of the Almighty Himself:
  1. Childbirth
  2. Rain (in this context, "rain" also refers to parnassah since when most Jews were occupied with farming, the quality of the crops, and hence their livelihood, was dependent upon rain.)
  3. Techiat HaMeitim (the Resurrection of the dead).
Hashem personally directs these actions in accordance with our merits and tefillot.


In the previous sections, the Torah discussed the laws involving animals, birds and invertebrates, those which are ritually clean and those which are unclean.  In this portion, the Torah discusses ritual uncleanliness involving the human body.

One reason the Torah speaks about the laws of animals before those of humans is because this is the order of creation.  Man was created after all the other animals.

This is so that man should learn a lesson and behave with great humility, without any pride.  If a person shows pride he can be told, "even a gnat, which is an insignificant creature, was created before you."  But if a person is a good Jew, he is then told, "You were created before the angels."

As far as laws are concerned, the same thing is true.  First the Torah discusses laws involving unclean animals, concluding, "This is the Torah of animals, birds and every living creature..." (11:46).  The Torah then begins, "When a woman conceives" going on to the laws of leperous marks and the like. (Sanhedrin, p. 38; Bachya)

The main advantages that man has over animals are his intellect and his ability to speak.  Therefore, if a person is worthy of using his intellect and speaking ability to study Torah and fulfill G-d's commandments, he takes precedence even over the angels.  However, if he uses them to speak maliciously and trivially, then even animals are better than he because an animal remains silent. (Yad Yosef, Metzorah)

The Torah begins, "When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male child."  The Torah literally says, "When a woman produces seed and gives birth to a male." This teaches that even if the child is not fully formed but is miscarried, or is crushed like seed or semen, the law is that the woman is unclean and has the same status as a menstruate (niddah).  She is then unclean for seven days just as a niddah is.

The Torah therefore says, "If a woman produces seed and gives birth to a male."  The Torah could have simply said, "If a woman gives birth."  Why does it have to say "When she produces seed and gives birth to a male"?  The Torah could have simply used the same expression it used later, "If she gives birth to a female.

The Torah is informing us regarding that which we spoke about earlier.  Even if the fetus is crushed and has the appearance of a blob of semen, the woman is still unclean.

Moreover, even if the woman gives birth without any blood whatsoever she nevertheless has the ritually unclean status for seven days.  With the additional seven clean days, this is a total of fourteen days.

According to the law, when a woman gives birth to a male, she is unclean for seven days.  For the thirty-three days between the seventh day and the fortieth day, any blood that she sees is considered "clean blood."  This is what the Torah means when it says, "For thirty-three additional days she shall have a waiting period during which her blood is ritually clean."

This indicates that from the seventh until the fortieth day her blood is clean as far as her husband is concerned, with regard to marital relations.  However, with regard to touching sacred offerings or entering the sanctuary she is still not permitted until the end of the forty days.

If a woman gives birth to a girl the number is doubled.  For two weeks, or fourteen days, she is unclean.  For sixty-six days from the fourteenth until the eightieth day, any blood she may see is ritually clean.  The Torah therefore says, "Sixty-six days she shall have a waiting period during which her blood is ritually clean." (Yoreh Deah 195; Bet Yosef ibid.)

This teaches that from the fourteenth day until the eightieth day the woman has sixty-six "clean" days, during which her blood is ritually clean.

However, the custom today among all Yisrael is to consider the woman forbidden to her husband if she experiences any vaginal bleeding during the thirty-three days for a male or the sixty-six days for a female.  The husband must separate from her as if it were menstrual blood, and she is ritually unclean.  We have an obligation to keep this custom and not deviate from it.  One who violates this is considered to be violating the words of our sages who forbade it. (Tur; Bet Yosef; Geonim; Hagah ibid.; Chinuch)


The Miracle of Conception

There is also another reason the Torah says, "A woman who produces seed and gives birth to a male" and does not simply say, "When a woman gives birth to a male."  This teaches us that G-d's great mercy and the miracles that He does with the fetus when it is in its mother's womb.  Out of one drop of seed a child is formed with a complete soul.

This is like a man who secretly gives his friend a silver basket to watch.  After awhile, he comes to take the basket and his friend publicly gives him a gold basket in return.  Does he not have to give his friend great thanks for this?  Not only did his friend take good care of the object for safe-keeping but he gave him something worth many times as much.

The Torah therefore, says, "When a woman has seed and gives birth to a male child." The Torah is saying that a vile-smelling drop of seed is given to G-d for safekeeping and He returns it as a living child with a soul.

If a person is in a dungeon he is in very great straits.  No one is concerned about him, whether he is alive or dead.  Then if someone comes and is concerned for him, lighting a lamp for him and caring for him, how much gratitude must that person show to the other all his life for the great kindness he did to him.  If not for the friend he would have been dead. (VaYikra Rabbah; Yalkut Shimoni; Yeffeh Toar, ad loc.)

How much more so must a person show gratitude to G-d for the great mercy that He did.  When a person was in his mother's womb, he was in a tight narrow place like a harsh dungeon.  G-d cared for him and fed him and prepared everything that he needed.  Beyond that, G-d provided him with a lamp through which he could see from one end of the world to the other (discussed in the commentary on Parashat Bereishit).  How much more so must a person praise and thank G-d all his life! (Niddah, Chapter 3; Tosafot ad loc.)

G-d also does another miracle with the fetus when it is in the womb.  Usually, if a person has a purse full of money and turns it so that its opening is downward, all the money falls out and nothing remains in the purse.  However, the fetus remains in its mother's womb and does not fall out and die.  This is a greater miracle in a woman than in an animal.  An animal walks horizontally; therefore, the fetus is lying down and cannot fall out.  A woman, however, walks upright and the child should be able simply to slip out of the womb and fall.  G-d in His mercy watches so that the child will not fall out and die. (VaYikra Rabbah; Yalkut Shimoni)

Iyov thus said, "Life and mercy You did with me, and Your providence watched over my spirit" (Iyov 10:12).  Iyov was praising G-d for His great mercy and the great miracles that He did for him while he was in the womb.  G-d watched over him and kept him alive so that he did not fall out and die. (Niddah, Chapter 3;     Zohar; Tanchuma)

Another miracle G-d does with the fetus is that normally, if a person is in a tight, hot place, he becomes crushed and dies.  However, here the child is in a very hot place for the nine months that he is in the womb.  G-d watches over him and keeps him alive.

There is another reason the Torah says, "If a woman produces seed and gives birth to a male."  This teaches that if the woman discharges fluid before the man, the child will be a male.  If the man discharges seed first, the child will be a female. (Zohar, Bereishit)

If a person sanctifies himself during sexual intercourse he will be worthy of his children being boys.  Moreover, they will grow up to be good Jews and the Evil Inclination will not have any power over them. However, if a person has sex merely for his own enjoyment and behaves without shame then his children will be evil and arrogant. (Zohar Chadash, p. 12)

One of the questions that the people of Alexandria asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanania was, "What method can be used to guarantee that one will have male children?"  He answered them, "Marry women who do good deeds and who are modest.  Then sanctify yourselves during intercourse and do not speak more than is necessary.  Then pray to G-d, since this is in His hands." (Niddah, Chapter 10)

For this reason, Parashat Tazria, which involves conception, comes right after the verses which say, "You shall sanctify yourself and you shall be holy" (11:44, 45).  This teaches that if a person sanctifies himself during sexual intercourse he will be worthy of having virtuous male children. (Shevuot, Chapter 2; Yalkut Shimoni)

If a person is careful regarding the laws of niddah (discussed in Parashat Bereishit, Chapter 6), he will be worthy of having sons and circumcising them at eight days old.  The Torah therefore says, "On the eighth day (the child's) foreskin shall be circumcised."

This is what the Scripture says, "Give a portion for seven and also for eight" (Kohelet 11:2).  This teaches that if a person "gives a portion for seven," being careful regarding the seven days of menstrual impurity, then G-d will give that person "a portion of eight" - he will have a son and bring him into the covenant of Avraham when he is eight days old. (VaYikra Rabbah; Yalkut Shimoni)

12:6 Uvimlot yemei tahorah leven o levat tavi keves ben-shnato le'olah uven-yonah o-tor lechatat el-petach ohel-mo'ed el-hakohen
When the days of her purification are completed, be it for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb, in its first year, as a burnt-offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin-offering, to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, to the Kohen.
7 Vehikrivo lifnei HASHEM vechiper aleiha vetaharah mimekor dameiha zot torat hayoledet lazachar o lanekevah
He will bring it before HASHEM and atone for her and she will be cleansed from the source of her blood; this is the Torah regarding the woman who gives birth to a male or to a female.
8 Ve'im-lo timtza yadah dei seh velakechah shtei-torim o shnei bnei yonah echad le'olah ve'echad lechatat vechiper aleiha hakohen vetaherah
If she cannot afford [to acquire] a lamb she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons; one as a burnt-offering and one as a sin-offering.  The Kohen will atone for her and she will be cleansed."
These offerings are brought at the end of the prescribed period, after the thirty-three days for a male and after the sixty-six days for a female.  The Torah says, "The kohen shall make atonement for her and she shall be clean."

The Talmud relates that the students asked Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, "Why does the Torah require a woman who has a child to bring a sacrifice? What sin has she committed?"

He replied, "When a woman sits on the birth stool and feels the pangs of childbirth, she swears that she will never again have intercourse with her husband.  Obviously, this is an oath that she cannot keep, since it was made under duress.  Moreover, she is required to have intercourse with her husband.  The Torah therefore requires a woman to bring an atonement offering, to atone for her vain oath." (Niddah, Chapter 3; Yalkut Shimoni; Bachya; Sifetei Kohen)

Some say that the Torah obligates the woman to bring a sacrifice to rectify the sin of Chavah, who brought death to the world.  Chavah also caused the sin of evil and so caused a woman to have to experience these terrible pains of childbirth (Bereishit 3:16).


13:1 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe ve'el-Aharon lemor
HASHEM spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying,
2 Adam ki-yihyeh ve'or-besaro set o-sapachat o vaheret vehayah ve'or-besaro lenega tzara'at vehuva el-Aharon hakohen o el-achad mibanav hakohanim
When a person will have, in the skin of his flesh a spot of intense whiteness or an off-white spot, or a snow-white spot, and it forms on the skin of his body [like] the plague of tzara'at, he shall be brought to Aharon, the Kohen, or to one of his sons, the Kohanim.
Before discussing the laws of the leprous curse, we must first understand their reasons and the philosophy behind them.

One of the basic points of Judaism is the belief that G-d oversees the entire world, caring for each individual thing in particular.  This is known as "particular providence" (hashgachat peratit).  Not only is G-d concerned with the world as a whole, but He is also concerned with every individual, recompensing him according to his deeds.  Therefore, if a person experiences grief, whether through his property, his children, or his body, he should realize that it is not a mere accident, but it came about because of his sins.

One should not think, as fools do, that, "Evils do not come because of sin."

This is a very great mistake.  When any troubles, great or small, come to a person, they are sent through G-d's direction for the person's benefit in order to awaken him from his sleep, in which he follows the world's vanities.  He will then examine his deeds; if he did something wrong he will repent and pray to G-d to have mercy on him and forgive him his sin.

G-d is merciful and compassionate.  When He brings troubles to a person He is like a father punishing his child.  He does not immediately punish a person through his body.  First the Attribute of Justice strikes a person's property.  If he is aroused to repent and rectify his sin, fine.  If not, his body is then stricken. (Chinuch)

Therefore, when the Temple stood, first G-d would send a plague against a person's house so that discolorations would appear on the walls (14:34).

If the person repents, fine.  If not, a plague is sent against his garments, which are closer to his body (13:49).

If the person still does not repent, the the leprous plague is directed against his body.

So that we understand that these diseases are sent from on high because a person's deeds, and are not natural occurrences, G-d commanded that they be healed in a manner that normally goes against the prescribed healing processes.

Normally, skin rashes are a result of an infection of the blood, and the remedy is for a person to stroll in parks and gardens so that he not become depressed or remain alone.  If a person is alone, his blood becomes worse.

However, if a person has one of these marks on his skin, G-d commanded that as soon as the Kohen sees the mark, he should quarantine the person in a room by himself.  Normally, isolation is like a butcher's knife to a sick person. This is to awaken a person from his spiritual sleep. He should know that these diseases (nega'im) are not a natural occurrence, but are directed against him because of his sins. (Alshekh; Kli Chemdah)

This Parasha is an introduction, so that we will understand the laws of nega'im.  The Torah previously spoke of the laws of niddah (menstruation) and circumcision, even though the laws of milah were discussed in Parashat Lech Lecha (Bereishit 17:10-14)

However, the Torah teaches us that nega'im (leprous marks) come only for these three reasons:
  1. The ancient scientists say that if a person has intercourse with his wife on the first day she is menstruating, the child will become a leper at the end of twelve years.  If he has intercourse with her on the second day, the child will contract leprosy at the end of twenty years.  If a person has intercourse on the third day, the child will contract leprosy in his thirtieth year; on the fourth day, in his fortieth year; on the fifth day, in his fiftieth year; on the sixth day, in his sixtieth year; and on the seventh day, in his seventieth year.  Therefore, by natural means a person can contract leprosy until he is seventy years old.
  2. Another reason for leprosy is the foreskin.  If a person is uncircumcised he is very susceptible to leprosy
  3. The third reason is grief, which makes the blood susceptible to infection.
The Torah now teaches us that neither one of these three reasons apply to the metzora, discussed here in the Torah. [This is not true leprosy, or Hansons' disease, which is caused by a bacterial infection.]

We cannot say that leprosy is the result of intercourse with a menstrual woman, since the Jewish people are careful of this.  The Torah thus says, "If a woman produces seed..." (12:2). 

It is impossible that this leprosy is the result of the foreskin since the Benei Yisrael are commanded to circumcise a child at eight days (Bereishit 17:12).

The Kohen is commanded to quarantine the metzora in an isolated house, where he is very likely to be depressed, which goes against the natural cure: Avoiding the isolation which causes these diseases to appear.

However, as we said, these nega'im are not natural occurrences. They are sent by G-d to arose a person from his sleep so that he should examine his deeds and repent. (Tanchuma; Yalkut Shimoni, Metzora)

Once a definite sign of leprosy is seen, and the Kohen declares him unclean, then he is a "certain leper" (metzora muchlat).  Then he must remain outside all three fcamps until the mark fades and he must follow all the laws discussed in this Parasha.  He must rend his clothes, he must avoid haircuts, and must wrap his head  like a mourner.

There are seven sins that bring about this type of uncleanliness:
  1. Malicious speech
  2. Bloodshed
  3. Unnecessary or vain oaths
  4. Sexual crimes
  5. Pride and haughtiness
  6. Robbery
  7. Stinginess and avoiding charity
This is why there are seven chapters in the Torah that discuss the laws of leprosy.  The seven chapters allude to the fact that this leprous curse comes because of seven sins.

We further see that the term "leprous mark" (nega tzara'at) occurs six times in these portions, and once in the following verses, making a total of seven.  This also alludes to the seven sins, which bring about this leprous curse. (Yad, Tumat Tzara'at 1; Chinuch)

13:47 Vehabeged ki-yihyeh vo nega tzara'at beveged tzemer o beveged pishtim
When in a garment there is a skin-eruption of tzara'at, whether a woolen garment or in a linen garment.
48 O vishti o ve'erev lapishtim velatzamer o ve'or o bechol-melechet or
Or if it is the warp [lengthwise] threads, or in the woof [widthwise] threads, in a linen garment, or a woolen garment, or on leather or in any object made of leather.
49 Vehayah hanega yerakrak o adamdam babeged o va'or o-vashti o-va'erev o vechol-kli-or nega tzara'at hu vehor'ah et-hakohen
If the plague is deep green or deep red, in the garment, or in the leather hide or in the warp threads, or in the woof threads, or if it is in any object made of leather; it is the eruption of tzara'at and it shall be shown to the Kohen.
50 Vera'ah hakohen et-hanaga vehisgir et-hanega shiv'at yamim
The Kohen shall see the plague and confine the eruption, for seven days.
51 Vera'ah et-hanega bayom hashvi'i ki-fasah hanega babeged o-vashti o-va'erev o va'or lechol asher-ye'aseh ha'or limelachah tzara'at mam'eret hanega tame hu
He shall see the eruption on the seventh day.  If the eruption has spread in the garment or in the warp thread, or in the woof thread, or in the leather hide, or in the work made of leather, it is a prickly tzara'at, it is unclean.
52 Vesaraf et-habeged o et-hashti o et-ha'erev batzemer o vapishtim o et-kol-kli ha'or asher-yihyeh vo hanaga ki-tzara'at mam'eret hi ba'esh tisaref
He shall burn the garment, or the warp threads, or the woof threads, be it in wool or in linen, or in all leather made objects, in which there is the eruption.  For it is a prickly tzara'at.  It shall be burned in fire.
53 Ve'im yir'eh hakohen vehineh lo-fasah hanega babeged o vashti o va'erev o bechol-keli-or
If the Kohen will see, and behold! the eruption did not spread in the garment, or in the warp threads, or in the woof threads, or in any leather made object.
54 Vetzivah hakohen vechibesu et asher-bo hanaga vehisgiro shiv'at-yamim shenit
The Kohen shall command that they shall wash the article having the eruption, and confine it for seven days, a second time.
55 Vera'ah hakohen acharei hukabes et-hanega vehineh lo-hafach hanega et-eino vehanega lo-fasah tame hu ba'esh tisrefenu pechetet hi bekarachto o vegabachto
The Kohen shall see it after the eruption was washed and behold! [even if] the eruption did not change its hue and the eruption did not spread; it is unclean, you shall burn it in fire.  it is a deep mark be it in a worn [garment] or in a new [garment].
56 Ve'im ra'ah hakohen vehineh kehah hanega acharei hukabes oto vekara oto min-habeged o min-ha'or o min-hashti o min-ha'erev
If the Kohen saw and behold! the eruption grew faint after it was washed; he shall tear it from the garment, or from the leather, or from the warp threads, or form the woof threads.
Maftir
57 Ve'im-tera'eh od babeged o-vashti o-va'erev o vechol-kli-or porachat hi ba'esh tisrefenu et asher-bo hanaga
If it will appear again, in the garment or in the warp threads, or in the woof threads, or in any leather-made object, it is a recurrent outbreak of tzara'at.  You shall burn the article having the eruption in fire.
58 Vehabeged o-hashti o-ha'erev o-chol-kli ha'or asher techabes vesar mehem hanaga vechubas shenit vetaher
The garment, or the warp threads, or the woof threads, or any leather objects that were washed and the eruption disappears from the, it shall be washed a second time and it shall be purified.
The only types of garments that can be defiled in this manner are those made out of wool or linen.  Also, threads that are meant to be used for the warp or woof in weaving can also become unclean.  Finally, any leather, whether soft or hard, can have this status.

Threads that are designated for weaving, whether for the warp or woof, can become unclean as soon as they are spun.

The Torah explains at length the procedure through which garments or pieces of cloth are declared clean or unclean. (Yad, Tumat Tzaraat 13)

13:59 Zot torat nega-tzara'at beged hatzemer o hapishtim o hashti o ha'erev o kol-keli-or letaharo o letam'o
This is the Torah of the eruption of tzara'at be it in a woolen garment, or a linen garment, or in the warp tread, or in the woof thread, or in any leather-made object, that it be pronounced pure, or that it be pronounced impure."


Parashat Metzora


14:1 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe lemor
And HASHEM spoke to Moshe, saying,
2 Zot tihyeh torat hametzora beyom tahorato vehuva el-hakohen
"This shall be the Torah regarding the person with tzara'at on the day of his purification, he shall be brought to the Kohen.
In the previous Parsha, we discussed that this leprous curse is not a natural disease; rather, it comes about because of seven sins.  It is generally brought about by malicious speech (lashon hara).

This is alluded to in the verse which says, "This is the law of a metzora."  The Hebrew word for leper is metzorah. This word can be seen as an abbreviation (notrakun), for the words motzi shem ra, which denotes slander.  Because a person slanders his friend, he is punished with the leprous curse.

Moreover, when a person speaks maliciously about his neighbor, it is considered as if he had violated all five books of the Torah.  We therefore see the word "Torah" [translated as "law"] is written here five times. Actually, it is written once in the previous chapter and four times in this chapter.  The citations are as follows:
  1. "This is the law of the leprous mark" (13:59)
  2. "This is the law of the metzora" (14:2)
  3. "This is the law of one who has the mark of leprosy" (14:33)
  4. "This is the law for every leprous mark" (14:54).
  5. "This is the law of leprosy" (14:57)
The text mentions the word Torah five times to teach that anyone who speaks maliciously against another is considered to have violated the five books of the Torah.

This is what the Scripture says, "Do not cause your mouth to make your flesh sin; do not say before the angel that it was an accident.  Why should G-d be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?" (Kohelet 5:5)

The verse is telling us that we should not speak maliciously against others, because this sin will affect our flesh, causing it to be covered with leprosy.  Although one might be speaking secretly and wonder who is hearing it, he must know that there is an angel at his side who hears it and writes down everything that one says about his neighbor.

One of the curses with which G-d cursed the original serpent who tempted Chavah was that his skin be covered with leprosy all his life because he spoke maliciously against G-d.

When a person engages in malicious gossip, he causes a separation between husband and wife, or between a man and his friend.  Therefore, from on high, he is made to be a leper, where he must be separated from his friends and no one can stand near him. (Arakhin, Chapter 3; VaYikra Rabbah; Reshit Chochmah, Shaar HaKedushah 13)

If a person speaks maliciously against another, G-d curses him and says that he should be cursed just as the serpent.  The Torah therefore says, "Cursed shall be he who strikes his friend in a hidden manner and all the people shall say 'Amen'" (Devarim 27:24).  The Torah here is not speaking about one who is literally striking his friend. This would appear to indicate that one who strikes his friend openly does not deserve punishment, but we know that if one strikes his friend openly he deserves an even greater punishment, since he is embarrassing him in front of others.

When the Torah speaks about, "striking one's friend in a hidden manner," it refers to one who "strikes him" with his tongue, speaking maliciously against him.  When a person speaks maliciously, he does so in a hidden manner so that the victim will not be aware of it.  The Torah then says that he should be "accursed" (arur)

One who speaks maliciously is very much like one who denies G-d.

One should not be surprised at the teaching of our Sages that one who speaks maliciously is stricken with leprosy.  It is true that we see many people who speak maliciously and who remain healthy and whole, without any mark on their skin.  However, one must realize that the leprosy mentioned in the Torah can afflict either the body or the soul.

Spiritual leprosy is even worse than physical leprosy.  Every night when the soul ascends on high all the spiritual beings are repelled by it and announce before the soul that it is unclean, as the Torah says, "He shall call out, 'Unclean, Unclean'" (13:45).

If a person does not repent while he is still alive, when he dies his soul is not allowed to enter the camp of the righteous.  All of them flee and separate themselves from him.  One can imagine how much grief that soul suffers when it is chivied from one place to another and where no one wants to stand next to it.

In the fourth chamber (discussed in Parashat Bereishit, Chapter 6), it is called "quicksand" (tit ha-yaven - Tehillim 40:3).  In this chamber there is a special place called "the leprous curse" (nega tzara'at).  It is here that the souls of those who speak maliciously are kept and they suffer immensely. (Reshit Chochmah, loc. cit.; Yad Yosef)

Through this we can understand the following story that is related in the Midrash:

There was once a peddler who went from city to city and announced, "Who wants a life potion? Who wants to buy a potion of life?" He came to to Rabbi Yanai who was in his house and called to him through the window. "Come on into my house," said the rabbi.  "I would like to try your potion." "This potion is not for you," said the peddler, "and it is not for those like you." Rabbi Yanai urged him to come into the house, so he did.  "Where is this potion of life that you are selling"? asked the rabbi. The peddler took out a Sefer Tehillim from his pocket and showed him the thirty fourth psalm, where it is written, "Who is the man who desires life, who loves days to see good?  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking maliciously" (Tehillim 34:13, 14).  The Scripture was saying that one who wants life must bridle his mouth and not speak maliciously. "All my life," said Rabbi Yanai, "I never understood exactly what that verse meant.  Now that this peddler has told me, I understand. This is also what King Shlomo said, 'He who watches his mouth and his tongue will keep his soul from grief' (Mishlei 21:23).  This indicates that one who watches his mouth and does not speak maliciously will safeguard his soul against the leprous curse."

This is the account cited in the Midrash.

One may wonder, What was the great wisdom of the peddler?  Rabbi Yanai said that without him he would not have understood the Biblical verse. The words that the peddler said were actually the simple, literal meaning of the verse - which we say each day.

One might also ask, What is the difficulty in the verse, that Rabbi Yanai could not understand it without the peddler?

However, according to what we have said, this can be understood quite well. Rabbi Yanai knew that the Torah teaches that anyone who speaks maliciously is stricken with leprosy.  However, we see that many people do speak maliciously and nothing happens to them.  Furthermore, why does the Torah double its wording and say, "Who is the man who desires life, who loves days to see good?"

The peddler came and said, "Who ants a potion of life?"  He was asking, "Who wants to be healthy in body and soul, so that neither should be stricken with leprosy?"  After all, a leper is considered like the dead.

When Rabbi Yanai understood that the soul can be stricken with leprosy just like the body, all his questions were answered.  Therefore he said, "Now I understand the words that King Shlomo said, 'He who watches his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from grief' (Mishlei 21:23)."  The word for grief is tzarot, which sounds very much like tzara'at (leprosy).  The verse thus can be interpreted, "He who watches his mouth and tongue safeguards his soul from leprosy."  Since the Scripture is speaking of the soul, we see that the soul can be afflicted by leprosy just as the body can. (VaYikra Rabbah; Yad Yosef.  See Akedat Yitzchak; Yeffeh Toar).

The Scripture speaks about spiritual leprosy rather than phyisical leprosy because the spiritual leprosy is much worse than the physical variety, as we have seen earlier. 

Furthermore, if the soul is defiled by leprosy, a person's prayers are not accepted until he is humbled and repents.  The Torah therefore says, "On the day of his purification he shall be brought to the Kohen" (14:2).  This means that on the day that a person is purified from the sin of malicious speech and repents, he can be brought to the "kohen," where the world "kohen" alludes to G-d.  This indicates that his prayers are accepted. (Zohar; Reshit Chochmah, loc. cit.)

The remedy for speaking maliciously is to struggle to understand the Torah after one repents.  The Torah therefore says, "This is the Torah of a leper on the day of his purification."  This indicates that the remedy for the leper on the day that he wishes to purify himself is the Torah.

This is the meaning of the verse, "A healing of the tongue is the tree of life" (Mishlei 14:5).  This means that the remedy for malicious speech is the Torah. 

14:3 Veyatza hakohen el-michutz lamachaneh vera'ah hakohen vehineh nirpa nega hatzara'at min-hatzarua
The Kohen shall go out beyond the encampment.  The Kohen shall see, and behold! the skin-eruption of tzara'at has healed from the person with tzara'at.
As was said earlier, this mark is not caused by an infection in the blood; rather, it is caused by one's sins.  Therefore, it cannot be healed by a physician, or by medicine. It cannot be healed by walking or strolling in the gardens with one's friends, which is the normal remedy for such diseases.

Rather, the remedy must come from oneself, and the person himself must provide the cure.  He must be isolated in a secluded place.  Naturally, this might seem to be something that will irritate his condition, but when he is alone, his heart should become contrite and he should repent.  He will then be healed. (Alshekh; Tzeror HaMor)

14:4 Vetzivah hakohen velakach lamitaher shtei-tziporim chayot tehorot ve'etz erez ushni tola'at ve'ezov
The Kohen shall command to take for the person undergoing purification two live, pure [kosher] birds, cedar wood, crimson thread and hyssop.
The Torah speaks of these birds as being "alive."  This means that they should not have a fatal lesion (terefah).

14:5 Vetzivah hakohen veshachat et-hatzipor ha'echat el-kli-cheres al-mayim chayim
The Kohen shall command to slaughter the one bird in an earthenware vessel, over running water.
6 Et-hatzipor hachayah yikach otah ve'et-etz ha'erez ve'et-shni hatola'at ve'et-ha'ezov vetaval otam ve'et hatzipor hachayah bedam hatzipor hashchutah al hamayim hachayim
[As for] the living bird, he shall take it; and the cedar wood, the crimson thread and the hyssop and immerse them and the live bird in the blood of the slaughtered bird, over the running water.
7 Vehizah al hamitaher min-hatzara'at sheva pe'amim vetiharo veshilach et-hatzipor hachayah al-penei hasadeh
He shall sprinkle on the person undergoing purification from the tzara'at, seven times and make him pure; and send the live bird into the open field.
8 Vechibes hamitaher et-begadav vegilach et-kol-se'aro verachatz bamayim vetaher ve'achar yavo el-hamachaneh veyashav michutz le'aholo shiv'at yamim
The person undergoing purification shall wash his garments, and shave off all of his hair, and bathe in water, and he will become purified.  After [this], he may come into the encampment.
9 Vehayah vayom hashvi'i yegalach et-kol-se'aro et-rosho ve'et-zkanav ve'et gabot einav ve'et-kol-se'aro yegale'ach vechibes et-begadav verachatz et-besaro bamayim vetaher
It shall be, that on the seventh day, he shall shave off all of his hair, [that of] his head, his beard and his eyebrows; he shall shave off all of his hair.  he shall wash his garments, and bathe his body in water and become purified.
This is the purification procedure for a metzora: 

He takes one of the birds, slaughters it and drains out its blood onto natural spring water so that the blood is visible in the water.  Someone then digs and buries the slaughtered bird in his presence.  This is known by tradition..

He then must take a piece of cedar wood.  It should be one cubit long and as wide as a bedpost.  He must also take hyssop, a piece not less than one handbreadth long.  Also, some wool dyed crimson, weighing one shekel (0.8 oz.).

These three articles must be taken together with the living bird.  The hyssop and cedar are tied with the strand of crimson wool.  Around that bundle should be the tips of the wings and the tip of the tail of the living bird.

All four of these articles are then dipped in the vessel  containing the blood and water.  The Kohen then sprinkles seven times on the leper's hand and sends away the bird.

The bird must be sent away in a special way.  The Kohen must be standing in a city and throw the bird outside the wall.

After this is completed, the Kohen must shave the metzora.  This must also be done in a special way.  He must take a straight razor and shave off all his visible hair until the person is as smooth as a cucumber.

The next process in the purification is that the metzora must immerse both his body and his clothing in a mikvah.  Then he is clean.  while he had the status of a metzora, if he entered a tent, he would render everything in it unclean and he would also render unclean anything up on which he sat or lay.  Now he no longer has this status.  He may also enter inside the walls of the city.

After this he must count seven days.  On the seventh day he must shave himself as at first.  He must again immerse both his clothing and his body.  Although he immersed on the seventh day, he must again immerse on the eighty day, since it is possible that he was not careful and defiled himself again.

Then he must bring all the sacrifices prescribed by the Torah, (Yad, Tumat Tzaraat 11)

14:10 Uvayom hashmini yikach shnei-chvasim temimim vechavsah achat bat-shnatah temimah ushloshah esronim solet minchah blulah vashemen velog echad shamen
On the eighth day, he shall take two unblemished lambs and one ewe in her first year, unblemished, and there tenths fine flour, for a meal-offering, mixed with oil and one log of oil.
11 Vehe'emid hakohen hametaher et-ha'ish hamitaher ve'otam lifnei HASHEM petach Ohel Mo'ed
The Kohen doing the purification, shall place the man undergoing the purification and the [aforementioned] items, before HASHEM, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.
12 Velakach hakohen et-hakeves ha'echad vehikriv oto le'asham ve'et-log hashamen vehenif otam tenufah lifnei HASHEM
The Kohen shall take one lamb and bring it as a guilt-offering. and [with] the log of oil and wave them as a wave-offering before HASHEM.
13 Veshachat et-hakeves bimkom asher yishchat et-hachatat ve'et-ha'olah bimkom hakodesh ki kachatat ha'asham hu lakohen kodesh kodashim hu
He shall slaughter the lamb in the place where he slaughters the sin-offering and the burnt-offering, in the sacred place; for, just as the sin-offering - is the guilt-offering; it belongs to the Kohen, it is most holy.
14 Velakach hakohen midam ha'asham venatan hakohen al-tenuch ozen hamitaher hayemanit ve'al-bohen yado hayemanit ve'al-bohen raglo hayemanit
The Kohen shall take from the blood of the guilt-offering and the kohen shall put it on the middle ridge of the right ear of the person being purified, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.
15 Velakach hakohen milog hashamen veyatzak al-kaf hakohen hasmalit
The Kohen shall take from the log of the oil and he shall pour it onto the Kohen's left palm.
16 Vetaval hakohen et-etzba'o hayemanit min-hashemen asher al-kapo hasmalit vehizah min-hashemen be'etzba'o sheva pe'amim lifnei HASHEM
The Kohen shall immerse his right finger in some of the oil that is on his left palm and he shall sprinkle some of the oil with his finger seven times before HASHEM.
17 Umiyeter hashemen asher al-kapo yiten hakohen al-tenuf ozen hamitaher hayemanit ve'al-bohen yado hayemanit ve'al-bohen raglo hayemanit al dam ha'asham
From the remaining oil that is on his palm, the Kohen shall put on the middle ridge of the right ear of the person being purified, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot; on [over] the blood of the guilt-offering.
18 Vehanotar bashemen asher al-kaf hakohen yiten al-rosh hamitaher vechiper alav hakohen lifnei HASHEM
Whatever oil remains that is on the palm of the Kohen, he shall put on the head of the person undergoing purification.  The Kohen will atone for him before HASHEM.
19 Ve'asah hakohen et-hachatat vechiper al-hamitaher mitum'ato ve'achar yishchat et-ha'olah
The Kohen shall do [offer] the sin-offering and atone for the person undergoing purification from his impurity and afterwards he shall slaughter the burnt-offering.
20 Vehe'elah hakohen et-ha'olah ve'et-haminchah hamizbechah vechiper alav hakohen vetaher
The Kohen shall raise up the burnt-offering and the meal-offering onto the altar and the Kohen will atone for him and he will be purified.
The leper must stand outside the "Yisraeli's Courtyard" (ezrat Yisrael), next to the eastern gate, facing west.  The Kohen should take the lamb while it is still alive along with the log of oil, and perform the tenufah (wave) motions toward the east.  Then he should bring the lamb to the gate and the metzora shall place his two hands inside the courtyard and perform the laying of hands (semichah) on the lamb's head.  The lamb is then slaughtered and the Kohen accept the blood.  One accepts the blood in a vessel and the other in the palm of his right hand.

The one who has it in his right hand should then empty it into his left hand.  The Kohen then goes to the metzora, with the kohen inside the Temple courtyard (azarah) and the metzora outside.  The metzora places his head into the azarah and the Kohen comes and places the blood in his hand on the right earlobe of the metzora in the middle of the ear.  Then the metzora places his right hand inside the azarah and the Kohen places some of this blood on the middle joint of his right thumb.  The same is done to the middle joint of the right big toe of the metzora.

After this, the Kohen offers the metzora's chatat offering and olah offering.

The the Kohen places some of the log of oil on the same parts of the body of the metzora and the rest of the oil is placed on his head.  The metzora is thus completely purified. (Yad, Mechusarei Kapparah 6)

14:21 Ve'im dal hu ve'ein yado maseget velakach keves echad asham litnufah lechaper alav ve'isaron solet echad balul bashemen leminchah velog shamen
If he is poor and his means are not sufficient, he shall take one lamb as a guilt-offering, for a wave-offering to atone for him and one thenth fine flour mixed with oil, as a meal-offering and a log of oil.
22 Ushtei torim o shnei bnei yonah asher tasig yado vehayah echad chatat veha'echad olah
And two turtledoves or two young pigeons such as his means suffice.  One shall be for a sin-offering and one shall be for a burnt-offering.
23 Vehevi otam bayom hashmini letahorato el-hakohen el-petach ohel-mo'ed lifnei HASHEM
He shall bring them on the eighth day of his purification, to the Kohen, to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, before HASHEM.
24 Velakach hakohen et-keves ha'asham ve'et-log hashamen vehenif otam hakohen tnufah lifnei HASHEM
The Kohen shall take the guilt-offering sheep and the log of oil and the Kohen shall wave them as a wave-offering before HASHEM.
25 Veshachat et-keves ha'asham velakach hakohen midam ha'asham venatan al-tnuch ozen-hamitaher hayemanit ve'al-bohen yado hayemanit ve'al-bohen raglo hayemanit
He shall slaughter the guilt-offering lamb.  The Kohen shall take some blood of the guilt-offering and put it on the middle ridge of the right ear of the person undergoing purification, and on the thumb of his right hand and the big toe of his right foot.
26 Umin-hashemen yitzok hakohen al-kaf hakohen hasmalit
The Kohen shall pour some of the oil onto the Kohen's left palm.
27 Vehizah hakohen be'etzba'o hayemanit min-hashemen asher al-kapo hasmalit sheva pe'amim lifnei HASHEM
The Kohen shall sprinkle, with his right finger, some of the oil that is on his left palm, seven times before HASHEM
28 Venatan hakohen min-hashemen asher al-kapo al-tenuch ozen hamitaher hayemanit ve'al-bohen yado hayemanit ve'al-bohen raglo hayemanit al-mekom dam ha'asham
The Kohen shall put some of the oil that is on his palm, on the middle ridge of the right ear of the person undergoing purification, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on the place of the blood of the guilt-offering.
29 Vehanotar min-hashemen asher al-kaf hakohen yiten al-rosh hamitaher lechaper alav lifnei HASHEM
What remains of the oil that is on the palm of the Kohen, he shall put on th ehead of the person undergoing purification, to achieve his atonement before HASHEM.
30 Ve'asah et-ha'echad min-hatorim o min-benei hayonah me'asher tasig yado
He shall do [offer] one of the turtledoves or the young pigeons, from that which his means suffice,
31 Et asher-tasig yado et-ha'echad chatat ve'et-ha'echad olah al-haminchah vechiper hakohen al hamitaher lifnei HASHEM
that for which his means are sufficient, one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering with the meal-offering.  The Kohen will atone for the person undergoing purification before HASHEM.
This is the leper's offering for a poor man.  The animals sacrificed are somewhat different, but otherwise the procedure is the same as earlier.

14:32 Zot torat asher-bo nega tzara'at asher lo-tasig yado betahorato
This is the Torah of whoever has the skin-eruption of tzara'at whose means are not sufficient in his purification."
Earlier, we saw that the Torah commanded that two birds be sacrificed (14:5-7).  One of these birds was slaughtered and the other was sent away live.

This is because a person has two types of speech.  One is words of Torah and good deeds, and the other is words of malicious speech.

Birds normally chirp and chatter all day long.  Since the metzora is repenting and wishes to be purified from his affliction, G-d commanded that he take two birds.  One is slaughtered and the other is sent away alive.  This alludes to the fact that the metzora has repented.

One bird, which symbolizes his malicious speech, is slaughtered and destroyed.

The second bird is to be allowed to live.  This indicates that one must take words of Torah and good deeds, and not reject them.

Since this affliction comes because of the sin of pride, as discussed earlier, G-d commanded that the person undergoing purification should take a cedar tree, hyssop and crimson wool.  This teaches that the person originally was proud like a cedar, but now he is humble and lowly like a hyssop bush.  There is no bush lower than this.  The crimson dye comes from a worm.  The person is now humble like a worm and like the dust of the earth. (Alshekh.  See Bachya; Yeffeh Toar)

Wool dyed with a  crimson wool is also used so that a person should realize what his end will be.  In the end he will go to a place of dust and worms. (VaYikra Rabbah; Yalkut Shimoni: Abarbanel; Tzeror HaMor

14:33 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe ve'el-Aharon lemor
HASHEM spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying,
34 Ki tavo'u el-eretz Kena'an asher ani noten lachem la'achuzah venatati nega tzara'at beveit eretz achuzatchem
When you will come into the land of Kana'an that I will give to you for possession, and I shall put the eruption of tzara'at in the house of the land of your possession.
In this section, the Torah teaches us about leprous marks that appear in houses (nega'ei batim).

As discussed earlier, G-d does not immediately send diseases to a person's body.  First, G-d strikes his house.  If the person repents good.  If not, his clothing shows signs of decay.  If he repents, good.  But if not, his body is also stricken.

The Torah logically should have discussed leprous signs in houses first, then sch signs in garments, and finally such signs on the body.

However, the Torah teaches us a good lesson.  When a father is punishing his son, he tells him, "Really, I should give you twelve stripes on your body because you disobeyed me, but because I love you, I am going to whip you on your clothing.  I wanted to strike you on your clothing, but I love you so much that I'm going to give you another boon, and I'm merely going to strike the wall.  This should be enough to you so that you not repeat your misdeeds, if you have enough sense to understand."

G-d did the same thing.  First He told us the laws of leprous signs on the body.  It was as if G-d were saying, "You really deserve to be stricken on your body, but I am giving you another chance and merely causing leprous signs to appear on your garments.  This is why the laws of leprous signs on garments appear before the laws of such signs on houses.  This teaches that if a person is good, G-d will not even send these signs on his clothing, but on his house.

Through this we can understand the concept and reason for these leprous marks (nega'im) in garments and houses, although these are not living creatures and neither speak nor see.  One might wonder what the reason is for wood, stone and clothing to be stricken with such nega'im.

However, this is like a warning to a person who is going in a bad way.  It is like a father who threatens his son and shows him a stick, saying, "If you are not good, you will be hit with this stick."

There is also another reason for this infection of houses.  As wrote earlier, one of the things that causes nega'im is stinginess, where a person does not want to let other people enjoy his property.  Thus, a person may come to him and ask to borrow a plate or a dish or a pitcher and he says that he does not have one.  This bad trait comes to a person because of his evil thought.  He thinks that everything that he owns came to him because of his own efforts, and therefore it is all his.  He says to himself, "Why should I give something that I earned with my hard effort to others?  They will damage it or destroy it.  Just as I struggled and worked to get what I have, let them also work and they will be able to buy what they need."

He does not know that a person does not have the power to earn even a penny.  Everything comes from G-d's Hands.  He can make a person wealthy in an instant or vice versa.  One must realize that G-d gives him property, not only for himself, but so that he could do deeds of kindness to others, each according to his ability.  A person should lend pots, dishes, or even money to his friend and help him when he is in trouble.

In order to rid a person of this bad trait by revealing his falseness to everyone, G-d sends this plague to his house.  He then must take all his furniture and other articles out of the house, laying them outside, so that they do not become unclean.  He must also ask his neighbors to help him to take all his pots and dishes outside, since the Kohen is rushing him to do it as fast as possible, so that they not become defiled.

Meanwhile, the neighbors see everything that he has.  One might say, "Look, I asked you to lend me a pot awhile ago, and you told me that you didn't have one."

The Torah therefore says, "The owner of the house shall come and tell the Kohen..." (14:35). The Torah says that the one who considers the house his own and does not want to share it with others must be the one who tells the Kohen, "I have seen something like a plague in my house."   With this the Torah tells us that leprous marks in a house come because a person does not want to share his goods with others. (Ibid., Arakhin, Chapter 3)

Another reason that G-d placed leprous marks in houses was that that the Amori who lived in the land of Kenaan would build their houses for the sake of idolatry and unclean spirits.  When they built a house, they would place the cornerstone down and dedicate it to their pagan god and to a certain demon.  An unclean spirit would immediately rest in that house, and it would defile anything that came into the house.

G-d, however, wanted to give the Benei Yisrael a land so that the Divine Presence could rest there.  He did not want the Divine Presence to rest in an unclean place.  G-d therefore placed nega'im in the walls of their houses to show that this was a house where an unclean spirit dwelt, since it had been dedicated to an idol.  Therefore, this house has to be torn down and rebuilt as a house dedicated to G-d.

This is why new wood and stones, and even new dirt, had to be used to build this house, because the unclean spirit rested even on the materials out of which the house was built.

Therefore, whenever a person builds a house, he should dedicate the house to G-d, and say he is building it to be able to serve G-d.  The same is true when he does anything else.  He should verbally say that he is doing it for the sake of heaven.  A holy spirit then dwells in his or rests upon his deeds.

If a person builds a house in such a manner, he will have a spirit of peace.  This is the meaning of the verse, "You know that your tent is peace and your destiny serenity and you will not sin" (Iyov 5:24).  The Scripture is saying that if you want peace to be in your house and a holy spirit to dwell in it, you must be careful to place in it a certain serenity and tranquility.  When you build a house you should verbally say that you are building it for G-d's sake.  Then you can be sure that nothing bad will ever happen in that house.  However, if you do not do that, the house can become a tabernacle of the Other Side.  It goes without saying that if a house is built dedicated to the Other Side, it is dangerous to live in it.

14:35 Uva asher-lo habayit vehigid lakohen lemor kenega nir'ah li babayit
Whoever's house it is, shall come and tell to the Kohen, saying, 'Something like a [leprous] mark has appeared to me in the house.'
36 Vetzivah hakohen ufinu et-habayit beterem yavo hakohen lir'ot et-hanega velo yitma kol-asher babayit ve'achar ken yavo hakohen lir'ot et-habayit
The Kohen shall command, and they shall empty the house [of its contents] before the Kohen will come to see the eruption so everything in the house shall not become impure.  Afterwards, the Kohen shall come to see the house.
This is the law regarding marks in a house.  The owner of the house comes to the Kohen and says, "It appears to me that something like a nega is in the house."  Even if the owner is a great scholar and knows for certain that this is a nega, he cannot say so until the Kohen says it explicitly. (Yad, Tumat Tzaraat 14, 15)  The Torha therefore says that his words should be "Something like a nega appears to be in the house," and not, "a nega.." (Sifra; Yalkut Shimoni; Rashi)

14:37 Vera'ah et-hanega vehineh hanega bekirot habayit shka'arurot yerakrakot o adamdamot umar'eihen shafal min-hakir
He shall see the eruption and behold! the eruption is in the walls of the house; impressions, of greenest green or of reddest red and they appear to be lower than the [surface of] the wall.
38 Veyatza hakohen min-habayit el-petach habayit vehisgir et-habayit shiv'at yamim
The Kohen shall go out of the house to the entrance of the house, and place the house under quarantine for seven days.
39 Veshav hakohen bayom hashvi'i vera'ah vehineh pasah hanega bekirot habayit
The Kohen shall return on the seventh day and shall see, and behold! the eruption has spread in the walls of the house.
40 Vetzivah hakohen vechiltzu et-ha'avanim asher bahen hanaga vehishlichu ethen el-michutz la'ir el-makom tame
The Kohen shall command and they shall remove the stones in which there is the eruption and cast them away, beyond the city to an impure place.
41 Ve'et-habayit yaktzia mibayit saviv veshafchu et-he'afar asher hiktzu el-michutz la'ir el-makom tame
He shall scrape the house from the inside, all around, and they shall throw away the earth that they scraped, beyond the city, to an impure place.
42 Velakchu avanim acherot vehevi'u el-tachat ha'avanim ve'afar acher yikach vetach et-habayit
They shall take other stones, and they shall bring them to replace the stones, and he shall take other earth and plaster the house.
43 Ve'im-yashuv hanega ufarach babayit achar chiletz et-ha'avanim ve'acharei hiktzot et-habayit ve'acharei hitoach
If the eruption returns and sprouts in the house after the stones were removed, and after the house was scarped, and after it was plastered,
44 Uva hakohen vera'ah vehineh pasah hanega babayit tzara'at mam'eret hi babayit tame hu
the Kohen shall come and see, and behold! the eruption has spread in the house; prickly tzara'at is in the house, it is impure.
45 Venatatz et-habayit et-avanav ve'et-etzav ve'et kol-afar habayit vehotzi el-michutz la'ir el-makom tame
He shall dismantle the house; its stones and its wood and all the earth of the house.  He shall take it out beyond the city, to an impure place.
46 Vehaba el-habayit kol-yemei hisgir oto yitma ad-ha'arev
Whoever will come inside the house [during] all the days of its confinement, shall be impure until the evening.
47 Vehashochev babayit yechabes et-begadav veha'ochel babayit yechabes et-begadav
Whoever will lie down inside the house shall wash his garments.  Whoever will eat inside the house shall wash his garments.
48 Ve'im-bo yavo hakohen vera'ah vehineh lo-fasah hanega babayit acharei hitoach et-habayit vetihar hakohen et-habayit ki nirpa hanaga
If the Kohen shall come and see, and behold! the eruption did not spread in the house after the house was plastered, the Kohen shall pronounce the house [to be] pure, for the eruption has been healed.
49 Velakach lechate et-habayit shtei tziporim ve'etz erez ushni tola'at ve'ezov
He shall take, to purify the house, two birds, cedar wood, crimson thread and hyssop.
50 Veshachat et-hatzipor ha'echat el-kli-cheres al-mayim chayim
He shall slaughter one bird in an earthenware vessel, over running water.
51 Velakach et-etz-ha'erez ve'et-ha'ezov ve'et shni hatola'at ve'et hatzipor hachayah vetaval otam bedam hatzipor hashchutah uvamayim hachayim vehizah el-habayit sheva pe'amim
He shall take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the crimson thread and the live bird and immerse them in the blood of the slaughtered bird and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times.
52 Vechite et-habayit bedam hatzipor uvamayim hachayim uvatzipor hachayah uve'etz ha'erez uva'ezov uvishni hatola'at
He shall purify the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the live bird, the cedar wood, the hyssop and the crimson thread.
53 Veshilach et-hatzipor hachayah el-michutz la'ir el-penei hasadeh vechiper al-habayit vetaher
He shall send the living bird, beyond the city into the open field, and atone for the house and it shall be purified.

Rabbi Moshe [Maimonides] said that these nega marks which appeared in houses and clothing were a sign and a miracle among the Benei Yisrael.  This was something that did not happen to any other people.  This is because G-d loves us and wants us to be careful regarding malicious speech. As discussed earlier, nega spots appear because of the sin of malicious speech.

First they strike the house.  If one repents, good.  If not, they strike one's clothing.  If he repents, good.  If not, they strike his body.

When a person is stricken on his body, the whole world knows that he is unclean.  He will not have anybody with whom he can speak maliciously or frivolously and he will repent so that he will be healed.

Anyone who is in command of his soul will be careful to speak only words of Torah.  He will then recognize G-d's greatness, since this is the main thing both in this world and the next. (Yad, Tumat Tzaraat, end of 16)

15:1 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Moshe ve'el-Aharon lemor
HASHEM spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying,
2 Daberu el-benei Yisra'el va'amartem alehem ish ish ki yihyeh zav mibesaro zovo tame hu
"Speak to the Children of Yisrael and say to them; should [discharge] flow from the body of any man, [because of] his discharge, he is impure.
This chapter discusses the law of a zav.  This is a man who has a discharge from his male organ, like gruel.  The discharge resembles a batter made of barley flour.  It can be thick or thin or it can plug up the orifice of the male organ.

If a person has such a discharge, he is called a zav, and he renders things unclean by pressure (heset).  This means that he can render something unclean by a mere motion.  Thus, if a person was sitting on one end of a beam, and a zav sat down on the other end of the beam, the person becomes unclean even if the beam was one hundred feet long.  As long as the zav moves it, he renders everything on it unclean.

The same is true of a zav's mattress. Even if there are ten mats, one on top of the other, and the zav sits on the top one, all of them become unclean. (Rashi)

Anyone touching a zav's clothing becomes unclean.
If a zav spits on a person, the person becomes unclean.
If one touches a mat or mattress of the zav, he becomes unclean.
If someone sits on an object upon which the zav has sat, he becomes unclean.

Anyone who touches any of the things mentioned here must immerse himself and his garments in a mikvah, and then he remains unclean until evening.  In the evening, the person is completely clean.

When the zav stops having his discharge, he must count seven clean days.  On the seventh day, he must immerse himself and his garments, and he is ritually clean.

On the eighth day he must bring two doves as a sacrifice.  One of these is offered as a chatat (sin offering) and one as a olah (burnt offering) (15:15).  The chatat is to atone for the sin that caused this affliction and the olah is a thanksgiving to G-d that he has been healed of his sickness.

15:16 Ve'ish ki-tetze mimenu shichvat-zara verachatz bamayim et-kol-besaro vetame ad-ha'arev
A man, if semen issues from him, he shall bathe his entire body in water and is impure until the evening.
17 Vechol-beged vechol-or asher-yihyeh alav shichvat-zara vechubas bamayim vetame ad-ha'arev
Any garment and any leather object upon which there is semen shall be washed in water and is impure until the evening.
18 Ve'ishah asher yishkav ish otah shichvat-zara verachatzu vamayim vetam'u ad-ha'arev
A woman, with whom a man will lie conjugally; they shall bathe in water, and are impure until the evening.
The Torah now is speaking of a man who has a seminal discharge, either as the result of sexual intercourse or as the result of a nocturnal emission.  Such a man must immerse himself in a mikvah and then he remains unclean until evening.

If any semen gets on any cloth or leather, it also becomes ritually unclean. The semen must be washed off and then the garment or leather object must be immersed in a mikvah and remain unclean until evening.  Semen is unclean and has the ability to render unclean any object with which it comes in contact.

If a woman has intercourse with a man and the man has a seminal discharge, then both the man and he woman have the same decree of ritual uncleanliness.  In order to be purified, both of them must immerse in a mikvah and they remain unclean until evening.

15:19 Ve'ishah ki-tiheyeh zavah dam yihyeh zovah bivsarah shiv'at yamim tihyeh venidatah vechol-hanogea bah yitma ad-ha'arev
When a woman has a discharge [and] the discharge will be blood in her body, for seven days she will be in [the state of] her menstrual impurity.  Anyone who touches her will be impure until the evening.
20 Vechol asher tishkav alav benidatah yitma vechol asher-teshev alav yitma
Everything that she sleeps on, during her menstrual impurity, will become impure and everything that she sits on will be impure.
21 Vechol-hanogea bemishkavah yechabes begadav verachatz bamayim vetame ad-ha'arev
Anyone who touches what she slept on shall wash his garments and bathe in water and is impure until the evening.
22 Vechol-hanogea bechol-kli asher-teshev alav yechabes begadav verachatz bamayim vetame ad-ha'arev
Anyone who touches any vessel that she sits on, shall wash his garments and bathe in water and is impure until the evening.
23 Ve'im al-hamishkav hu o al-hakli asher hi yoshevet-alav benog'o-vo yitma ad-ha'arev

If he is on the bed or on the vessel that she is sitting on, when he touches it, he shall be impure until the evening.
24 Ve'im shachov yishkav ish otah utehi nidatah alav vetame shiv'at yamim vechol-hamishkav asher-yishkav alav yitma
If a man will lie conjugally with her, her menstrual impurity will be on him and he is impure for seven days.  Anything used for sleeping - if he should sleep on it - it will be impure.
This is speaking of a woman who has her menstrual period. The same rules apply to a woman who has a discharge other than her menstrual period.

The Torah says that if any blood emerges from a woman's sexual organ, she becomes unclean.  If it comes at a time of her monthly period, she is considered a menstrually unclean woman (niddah).

15:25 Ve'ishah ki yazuv zov damah yamim rabim belo et-nidatah o chi-tazuv al-nidatah kol-yemei zov tum'atah kimei nidatah tihyeh tme'ah hi
When a woman discharges her blood-flow, many days outside her menstrual cycle, or if it flows after her menstrual cycle, all the days of her discharge-impurity shall be as her days of menstrual impurity; she is impure.
26 Kol-hamishkav asher-tishkav alav kol-yemei zovah kemishkav nidatah yiheyeh-lah vechol-hakli asher teshev alav tame yiheyeh ketum'at nidatah
Anything used for sleeping upon which she will lie [on] any of her discharge-impurity days, as the bed of her menstrual impurity it shall be to her.  Every vessel upon which she sits will be impure, just as [is] her menstrual-impurity.
27 Vechol-hanogea bam yitma vechibes begadav verachatz bamayim vetame ad-ha'arev
Anyone that touches them will be impure and he shall wash his garments and bathe in water and is impure until the evening.
28 Ve'im-taharah mizovah vesafrah lah shiv'at yamim ve'achar tithar
When she has become pure from her discharge-impurity, she shall count seven days for herself and afterwards she becomes purified.
29 Uvayom hashmini tikach-lah shtei torim o shnei benei yonah vehevi'ah otam el-hakohen el-petach Ohel Mo'ed
On the eighth day she shall take for herself, two turtledoves or two young pigeons and she shall bring them to the Kohen, to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.
30 Ve'asah hakohen et-ha'echad chatat ve'et-ha'echad olah vechiper aleyha hakohen lifnei HASHEM mizov tum'atah
The Kohen shall do [offer] one as a sin-offering and the [other] one as a burnt-offering.  The Kohen will atone for her before HASHEM from her discharge-impurity.
A woman who has a bloody discharge other than at the time of her menstrual period is called a zavah.

The previous section spoke about a "small zavah" (zavah ketanah) while this section speaks of a "great zavah" (zavah gedolah).


The Difference Between a Niddah, a Zavah Ketanah, and a Zavah Gedolah:

When a woman has a bloody discharge, it is assumed that she is menstruating, and she is niddah.

According to Torah law, even if she has this discharge for one day and it stops, she is a niddah.  However, if she has the discharge for seven consecutive days, and it stops early on the seventh day, she can immerse that very evening and she is ritually clean.  Such a woman is a niddah.

The above is a the Torah law, that a woman must merely count seven days from the beginning of her discharge and then immerse.  However, according to rabbinic legislation and custom today, a woman must wait seven days after her discharge stops.  This is discussed at length in commentary of Parashat Bereishit.

A woman becomes zavah in the following manner.  If, after the seven days of her menstrual period, she has a bloody discharge within eleven days, she is called zavah.  If this bloody discharge lasts one or two days and then stops, she is called a "small zavah" (zavah ketanah).  She must then wait one day after her blood stops flowing.  Then she can immerse and she is ritually clean.

However, if this discharge lasts for three days without interruption during the eleven days mentioned earlier, then the woman has the status of a "great zavah" (zavah gedolah).  She must then wait seven days, these being her "seven clean days" after she stops having the discharge, and then she can begin her purification process.

Here the Torah tells us that the ritual uncleanliness of a "great zavah" has the same laws as those discussed earlier regarding a male zav or a female "small zavah."

There is, however, one difference between a "small zavah" and a "great zavah," regarding the manner of their purification.  A "small zavah" does not have to bring any sacrifice, but a "great zavah" must bring a sacrifice on the eighth day. The sacrifice consists of two doves, where one is offered as a chatat (sin offering) and the other as a olah (burnt offering).

The law today is that if a woman sees, at any time, even a drop of blood like a mustard seed, she becomes unclean and she must count seven clean days after the flow stops completely.

G-d likens the uncleanliness of Yisrael's sins to the uncleanliness of a menstrual woman (niddah).  It is thus written, "Their way before Me has been like the defilement of a menstruous woman" (Yechezkel 36:17).

The Torah likens it to a niddah an not to the defilement of a corpse.  This is for Yisrael's benefit.  The defilement of a corpse is very severe. if a corpse is in the house, everything that is in the house becomes unclean.  A niddah, however, does not defile everything in the house, and a Kohen may enter a house where she is.

Therefore, if Yisrael's defilement were likened to that of a corpse, there would never be any hope that the Divine Presence rest among them.  If they were like a corpse, the "Kohen" could not enter the place where they are.

However, since Yisrael is likened to a niddah, there is hope that the Divine Presence will return and rest among us even though we are now unclean.

G-d there speaks of Himself as "dwelling among them in their defilement" (16:16).

There is another reason that G-d likens the Benei Yisrael's sins to the defilement of a niddah.  This is a defilement that lasts for a few days and then passes.  G-d promised that in the future, when the Mashiach comes, He will clean us of our defilement.  G-d thus said, "I will sprinkle upon you pure water and I will purify you from all your defilement and from all your idolatry I will purify you" (Yechezkel 36:25). (VaYikra Rabbah; Yalkut Shimoni)


Baruch Hashem! Ani ma'amin b'emunah shleimah beviat hamashiach!

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MeAm Lo'ez, Bachya, Rashi, Ramban




Parashat Shemini

Monday, April 9, 2018 · Posted in , , , , , ,

Parashat Shemini
VaYikra 9:1 - 11:47
Birkat HaChodesh
Haftarah Shemini
1Shmuel 20:18-42

[Nadav and Avihu]

Parasha Summary

Aharon and his sons offer sacrifices so that G-d will forgive the people
Nadav and Avihu, offer "alien fire" to G-d
The Kohanim are told not to drink alcohol before entering the Mishkan
Laws are given to distinguish between clean and unclean animals, birds, fish, and insects

9:1 Vayehi bayom hashemini kara Moshe leAharon ulevanav uleziknei Yisrael
And it came to pass on the eighth day [that] Moshe called to Aharon and to his sons and to the elders of Yisrael.
When G-d sent Moshe to go to Pharaoh to bring the Benei Yisrael out of Egypt, Moshe demurred and did not want to go.  G-d had to urge him for seven days at the Burning Bush.  Finally, Moshe said, "No; send whomever else You will send" (Shemot 4:13).

G-d became angry at Moshe and said to him, "There will come a time when I will punish you."

Now the time had come for Moshe to be punished.  It was now the seven days of installation.  In the previous portion, we saw that during this period Moshe functioned as Kohen Gadol.  During these seven days, Moshe offered all the sacrifices that G-d had commanded.  Moshe assumed that he would remain the Kohen Gadol.

Then the eighth day came.  This was the day when the Mishkan was to be anointed.  It was Rosh Chodesh, the first of Nissan.  G-d then said to Moshe, "Aharon and his sons will be the ones to serve as kohanim.  Aharon will be the Kohen Gadol.  You will remain on the outside; you have no portion in the kehunah (priesthood).

The Torah here literally says, "It was on the eighth day."  This appears to be redundant.  We know that the installation took seven days and no more, and that on the day after it, which was 1 Nissan, the Mishkan was anointed, and Aharon and his sons were installed as kohanim.

The Torah should not have called this the "eighth day" unless all eight days involved the same concept.  In stead, the Torah should have said, "It was the next day," or, "It was the first day of the first month."

Furthermore, this was the day on which the Mishkan was erected and the Divine Presence rested on Yisrael.  When the Torah speaks of it as, "the eighth," it seems that it was of lesser importance than the days that had passed.

However, this can be explained according to what we said earlier.  Just as G-d had urged Moshe for seven days and He did not leave until the eighth, here, too, G-d waited seven days.  On the eighth day He informed Moshe that he would no longer be Kohen Gadol. (VaYikra Rabbah; Tanchuma; Bachya.  Cf. Yeffeh Toar ad loc.)

Still, one might raise an objection here.  This day has never been mentioned before.  Why is it referred to as "the eighth day" with the definite article? (Ibid.)

This indicates that this day was adorned with ten crowns.  The Torah speaks of it as "the eighth day" to indicate its importance and status.

Its ten crowns were as follows (Shabbat, Chapter 9; Rashi; Sifra; Mizrachi):

  1. It was the first day of creation.  The eighth day of installment occurred on a Sunday, the first day of creation. (This teaches that there is a link between the final day of the Mishkan's Inauguration and the first day of the Creation of the world. From the beginning of Creation until the Shechinah descended to the Mishkan, the universe lacked spiritual perfection. On this day, the aim and purpose of Creation was realized.
  2. It was the first day of the princes.  It was on this day that the tribal leaders began to bring their sacrifices to the Mishkan (BaMidbar 7:10).
  3. It was the first day for the kehunah (priesthood).  On this day Aharon and his sons began to serve as kohanim.  Until this time, the priestly service was performed by the first-born sons.
  4. It was the first day for Divine service.  On this day the Benei Yisrael began to bring communal offerings, such as the tamid offering and the like.
  5. It was the first day of the descent of fire.  This was the first time that fire descended from heaven on the Altar to burn the sacrifices.
  6. This was the first day that the Benei Yisrael were commanded not to eat sacred offerings anywhere they wanted but only within the boundaries of the Mishkan's enclosures.  Until then they could be eaten anyplace.
  7. It was the first day for resting of the Divine Presence in the Mishkan.  This was the first day that the Divine Presence rested on Yisrael.
  8. It was the first day for a blessing to Yisrael.  This was the first day that the Benei Yisrael were blessed with the priestly blessing - Birkat Kohanim (BaMidbar 6:24-26).
  9. It was the first day for the prohibition of private altars (bamot).  From this day on it was forbidden to offer sacrifice any place other than the Mishkan's entrance.
  10. It was the first of months.  This was the day that New Moon Festivals began.  This day was the New Moon Festival (Rosh Chodesh) of Nissan, which was the first of the months of the year.
That day was honored specifically with ten events to indicate that the final Inauguration day of the Mishkan was of no lesser importance than the day on which the universe came into being. Therefore, just as the world had been created by ten Divine pronouncements, so was the consecration of the Mishkan marked by ten outstanding features.

The happiness and glory of that day would have been complete if not for the events which culminated in the tragic deaths of Nadav and Avihu and marred their joy.

On the eighth day, Moshe called Aharon, his sons, and the elders of Yisrael.  G-d told Moshe to assemble all the Benei Yisrael and to appoint Aharon as Kohen Gadol and Aharon's sons as common kohanim.  This was to be done in front of the Benei Yisrael so that they would not say that Moshe appointed Aharon and his sons on his own.

9:23 Vayavo Moshe ve'Aharon el-Ohel Mo'ed vayetze'u vayevarechu et-ha'am vayera chevod-HASHEM el-kol-ha'am
Moshe and Aharon went into the Communion Tent, and when they came out, they blessed the people. HASHEM's Glory was then revealed to all the people.
24 Vatetze esh milifnei HASHEM vatochal al-hamizbe'ach et-ha'olah ve'et-hachalavim vayar kol-ha'am vayaronu vayiplu al-pneihem
Fire came forth from HASHEM and consumed the burnt offering and the choice parts on the Altar. When the people saw this, they raised their voices in praise and threw themselves on their faces. 
Having completed their tefillot, they returned to the people and blessed them, "May the Shechinah rest upon our handiwork" (Tehillim 90:17)

Finally, the fire of the Shechinah appeared. The entire nation witnessed that a pillar of fire descended from Heaven, entered the Tent, proceeded to the Azarah, consumed the sacrifices on the Altar, and settled on the Altar. Beholding this miracle, they fell on their faces and praised Hashem.

Why had the revelation of the Shechinah not immediately succeeded Aharon's service? By withholding the Heavenly fire, the Almighty demonstrated that His Presence cannot be automatically evoked by means of sacrificial rites. Contrary to the heathen notion that some magic formula inherent in the sacrifices themselves produces the Divine Presence, the Almighty taught the Jewish People that His revelation was brought about as a result of Moshe's and Aharon's tefillot (prayers). The ability to call forth Hashem's Presence is not guaranteed by external rites but ultimately depends upon the spirit of those entering the Mishkan to serve Him.

K'lal Yisrael's happiness at the manifestation of the Divine Presence was like that of a kallah on her wedding day. Their elation was so great that the Ruach HaKodesh rested upon them, and they prophetically sang the words of Tehillim 33, "Rejoice in Hashem, O you tzaddikim..."

As they fell on their faces, a new miracle occurred. Suddenly, each one had ample room to prostate himself, although while standing they had been severely crowded.

10:1 Vayikchu venei-Aharon Nadav va'Avihu ish machtato vayitnu vahen esh vayasimu aleiha ketoret vayakrivu lifnei HASHEM esh zarah asher lo tzivah otam
Nadav and Avihu, Aharon's sons, each too his fire pan, placed fire on it, and then incense on it.  They offered it before HASHEM, [but it was] unauthorized fire which [HASHEM] had not instructed them [to offer]. 

Tragic Events in Scripture are Introduced by the Words "Vayehi" or "vayehi Biymai"

The first words of Parashat Shemini is ויהי (Vayehi - and it came to pass). The term "vayehi" - according to some of Chazal the words vayehi biymei - always foreshadows a tale of woe. It is contracted from the two Hebrew words "vay" and "haya", denoting "a woeful event came to pass." Here the term "vayehi" is used to allude to the tragic deaths of Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu, whose story will be related in the parsha. Rabbi Yishmael asserted that the expression "vayehi", even if not followed by "biymei", always bears an unfortunate connotation. Not all Chazal accepted this principle, but he maintained that it was true without exception.

Chazal contend, "Vayehi - And there was light. Was the Creation of light not a joyous event?"  Mankind was never given the benefit of the light created on the first day. The Almighty decided that the wicked people of coming generations were unworthy of enjoying it, and He replaced it with the much weaker sunlight which we possess nowadays. He then stored that brilliant light away for the tzaddikim in Gan Eden. (Rabbi Yishmael). The Chachamim persisted, "The word "vayehi" is used throughout the account of Creation at the end of each day." "There is good reason for it," explained Rabbi Yishmael. "The Torah reveals in this manner that the Almighty did not fashion the physical universe in a state of absolute perfection; His works need improvement before man can enjoy them. For example, grains cannot be consumed raw but must be ground and baked to become edible."

Chazal then questioned him concerning a different verse. They inquired, "Why does the Torah say concerning Yosef, 'Vayehi - And Hashem was with Yosef, and he was a successful man' (Bereishit 39:2)?"

"This verse protends tragedy. As a result of Yosef's success, his master placed total confidence in him. Observing this, Potifar's wife felt that she would be able to seduce him since his master did not ask him to render account of his actions."

Challenged further by Chazal, Rabbi Yishmael continued to prove that in every single instance in Scripture, the word "vayehi" points at some great calamity.

Finally, the Parsha illustrates this principle:

The account of the eighth day of the Mishkan's Inauguration is prefaced with the term "vayehi," portending that its joy would be succeeded by a tragic event, the deaths of Nadav and Avihu.


Examples of fearful calamities introduced by the expression "vayehi biymei": 

  • Vayehi biymei Amrafel - And it came to pass in the days of Amrafel (Bereishit 14:1) - meant to draw our attention to the fact that the great tzaddik Avraham's life was threatened.
  • Vayehi biymei - And it came to pass in the days of Achaz ben Yotam king of Yehudah that Retzin king of Aram and Pekach the son of Remalyahu king of Yisrael went up to Yerushalayim to wage war against it..." (Yeshayahu 7:1) Scripture alludes to a greater misfortune. The actual tragedy was internal, caused by the evil Jewish king Achaz himself. The idolatrous Achaz decided to drive out the Shechinah from the midst of the Jewish People by tearing them away from Torah knowledge, thus their connection with G-d would be severed. Although the wicked Achaz caused considerable damage, and much learning was forgotten, his final aim could not be realized for the Almighty proclaimed that Torah study would never be forgotten from the Jewish People (Devarim 31:21).
  • Vayehi biymei Achashvarosh - And it came to pass in the days of Achashvarosh..." (Ester 1:1). The story of Sefer Ester is introduced with the expression "vayehi biymei" since it relates the attempted genocide of the Jewish People through Haman. The expression "vayehi biymei", indicates that Haman's plan to wipe out the Jewish people spelled worldwide tragedy. Had he succeeded, the universe could not have continued to exist. However, by Hashem's special Providence, his plot was foiled.
  • Vayehi biymei - And it came to pass in the days of judging the Judges" (Rut 1:1). Although the obvious misfortune at that time was a famine in Eretz Yisrael, the passuk would not have used the term "vayehi", indicating some extreme and far-reaching tragedy, if not for the presence of a more profound misfortune. The true tragedy was, explains the Midrash (Tanchuma Shemini 13), that in those days, the people "judged their judges." The situation is explained by the below parable:
  • A delegation of ministers was sent by the emperor to collect taxes in a certain province. They arrived there and demanded the sum which was due. However, the populace not only refused to pay but even beat and finally hanged the delegates. They treated the delegates in the same manner in which they, in fact, should have been treated themselves. 
Similarly, when a Jew was sentenced to a certain punishment by a judge, he executed the punishment on the judge himself. Thus the mournful outcry, "vayehi," since everyone exclaimed, "Woe to the generation that executes judgment upon its judges!" Because the sentence deserved the guilty party was not executed on earth, the generation was Divinely punished by a famine.

At the beginning of Parashat VaYikra, it was written, "Aharon's sons shall place fire on the Altar" (1:7).  Even though fire descended from heaven, it was necessary to bring human fire as well.

Although this was the law, Nadav and Avihu had not yet heard this law from Moshe.  After placing the sacrifices on the Altar, Aharon's sons Nadav and Avihu interpreted the verse on their own, without asking Moshe.  They brought fire from their fire pans to burn incense.  They deserved to die because they had rendered a decision in the presence of their master.

The rule is that any student who renders a decision (moreh halachah) in the presence of his master is worthy of death.

This is true even if he is not actually in in the presence of his master, but closer than three leagues (approx. 9 miles).  Even in such a case, it is forbidden for a student to render a decision regarding any law. (Rashi; Eruvin, Chapter 6).

We learn this from the Camp of Yisrael, which was three leagues in diameter.  Nevertheless, the Torah says, "Whoever sought G-d, went to the instruction tent outside the camp" (Shemot 33:7) (Ibid.; Yoreh Deah 242).

This teaches that anyone who needed a decision regarding law would go to the instruction tent (ohel moed) which was outside the camp.  No other scholar could render a decision regarding this law, since Moshe was there and he was the master of all Yisrael.

Even if the decision is correct, a scholar is not allowed to render a decision in the presence of his master.

The Torah therefore says, "They offered before G-d unauthorized fire, which G-d had not commanded them."  They were worthy of death because they had brought unauthorized fire from their houses without being commanded to do so by Moshe.  This was considered as if they rendered a decision in the presence of their master. (Sanhedrin, beginning of Chapter 1; Tosafot ad loc.)

Some authorities give a different reason that they were worthy of death.  It is obvious that they had learned the law from Moshe. Their mistake was that although even if fire descended from on high they were suppose to bring mortal fire, this did not relate to a day like this.  On this first day, the fire had to come from heaven so that all Yisrael could see the great miracle, where G-d's Glory came down from heaven and burned the sacrifices.

By bringing unauthorized fire, they minimized the miracle.  The Torah therefore says, "They offered before G-d unauthorized fire that they had not been commanded."  They had brought unauthorized fire from their houses.  Moshe had not commanded them to bring it because on this first day it was appropriate that G-d's greatness be shown publicly. (Rashbam)

According to another opinion, the sin of Nadav and Avihu was that they entered the Mishkan to perform the sacred service while drunk from wine.

It is very unseemly to enter the royal palace to perform service when one is drunk.  Moreover, since they were drunk, they were not careful about what they were doing, and they brought incense that they had not been commanded to bring.  Offering the incense was one of the most important services.  it should have been done by Moshe or Aharon, who were the greatest people. It was for this reason that they deserved to die. (Rashi; VaYikra Rabbah; Sifra; Yeffeh Toar)

The opinion that Nadav's and Avihu's sin was drunkenness has support in the narrative itself.  After the Torah tells us that Nadav and Avihu died, it states that G-d told Aharon and his surviving sons, "Do not drink wine or intoxicants, you and your sons with you, when you come to the Tent of Meeting, and you will not die.  This shall be an everlasting decree for your generations" (10:8).  This teaches that they were not to drink wine when they came to perform the Divine service, and that they were not even to enter the Mishkan if they were drunk.  This is evidence that the sin of Nadav and Avihu was that they had gone in to perform the service while drunk.

10:2 Vatetze esh milifnei HASHEM vatochal otam vayamutu lifnei HASHEM
A fire came froth from before HASHEM and consumed them, and they died in the presence of HASHEM.
Nadav and Avihu did not die only because of these sins.  Previously, they had committed other sins.

First of all, they had gazed at the Radiance of the Divine.  It is thus written, "HASHEM did not send forth His Hand against the aristocrates of the Benei Yisrael, although they had gazed upon HASHEM..." (Shemot 24:11). (VaYikra Rabbah, Acharei Mot)

The Torah is saying that G-d did not send forth His Hand to punish the aristocrats of Yisrael, that is, Nadav and Avihu and the seventy elders, who had gazed their fill at the Radiance of the Divine. G-d did not punish them, because that was a day of joy, when the Torah was given.  G-d waited until they sinned to punish them, both for what they had done previously and what they were doing now.  G-d also punished the seventy elders, as we shall (BaMidbar 11:2).  They all died by Fire. (Rashi; Targum Yonatan, Acharei Mot)

Nadav and Avihu, were not only handsome, but also gifted with outstanding abilities. These were coupled with righteousness of such caliber that they were obviously qualified to become the future leaders. Their greatness is indicated in their very name:

Nadav - signifies that he was fit for nobility (nedivut)
Avihu - implies he was worthy of becoming the father of the Jewish People (av)

Not only were their spiritual level rated high by others, but they too were conscious of it. Walking behind Moshe and Aharon, Nadav remarked to Avihu, "When will these two Elders finally depart from the world that we may assume the leadership of the community?" Answered Hashem, "We will yet see who will bury whom!"

It must be understood that Nadav and Avihu were tzaddikim. The meaning of their words was, "Moshe and Aharon are old and will certainly die soon. We will then be called upon to assume the leadership, and who knows if we are fit." Chazal worded their remark in the above drastic manner to point out that when they referred to their future role as leaders of the community, a certain lack of humility was present in their attitude and mode of expression.

When a woman washes out two shirts, one colored and the other snow white, she rubs the white one longer and more meticulously than the colored one - not that the white is more stained, but on the white fabric, the slightest stain appears ugly and strikes the eye. Spots, however, are not so noticeable on the colored garment.

The tzaddik's soul resembles a snow white garment. Its purity makes it vulnerable to the slightest spiritual blemish. Hence, an offense which is commonly found among average people appears on the tzaddik's refined character as a thing of major calamity which calls for immediate correction. The tzaddikim are the Almighty's intimate friends, and therefore they are expected to be one hundred percent free of sin.

Examples of such individuals are our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov who, because of their attachment to the Almighty, were criticized by Him for even the smallest of their failures.

Similarly, Nadav and Avihu were slain with the full severity of the midat hadin (Attribute of Justice). Hashem did not delay the punishment nor overlook their guilt because their righteousness and closeness to the Almighty called for the most stringent punishment.

10:3 Vayomer Moshe el-Aharon hu asher-diber HASHEM lemor bikrovai ekadesh ve'al-penei chol-ha'am ekaved vayidom Aharon
Moshe said to Aharon, "It is as HASHEM spoke, saying, 'Through those that are near me I shall be sanctified, and in the presence of the entire people I will be glorified.'"  And Aharon was silent.
When Aharon became aware of his sons' deaths, he was very agitated.  He cried out and said, "Woe is me.  It is because of my sins that they died.  I must have committed a terrible sin.  I and my sons must have committed terrible sins that something like this should have happened to us." (Sifra)

It is true that Aharon knew of his son's sins, but he did not think that they would actually die because of them. (Yeffeh Toar)

Aharon also said, "Why did such a catastrophe have to happen on my day of joy?"

When a person suffers on a day of rejoicing it is not like suffering on another day.  On a day of happiness a person feels sadness twice as much.

Moshe said to him, "Do not grieve.  It might be that you should rejoice and not weep.  Has not G-d said, 'I will only sanctify Myself among those who are closest to Me.  I will make My Glory known before all the people'?" (Korban Aharon)

Moshe continued, "On Mount Sinai, G-d said regarding the Mishkan, 'I will commune there with the Benei Yisrael and I will be sanctified in My Glory'" (Shemot 29:43).

With these words, G-d was alluding to the day that the Mishkan would be erected and the Divine Presence would rest on it, that is, that very day.  G-d said that on that day His Name would be sanctified in the Mishkan among the most honored people, the greatest people in Yisrael.  Through the smallest infraction that would touch upon the honor of the Mishkan, they would know that they must sanctify the Name, since even the greatest people were punished.

When G-d judges the righteous, people fear Him and He is elevated and praised.  From this people learn a lesson, that if G-d punishes even the greatest people and He does not show them special consideration because of their good deeds, how much more so would He punish other people who transgress His commandments!

This also causes the honor of the Mishkan to be increased, since people say, "Because of a small sin thaqt touched upon the honor of the Mishkan, such a terrible thing happened to them."  People will then be careful regarding honoring the Mishkan.

It is thus written, "Fearsome is G-d from your sanctuary" (Tehillim 68:36).  This indicates that people will fear G-d because of what He did int he sanctuary; He punished those who were consecrated to Him.  Other people will then learn a lesson from this.

As a reward for Aharon's silence in accepting G-d's judgment with love, in the next chapter G-d spoke to Aharon alone, telling him that the kohanim were not allowed to drink wine when they entered to perform the service.  The Torah thus says, "G-d spoke to Aharon" (10:8).  Moshe's name is not mentioned.

Accepting Divine Judgment

From here one should learn a lesson that if anything bad happens to him, if a child dies, or if he loses money, he should not be overly grieved or mourn at length; rather, he should bear up under his troubles with forebearance.

He should say, "Evil does not come down from on high.  Whatever happens is to atone for my sins."

A person who behaves in this manner will receive a good reward in the next world.  We thus see that Aharon was a great person and his children were also great, yet two of them died suddenly on one day.  Not only that, but it happened on a day of rejoicing.  If it had happened on another day he would have grieved very much, but how much more so on a day of rejoicing!  Nevertheless, when Moshe told him the two things mentioned earlier he remained silent and allowed himself to be consoled.  He never again spoke about it, as if nothing had happened.

This is how a person must behave if he has true trust in G-d and is master of his soul.  When he has troubles he does not go to extremes, since this can be considered sinful. (Lechem Shlomo 480)

Therefore, if a person is master of his soul and loves G-d, believing in His Holy "Torah, if some tragedy occurs to him such as a monetary loss, or even death of children, which is the worst loss of all, he should not go to extremes in his grief.  He should bear his grief and not violate G-d's standard of mourning; three days for weeping, seven days for mourning and thirty days to avoid laundering and haircuts.  Beyond this a person should not grieve.  If a person does so he is in violation of the Torah and he is considered as if he does not believe in the resurrection.

Our sages teach that if a person grieves more than necessary for the dead, his punishment is that he will suffer another loss so that his additional grief will be justified.

A person must learn a lesson from Aharon, who accepted Divine judgment and said, "Certainly my sins have caused this.  G-d did this to atone for my sins, so as to grant me good reward in the next world."

A person should console himself with the words of Eleazer ben Azariah who was a very great person.  He should say, "G-d has given; G-d has taken.  May G-d's Name be blessed" (Iyov 1:21).

 A person will then be accepted in G-d's Eyes.  He will realize that G-d did this for his benefit, to atone for his sins, or for some other reason known only to G-d.  If one accepts this, the death of his child will be counted like the body of Yitzchak, whose father bound him on the altar to do G-d's Will.  It is true that Avraham was willing to offer the sacrifice, whereas a person's children die against his will.  Nevertheless, if a person does not go to extremes, and accepts G-d's judgment with love, it is considered as if he had willingly offered his child's life to G-d, and it is counted like the binding of Yitzchak.

If a person accepts tragedy with love, just as it came, it will leave quickly.  But if a person berates himself with grief, his troubles become even worse.

A person must fear G-d and accept all troubles with love and joy.  He must know that everything G-d does is for his benefit so that he will have the greatest possible reward in the World to Come.

10:4 Vayikra Moshe el-Misha'el ve'el Eltzafan benei Uzi'el dod Aharon vayomer alehem kirvu se'u et-acheichem me'et pnei-hakodesh el-michutz lamachaneh
Moshe called to Misha'el and to Eltzafan the sons of Uzi'el, Aharon's uncle, and said to them, "Come forth and carry your brothers from the presence of the Sanctuary, to outside the encampment."
5 Vayikrevu vayisa'um bechutanotam el-michutz lamachaneh ka'asher diber Moshe
They came forth and they carried them [Nadav and Avihu] in their tunics to outside the encampment, just as Moshe said.
After bringing them outside the camp they took off their priestly vestments and dressed them in shrouds (tachrichim).  They then buried them. (Ramban)

It is true that Eleazar and Itamar, the brothers of Nadav and Avihu, were also present.  Since Eleasar and Itamar were not High Priests they would have been permitted to defile themselves and become involved with Nadav and Avihu.  However, since Mishael and Eltzafan (who were Leviim) were present it was not proper that a kohen should become defiled, since the job could be done by Leviim.

When Moshe told Mishael and Eltzafan to go in and take out Nadav and Avihu they were afraid.  Moshe told them a second time to go in and then they were no longer afraid.  We therefore see that the word kirvu which means "come forth" has two cantillation notes.  This teaches that Moshe told them to enter two times. (Yalkut Reuveni)  The Torah says that they came forth and carried Nadav and Avihu outside the camp in their tunics.

10:6 Vayomer Moshe el-Aharon ule-El'azar ule-Itamar banav rasheichem al-tifra'u uvigdeichem lo-tifromu velo tamutu ve'al kol-ha'edah yiktzof va'acheichem kol-beit Yisra'el yivku et-hasrefah asher saraf HASHEM
Moshe said to Aharon and his sons, El'azar and Itamar, "Do not let your hair grow long and do not tear your garments so that you will not die and bring [Divine] anger on the entire community; your brothers, the entire House of Yisrael shall mourn for the ones whom G-d burned.
Moshe said to them, "Do not think that you must be in mourning because Nadav and Avihu died.  Normally, when people are in mourning they do not cut their hair and they must rend their garments.  But you may not let your hair grow and you may not rend your garments.  You must cut your hair as before.

"This is the day that you were anointed with the sacred anointing oil and consecrated before G-d.  This is a day of rejoicing before G-d.  You may not spoil G-d's joy with mourning; rather, you must perform the service in the Mishkan." (Rashi; Abarbanel; Ralbag)

10:7 Umipetach Ohel Mo'ed lo tetz'u pen-tamutu ki-shemen mishchat HASHEM aleichem vaya'asu kidvar Moshe
From the entrance of the Tent of Meeting you shall not go forth lest you die; for the anointing oil of HASHEM is on you."  And they did as Moshe had said.
They were also forbidden to leave the Mishkan and to abandon their service in order to mourn in their homes.  If they did that, they would be worthy of death.

Moshe also told them that they were forbidden to perform the Divine service with torn vestments or with long hair.  This is called a defilement of the service, the penalty for which is death. (Sifra; Korban Aharon)

Some say that the prohibition against letting their hair grow and tearing their garments was not only for this time, a day of joy, but also for all generations.  The law is that a Kohen Gadol, even if his father or mother dies, may not rend his clothing, and may not defile himself to attend to their needs.  He must continue the Divine service.

Aharon was the Kohen Gadol.  Although Eleazar and Itamar were not Kohen Gadolim, since they had been anointed with the special anointing oil, they had the same status as the Kohen Gadol as far as this was concerned.  Therefore, G-d told them not to remain without haircuts and not to tear their vestments because of the death of Nadav and Avihu. (Ramban)

Moshe said, "Your brothers, the entire house of Yisrael, will mourn for those who were burned."  The Torah teaches us that the entire community must make a funeral for a Torah scholar and attend it.  When a Torah scholar dies everyone is given the same status as his relatives. (Rashi; Baal HaTurim)

Therefore, all of them must be involved in eulogizing him and mourning this great loss.

The Torah therefore says, "Your brothers, the children of Yisrael, will mourn for the ones whom G-d burned."  This is because two great Torah scholars were killed by fire. (Moed Katan, Chapter 3)

When a person grives for the death of a righteous person all his sins are forgiven.  This is the reason that we read from Parashat Acharei Mot (VaYikra 16) on Yom Kippur.  People should hear about the death of Nadav and Avihu and grieve for it.  When a person grieves for the lass of a tzaddik, and all the more so when one weeps for him, he is forgiven for all his sins.  On high, it is announced, "Your sin is removed and your iniquity is atoned for" (Yeshayahu 6:7).

Besides this, the person has the merit that his children will not die during his lifetime.  Regarding him it is said, "He will see children who will have length of days" (Yeshayahu 53:10).

If one sheds tears for a virtuous person, G-d puts these tears aside and gives him great reward.

10:8 Vayedaber HASHEM el-Aharon lemor
HASHEM spoke to Aharon, saying,
9 Yayin veshechar al-tesht atah uvaneicha itach bevo'achem el-Ohel Mo'ed velo tamutu chukat olam ledoroteichem
"Do not drink wine or any other intoxicant, you and your sons with you, when you enter the Tent of Meeting and you will not die; this is an everlasting statute throughout your generations.
10 Ulehavdil bein hakodesh uvein hachol uvein hatame uvein hatahor
[So that you my] distinguish between what is sacred and what is mundane, between what is impure and what is pure.
11 Ulehorot et-benei Yisra'el et kol-hachukim asher diber HASHEM aleihem beyad-Moshe
[And that you may] teach the Children of Yisrael all the statutes that HASHEM spoke to them, through Moshe."
As was wrote in the previous chapter, the sin of Nadav and Avihu was that they were drunk when they went to perform the Divine service.  Therefore they deserved to die.  Thus, G-d now commanded Aharon and his sons that when they would come to perform service in the Mishkan they should not drink wine, so as not to die as Nadav and Avihu died. (Ramban)

If a Kohen drinks a revi'it of wine he is then worthy of death.  If he performs the Divine service, the service is invalid.  A revi'it is 27 drams (3.4 oz) of undiluted wine if it is drunk in one time.

However, if one drinks less than a revi'it or if he does not drink it all at once, but sips it from time to time, or if it is diluted with water, then the Kohen is not worthy of death [by the hand of G-d] and his service is not invalid.

10:12 Vayedaber Moshe el-Aharon ve'el El'azar ve'el-Itamar banav hanotarim kechu et-haminchah hanoteret me'ishei HASHEM ve'ichluha matzot etzel hamizbe'ach ki kodesh kodashim hi
Moshe spoke to Aharon and to El'azar and Itamar, his surviving sons; "Take the meal-offering which remains of the fire-offering of HASHEM and eat it [as] matzot beside the Altar, for it is holy of holies.

13 Va'achaltem otah bemakom kadosh ki chokcha vechok-baneycha hi me'ishei HASHEM ki-chen tzuveiti
You shall eat it in a sacred place, for it is your portion and the portion of your sons of the fire-offerings of HASHEM, for so have I been commanded. G-d was now addressing Aharon's surviving sons.  As was wrote earlier, they are spoken of here as Aharons surviving sons, because the initial decree was that all four of Aharon's sons die because of the sin of the Golden Calf.  However, Moshe's prayer caused half of this decree to be annulled and Eleazar and Itamar were spared.  The Torah therefore refers to them as "the survivors."  They are the ones who survived death at this time. (Targum Yonatan; Rashi)


The Dietary Laws
11:2 Daberu el-benei Yisra'el lemor zot hachayah asher tochlu mikol-habehemah asher al-ha'aretz
"Speak to the Children of Yisrael, saying, These are the living things that you may eat from among all the animals that are on the earth.
Why is a Jew's diet limited to certain kosher animals alone?

Abarbanel stresses that the Torah does not forbid certain foods because they are detrimental to health. If we assumed that, we would reduce the Torah to a guide book on health and nutrition. Moreover, we are witness to the fact that the gentile nations eat pork, insects, and other animals declared unclean by the Torah, yet they are nevertheless strong and healthy.

The laws of the Divine Torah, rather than aiming at promoting physical health, are designed to maintain the health of the soul. The Torah forbade us to consume certain foods because they impair the purity of the soul, defiling and contaminating us spiritually.

A Jew who fulfills the dietary laws despite the fact that he does not comprehend why certain animals, or parts of animals, are forbidden and others permitted, attains great rewards:

  1. He will be privileged to participate in the great banquet to be held in Mashiach's time. He will taste of the shor habor which combines the delectable taste of all meats and will be allowed to enjoy the savory Levyatan fish.  In describing this meal which will take place in the future, Chazal allude to spiritual delights. One who refrains from eating non-kosher foods will be compensated by exulting in the Heavenly delights of attachment to the Shechinah in the future.
  2. Moreover, abstaining from non-kosher food is of immediate benefit in the present world, too, manifesting the spiritual greatness and kedushah acquired by one who abstains from non-kosher foods. Conversely, one ho eats forbidden foods strengthens the evil impulses within him and clogs his mind and soul. His nature assumes characteristics similar to those of the impure food he has ingested. It becomes coarsened and renders him less capable of serving Hashem. One of the reasons which accounts for former generations' great clarity of mind and profound understanding is their messirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) not to touch foods forbidden by the Torah.

G-d showed Moshe every species so that he would be able to teach the Benei Yisrael about them.  When G-d showed Moshe all the species He explained to him which were kosher and which were not kosher, so that they would be able to discern between the clean and the unclean. (Tosafot, Chullin, loc. cit.)

That generation did not need the signs.  They had seen all the species, both kosher and non-kosher.  Nevertheless, G-d gave them signs for the sake of future generations, so that they would know which species were kosher and which were not kosher.

All the non-kosher foods forbidden by the Torah come from the portion of the Sitra Achra (Other Side), and an unclean spirit rests upon them.  When a person eats non-kosher food, he swallows this unclean spirit (ruach tame') and it becomes absorbed his soul, thus defiling it.  When his soul leaves this world without repentance, all these unclean spirits are attached to him.  They continue to defile him, causing him to be jolted from place to place like something disgusting that a person does not want to look at.  This unclean spirit is attached to the person at all times and the soul cannot rid itself of it.

The Torah therefore says, <"Do not defile your souls with all creeping things, and do not become unclean because you will be defiled by it" (11:43). The last word for "you will be defiled" is written in the Torah as וְנִטַּמְתֶּם. This word is missing an א (alef).  It should have been spelled with an Alef (וְנִטַּמְאתֶּם)

However, without the Alef the word is related to טַמְטַם (tam-tam) which means to plug up.  This teaches that non-kosher food stops up a person's heart and soul.

A person who eats non-kosher food can lose his pure soul in the next world and can be destroyed in purgatory.  Regarding people who eat non-kosher food it is written, "They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against Me; their worm will not die, their fire will not be extinguished, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh" (Yeshayahu 66:24). (Rashi; VaYikra Rabbah; Yeffeh Toar; Tanchuma Zohar; Reshit Chochma; Shaar Kedushah 15)

Regarding such people King Shlomo said, "All of a person's effort is for his mouth, but his soul is never satisfied"  (Kohelet 6:7).  A person may struggle and work hard but he may suffer in the future world. All of this is because of the forbidden food that he ate, where he did not watch his mouth and defiled himself with forbidden food.

"The soul is also not satisfied."  Its punishment will endure forever since it will not be bound up in the bond of eternal life (1Shmuel 25:29).

But if a person watches his mouth to avoid forbidden foods and does not defile his soul, even if he has other sins, he does not lose the reward of his good deeds because of this.  After he is punished for his sins, he is worthy of reward in the future world for the good deeds he has done.

The Torah Lists Ten Kosher Animals (Devarim 14:4-5):

  1. shor - the ox
  2. seh kesavim - the sheep
  3. seh izim - the goat
  4. ayal - the gazelle
  5. tzvi - the deer
  6. yachmur
  7. akko - the wild goat
  8. dishon
  9. s'oh - the wild ox
  10. zemer
The Torah warns us not to eat animals which, though they possess one of the required characteristics of purity, lack the second. They are:
  1. sh'sua - a certain animal which possesses two backs and two spines, mentioned in Devarim 14:7, because it has no hoofs. (Chullin 9)
  2. gamal - the camel; it ruminates, but its hoofs are not totally cleft.
  3. shafan - the rabbit since it has no hooves.
  4. arneves - the hare since it has no hooves.
  5. chazir - the pig; its foreleg possesses a cleft hoof, but it does not chew its cud.
*NOTE: This is the standard translation of the animals' names, leaving untranslated those animals which are unknown. Some identities are disputed by the commentators, so there is uncertainty of the accuracy of some of the translations.  We do not determine an animal's identity, and whether or not it is kosher, by its  name in any particular language. Rather, its identity is determined by the uninterrupted tradition which began with Moshe Rabbeinu.

Was Moshe Rabbeinu a zoologist or a hunter that he knew the detailed anatomies of the animal sh'sua and the other above mentioned creatures and could state conclusively that no other animal in the world possesses the signs of purity? In fact, to this day, none other than the ten listed in the Torah has been discovered.

This, then, is striking proof of the divinity of the Torah! No one but the almighty Himself Who created all the animals could have categorized them as He did in the Torah.


Raising Pigs

Not only is it forbidden to eat any meat from a pig but it is also forbidden to raise a pig in one's home.  It goes without saying that it is forbidden to deal in pork products. In Parashat Tzav, Chapter 6, is discussed that it is forbidden to do any business in forbidden foods.  However, even if one does not wish to deal in the pigs for good, but only wants their fat to soften hides, it is still forbidden to raise pigs. (Bava Kama, end of Chapter 7; Choshen Mishpat 409; Tosafot, ad. loc.)

Invertebrates

There are two types of creatures that the Torah forbids:

  1. Aquatic invertebrates.  These are worms and other small creatures that live in the water.
  2. "Invertebrates that crawl on the land" (11:29).  These include all types of worms that live in fruit, vegetables, lentils, water, and other beverages.
Worms that live in water but were removed from the place where they grew and went elsewhere, even if they were then returned to their place, are called "invertebrates that crawl on the land" and it is forbidden to eat them.  It is true that we said that those that grow in still water are permitted.  This, however, only applies when they have the status of aquatic invertebrates (sheretz ha-mayim). (Pri Toar 84:2)  However, they still can be forbidden if they are "invertebrates that crawl on the land."  If these worms or other creatures leave their original place they immediately become forbidden.

Kosher Fish

Although the Torah says that fish must have fins and scales, these two signs need not be on them when they are removed from the water.  If the scales fall off, these fish are still permitted as long as they have fins and scales while in the water. (Yoreh Deah 83)

There are some types of fish whose scales are very tiny and cannot be seen. These fish are wrapped in a piece of cloth or placed in a tub of water, and if one finds scales there, the fish are permitted. (Yoreh Deah 83:1 in Hagah)  We are not concerned that these scales might have been from another fish, became attached to the fish in question, and then rubbed off onto the cloth or came in the water; rather, it is assumed that they belonged to the fish in question. (Yoreh Deah ibid.)

Every fish that has scales certainly has fins and is permitted.  However, if we see a fish has fins this is no proof that it has scales.  There are numerous fish that have fins but no scales.

Therefore, if one finds a piece of fish which has scales he is permitted to eat it even though one does not see fins.  However, if one finds a fish with fins he is not permitted to eat it unless he finds traces of its scales. (Pri Toar 83:2)

If kosher and non-kosher fish are placed together in salt, the kosher fish become forbidden sine they absorb the taste of the non-kosher fish. (Yoreh Deah 83:4)

Cheese

It is a general rule that milk from a non-kosher animal will not curdle.

If milk from a non-kosher animal is mixed with kosher milk the kosher milk will curdle but the non-kosher milk will not.  It will remain there with the whey.

Therefore, the law should be that gentile cheese is permitted. Milk from a non-kosher animal cannot curdle and therefore cannot be made into cheese.

However, the original sages of the Mishnah legislated that gentile cheese is forbidden for another reason.  In order to make the milk curdle, the gentile cheesemakers place the complete stomach of a calf along with its skin in the milk. (Yad, Maakhalot Assurot 3; Pri Chadash 116:9)

There are then two reasons why this should be forbidden:
  1. The prohibition against meat and milk.  The calf's stomach's skin has the status of meat, so it comes out that milk is being curdled with meat.  It is true that there is always more than sixty times as much milk as meat but it is not "annulled in sixty" (batel be-shishim) as in other cases.  We have a general rule, "Anything that congeals is not annulled in sixty" (davar ha-ma'amid eino batel beshishim).  This means that any ingredient that is placed in food in order to congeal it or make it set cannot be nullified because it is a prime ingredient.
  2. The second prohibition of gentile cheese is that the calf was not slaughtered properly and therefore the calf's stomach has the status of a forbidden carcass (nevelah).
Thus, there are two prohibitions:  One of milk and meat, and the other of an improperly slaughtered carcass.  This is why gentile cheese is forbidden. (Tosafot, Avodah Zarah, Chapter 2; Turei Zahav 116:9)

Even in the case where we know for sure that the cheese was not curdled with a calf's stomach but with vegetable substances, as is done in some places, it is still forbidden. (Yoreh Deah ibid., quoting Ramban [Yad])

This is because when the sages of the Mishnah legislated to prohibit gentile cheese, they made it a general prohibition.  There is no difference whether it is curdled with the rennet of a non-kosher calf or with vegetable substances.  If anyone eats gentile milk or gentile cheese he deserves a special flogging, (makat mardut)

Cheese made by Karaites (and other non-religious Jews) has the status of gentile cheese.  Since they are not concerned with the prohibition of milk and meat, they are not concerned if they curdle the cheese with the skin of a calf.  It has been ascertained by reliable witnesses that they do use non-kosher rennet.

Therefore, with regard to Karate cheese there are the same two prohibitions, one of milk and meat, and the other of a non-kosher carcass, since any animal slaughtered by the Karaites is automatically considered to be non-kosher.  Even if they swear that they made the cheese in a kosher manner they are not believed, and their cheese has exactly the same status as gentile cheese. (Kenesset HaGedolah, notes on Bet Yosef 116:29; Benei David, Maakhalot Assurot 3)

Other Dairy Products

In the case of butter there is no concern about the prohibitions discussed earlier.  Butter is not curdled with rennet.  Furthermore, there is no concern about non-kosher milk.  We see that butter sets into a solid and, as we mentioned earlier, fat of a non-kosher animal does not congeal in this manner.

For this reason, the sages of the Mishnah did not legislate to forbid it, and gentile butter is permitted.

There are places, however, where the custom is to forbid gentile butter.  There is concern that the gentile may add a small amount of non-kosher milk to the butter and it will remain uncongealed.

However, even in places where it is the custom to forbid gentile butter, if it is fried on the fire until it becomes liquid, it is permitted since there is no concern. (Pri Chadash 116:22)

Cottage cheese (ricotta) produced by gentiles is forbidden.

Similarly gentile yogurt is forbidden.  It is true that we wrote earlier that the milk of non-kosher animals do not congeal.  This is only true, however, of cheese and butter, where the fat congeals and the whey sepearates.  In the case of yogurt, however, the fat congeals together with the whey, because it is congealed with a lactic acid product.  In such a case even non-kosher milk can congeal, so gentile yogurt is forbidden.

Honey

There is also another substance that the Torah permits even though it is derived from a non-kosher animal.  This is honey which is derived from bees.  Although the bees themselves are forbidden as food, their honey is permitted.  Of course, one must carefully examine the honey and strain it to make sure it does not contain any bees or flies.  It is preferable to boil honey first so that it is possible to strain it.

11:13 Ve'et-eleh teshaktzu min-ha'of lo ye'achlu sheketz hem et-hanesher ve'et-haperes ve'et ha'ozniyah
These you shall consider repulsive from among the fowl; they may not be eaten; they are repulsive the eagle, the white-tailed eagle and the bearded vulture.
14 Ve'et-hada'ah ve'et-ha'ayah leminah
The falcon and the vulture, to its kind.
15 Et kol-orev lemino
Every raven, to its kind.
16 Ve'et bat haya'anah ve'et-hatachmas ve'et-hashachaf ve'et-hanetz leminehu
The ostrich, the owl, the seagull and the sparrow hawk, to its kind.
17 Ve'et-hakos ve'et-hashalach ve'et-hayanshuf
The little owl, the cormorant and the eagle owl.
18 Ve'et-hatinshemet ve'et-haka'at ve'et-haracham
The horned owl, the pelican and the carrion vulture.
19 Ve'et hachasidah ha'anafah leminah ve'et-haduchifat ve'et-ha'atalef
The stork and the heron, to its kind.  The hoopoe and the bat.
The Torah now discusses the types of birds that are kosher and non-kosher. it does not designate the kosher birds one by one, but spells out all the birds that are not kosher.  We thus know that all birds not included in this list are kosher.  In Parashat Re'eh (Devarim 14:4-5), the Torah lists the kosher mammals and we know that the others are non-kosher.

The reason for this difference is that there are relatively few non-kosher birds. There are only 24 species of non-kosher birds, as we see in Scripture.  The kosher birds, however, are without number.

The Talmud thus says that there are 700 species of non-kosher fish and 800 species of non-kosher locusts.  The number of kosher birds, however, is very large.  Therefore, the Torah provides us with a relatively short list of non-kosher birds and we understand that the rest are kosher.

In the case of mammals the opposite is true.  The number of kosher mammals is small, while the number of non-kosher species is great.  Therefore, the Torah lists the kosher species one by one and we know that the rest are non-kosher.

This teaches us an important lesson.  A teacher should teach his students in the most concise manner possible. (Chullin p. 63; Bachya, Re'eh)

These are the types of non-kosher birds.  There are 24 species. They are as follows:

  1. Nesher - Eagle (it is called nesher in Hebrew because its feathers shed (nashar) and grow back.  It is thus written, "Your youth will be renewed like an eagle" (Tehillim 103:5)
  2. Peres - Ossifrage.  This is the largest old world bird of prey ranging in the mountainous regions from the Pyrenees to India and resembling both the eagle and the vulture.
  3. Azniyah - Osprey, which is a large hawk that feeds on fish.
  4. Da'ah - Kite, a large hawk-like bird that eats mice, hares, and carrion.  In Devarim 14:13 it is referred to as a ra'ah with a ר (resh).  The word ra'ah has the connotation of sight in Hebrew, and the bird is given this name because it has particularly acute eyesight.  It can be in Babylon and see corpses in Yisrael.
  5. Ayah - Vulture.  In Devarim 14:13 it is called a dayah.  It is the same bird but it has two names.  Here the Torah literally speaks of the "vulture after its kind" (leminah). Whenever the Torah says, "of its kind" it indicates that there are other birds in this family which have a different appearance and different names but are alluded to here.  There are three cases where this is mentioned explicitly, whereas in the other twenty-one cases there is only an allusion.
  6. "A type of ayah."  This is a different bird alluded to in the expression "of its kind," as discussed earlier.
  7. Orev - Crow.
  8. Species of Orev - the Zarzir, usually translated as the starling.  This is alluded to when the Torah says, "of its kind."  With regard to the Orev, our sages say that it is a zarzir even though it is not mentioned explicitly in the verse.  Since the starling always associates with the crow, it can be assumed to be of the same species.  From this we learn that anyone who associates with the wicked is also considered wicked.  People say, "Every crow finds its own kind sweet" (kol orev lemino arev).  A bird which is related to the raven attaches itself to the raven and does not leave it.
  9. Bat Ya'ana - Ostrich
  10. Tachmas - Owl.
  11. Shachaf - Gull.
  12. Netz - Gosshawk.
  13. A type of Netz alluded to in the word "of its kind" mentioned here.
  14. Kos - Falcon.
  15. Shalach - Cormorant, which draws up fish from the sea and eats them.  
  16. Yanshuf - Ibis, a tall stalk like bird with a long curved beak.
  17. Tinshemet - Swan
  18. Racham - Magpie
  19. Chasidah - Stork
  20. Anafa - Heron
  21. Another type of Anafa, which is alluded to in the word "of its kind," next to this bird.
  22. Duchipat - Wild Hen.  It is known as the hoopoe, a bird with large red and black crest.
  23. Atalef - Bat.
These are the twenty-four non-kosher birds that exist in the world.  There are no others.

If anyone is expert and knows the appearance of these birds and their names, he may eat any other type of bird in the world without any further examination.  However, it is not enough merely to know the appearance of the non-kosher bird.  One must also know the Hebrew name of each one. (Yoreh Deah 82, Yad, Maachalot Assurot)

The Torah does not give signs by which we can recognize kosher and non-kosher birds.  Instead, it actually lists the non-kosher birds.  But our sages have given signs for those people who do not know the identity of the 24 types of non-kosher birds mentioned in the Torah.

The following signs are known by tradition from Noach, who brought all sorts of birds into the Ark.  Noach wanted to make a sacrifice of all types of kosher birds; therefore, he had to know which ones they were.  He therefore carefully examined all the sings of the kosher and non-kosher birds. (Tosafot, Chullin)

These are the signs that our sages have given us:

Every predatory bird is definitely non-kosher.  These are the birds that grasp their prey with their talons and kill it to eat it.  If it is impossible to examine a bird for this sign, there is another definite sign for a non-kosher bird.  If the bird is placed on a rope or branch and it divides it toes so that two are on each side, or if it grasps its food while flying, and eats it on the wing then it is definitely a non-kosher bird.

Even if it is seen for certain that it does not attack its prey with its talons and eat it, such a bird still may not be eaten unless it is certain that it has three additional signs. (Pri Chadash 82)

The three signs are as follows:

  1. An extra toe.  This means that the innermost toe is larger than any two other toes.
  2. Has a crop (zefek)
  3. The second layer of skin on the gizzard (kurkevan) can be peeled off by hand. However, if the membrane over the gizzard cannot be peeled off with the hand but only with a knife, it is a sign the bird is not kosher.  If it cannot be easily peeled off with the hand but after it is placed in the sun and becomes softened, it can be peeled with the hand, it is a sign the bird is kosher.
All these signs are valid only if it is known for certain that this bird does not attack its prey with its talons and eats it.  However, if it is not certain whether or not the bird is predatory, these three signs do not help since it is possible it attacks and eats its prey. The only time the bird is then permitted is if there is a tradition from one's ancestors that the bird is kosher.

Some say that every bird with a wide beak and wide feet like a duck certainly is not a predatory bird.  It may be eaten if it has the above mentioned three signs. (Pri Chadash 82:6 q.v.)

The Ashkenazic custom is not to eat any bird whatsoever unless there is a tradition from ancient times that it is a kosher bird.  The only exception to this rule is the turkey.

Insects
11:20 Kol sheretz ha'of haholech al-arba sheketz hu lachem
All winged insects that walk on four [legs] are repulsive to you.
21 Ach et-zeh tochlu mikol sheretz ha'of haholech al-arba asher-lo chra'ayim mima'al leraglav lenater bahen al-ha'aretz
However, these you may eat of all the flying insects that walk on four [legs], those which have knees extending above their legs so that it hops on the ground with them.
22 Et-eleh mehem tochelu et-ha'arbeh lemino ve'et-hasal'am leminehu ve'et-hachargol leminehu ve'et-hechagav leminehu
Among these you may [only] eat members of the red locust family, the yellow locust family, the spotted gray locust family and the white locust family.
23 Vechol sheretz ha'of asher-lo arba raglayim sheketz hu lachem
All flying insects that have four feet are repulsive to you.
The Torah is saying that all insects such as flies, bees, mosquitoes and grasshoppers are unclean and forbidden as food. (Rashi)

Insects that have hoppers with which they can jump from one place to another are sometimes permitted.  The four species permitted are: The red locust (arbeh), the yellow locust (sal'am), the spotted grey locust (chargol), and the white locust (chagav)

There are another four species that are kosher, alluded to in the words "of its kind" [which is translated as "family"].  These are the dukhnit, the hoarder (otzrania), the "garden circle" (tziporet keramim), and the Yerushalayim yochana.  There are thus a total of eight types of locust that the Torah permits if one knows their identity correctly. (Rashi)

Today, however, it is forbidden to eat any type of locust.  We do not recognize the kosher species and we do not know their names. (Turey Zahav 85)

Besides the species mentioned here explicitly as being kosher, all other insects are non-kosher. The only exceptions are the grasshoppers that have five or more walking feet, which are kosher. (Rashi)

11:24 Ule'eleh titama'u kol-hanogea benivlatam yitma ad-ha'arev
As for these, [animals], you can be made unclean; all those who touch their carcasses shall be unclean until the evening.
25 Vechol-hanose minivlatam yechabes begadav vetame ad-ha'arev
Anyone who carries of their carcasses; shall wash his garments and is unclean until the evening.
26 Lechol-habehemah asher hi mafreset parsah veshesa eynenah shosa'at vegerah eynenah ma'alah tme'im hem lachem kol-hanogea bahem yitma
Thus every animal that has cloven hooves but its hooves are not [completely] split and it does not bring up its cud, they are unclean to you; all who touch them shall be come unclean.
27 Vechol holech al-kapav bechol-hachayah haholechet al-arba tme'im hem lachem kol-hanogea benivlatam yitma ad-ha'arev
All [animals] that walk on their paws among all the living creatures that walk on four legs, they are unclean to you.  All who touch their carcasses shall be unclean until the evening.
28 Vehanose et-nivlatam yechabes begadav vetame ad-ha'arev tme'im hemah lachem
Whoever carries their carcasses shall wash his garments and is unclean until the evening; they are unclean to you.
The Torah now teaches us some laws about uncleanliness.  Any animal that has true hooves but is not cloven-hoofed is unclean.  The same is true of any animal whose hoof is open but the opening does not extend all the way down, so it is slightly closed. An example of this is the camel, whose hoof is not completely cloven.  Similarly, any animal that does not bring up its cud is unclean. (Rashi)  Every animal that walks on its paws is also unclean.  This includes such animals as the cat, the bear and the dog.

If one touches the dead bodies of such animals he becomes unclean until evening.  If one lifts up their carcasses he must immerse both his body and his garments in a mikvah and remain unclean until evening. (Rashi; Rambam)

11:29 Vezeh lachem hatame basheretz hashoretz al-ha'aretz hacholed veha'achbar vehatzav leminehu
These [also] are unclean to you among all creeping creatures that crawl on the ground: the weasel, the mouse and the tortoise, to its kind.
30 Veha'anakah vehakoach vehaleta'ah vehachomet vehatinshamet
The hedgehog, the chameleon, the lizard, the snail and the mole.
This entire section deals with ritual uncleanliness (tumah) which involves touching (tumat maga). (Rashi)  The Torah says that these animals render one unclean if he touches their dead bodies.

The Torah speaks of eight species here:

  1. Choled - the weasel
  2. Achbar - the mouse
  3. Tzav - a frog like creature (possibly a toad)
  4. Anakah - the hedgehog
  5. Koach - translation unknown
  6. Leta'ah - the lizard
  7. Chomet - the snail
  8. Tinshemet - the mole

11:31 Eleh hatme'im lachem bechol-hasharetz kol-hanogea bahem bemotam yitma ad-ha'arev
These are unclean to you among all the creeping creatures.  Whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until the evening.
32 Vechol asher-yipol alav mehem bemotam yitma mikol-kli-etz o veged o-or o sak kol-keli asher-ye'aseh melachah bahem bamayim yuva vetame ad-ha'erev vetaher
Everything, wherever a part of them may fall when they are dead, shall become unclean, such as a wooden vessel, or a garment, or a hide or a sack.  Every vessel with which work is done, shall be brought [put] into water, and remains unclean until the evening, [then] it becomes clean.
If anyone touches any of these dead animals, that person becomes unclean until evening.

Similarly, if a piece of one of these animals falls on a wooden vessel or on a garment, a piece of leather, or a sack made out of goat's wool (Rashbam), that article becomes unclean.  In general, anything that can be used for any purpose made out of the substances mentioned above can become unclean.

Such an article must be immersed in a mikvah, a ritual pool holding forty se'ah (180 gallons). (Targum Yonatan)

Similarly, if a person touches any of these dead animals he must immerse in a mikvah.  Even after he immerses he is still unclean as far as eating the priestly terumah offering is concerned.  He may not touch terumah until sunset; however, after the sun sets he is completely clean.

11:33 Vechol-kli-cheres asher-yipol mehem el-tocho kol asher betocho yitma ve'oto tishboru
Every earthen vessel into which a part of them may fall, everything that is within it becomes unclean, and you shall break it.
34 Mikol-ha'ochel asher ye'achel asher yavo alav mayim yitma vechol-mashkeh asher yishateh bechol-kli yitma
Of all foods that are eaten upon which water comes, shall be unclean.  Every beverage that is drunk, in any vessel, shall be impure.
If any one of the above- mentioned eight dead animals falls inside a clay or pottery vessel everything inside that vessel becomes unclean.

A pottery vessel cannot be purified by immersion.  It only loses its status of ritual uncleanliness when it is broken. (Rashi)

When the Torah says that any food inside that vessel becomes unclean this is true only if hte food at one time became wet with water or any of the other special liquids designated by the Torah.

The seven types of liquid that render food capable of becoming unclean are:
  1. yayin - wine
  2. devash - bee honey
  3. shemen - olive oil
  4. chalav - milk
  5. tal - dew
  6. dam - blood
  7. mayim - water 
This can be remembered with the mnemonic YaD ShaChaT DaM which literally means "a hand slaughtered blood."

If food becomes wet with any of these liquids the food becomes ritually fit (huchshar), to become ritually unclean.

Now the Torah tells us that if one of the above eight animals (sheratzim), falls into a clay vessel and in that vessel there was food that was huchshar with one of the above liquids, then that food becomes ritually unclean. (Rashi)

We thus see that food that has once been wet becomes unclean while dry food remains clean.  This is because G-d commands us only regarding something that is complete.  Thus, for example, there is the dough offering (challah - BaMidbar 15:20).  The Torah does not obligate us to separate the challah offering unless we are kneading dough.  If one separates challah from the flour at any time before it is kneaded, the portion does not have the status of challah.

The same is true with the ritual uncleanliness of foods.  Food does not become huchshar to become unclean until it is completed.  Since people normally wash off the dust and mud from vegetables before eating them, this washing is considered their "completion." (Rashbam; Chinuch)


Washing for Wet Foods

The same rule involving foods that are huchshar to become unclean also applies to the washing of hands (netilat yadayim).  Any food that is immersed in the above-mentioned seven liquids has a special status.  Before eating such food one must wash his hands. (Orach Chayim 158)

Therefore if one has celery or other vegetables or fruit, and they are washed to remove the dirt, one must wash his hands before eating them.  Similarly, if one places any other liquid on them to give a taste, such as fruits that are candied in honey, one must wash his hands before eating them. (Teshuvot Radbaz 83; Kenesset HaGedolah, notes on Tur)

This is because the hands are normally considered unclean.  Therefore, when they come in contact with something wet they render it unclean.  Even if one will only touch a part of the vegetable or fruit that was not immersed he must still wash his hands, but without a blessing. (Hagah ibid.)

On the Seder night we wash our hands before we dip the celery (karpas) in vinegar because it has been dipped in liquid. (Orach Chayim 473) The vinegar we use is made from wine which is one of the seven special liquids. (Matteh Yosef ibid.; Yad, Aaron; Turei Zahav ibid.)

Some say that if one wishes to eat fruit preserved in honey he must wash his hands. According to this opinion it has the same status as something dipped in liquid. (Kenesset HaGedolah, Orach Chayim 158)

The majority of authorities question whether we must wash to eat something cooked in honey.  There, however, at least one authority who maintains that it has the same status as something dipped in liquid.  Therefore, one should eat it with a spoon and fork and not touch it with his hands, so as not to become involved in a question of law. (Kenesset HaGedolah, notes on Bet Yosef 158:4)

This, however, is true only where there is a question. If something dry is immersed in liquid it does not help to eat it with a spoon.  One must wash even if he is not going to touch it with his hands. (ibid.; Perach Shoshan 1:9; Matteh Yosef 2:18)

Yogurt is not completely congealed, but is soupy and therefore has the status of a liquid.  If food is dipped in [kosher] yogurt it has the same status of something dipped in liquid and one must wash his hands. (Matteh Yoself loc. cit.; Yad Aaron)

The juice that drips from roast meat does not have the same status of a liquid.  Therefore, if one dips something in such gravy he need not wash his hands. (Orach Chayim; Magen Avraham; Turei Zahav; Ateret Zekenim; Yad Aaron. See Bayit Chadash)

If one washes his hands to eat food dipped in liquid and then changes his mind and wishes to eat bread, some say he must wash his hands a second time.  Therefore, he should wash his hands again but not recite the blessing since there is a question. (ibid. in Hagah)  This is true only of the Sefardim, who normally recite a blessing when washing their hands for wet food. Since Ashkenazim do not recite a blessing, they may recite a blessing when they wash again for bread.

We said earlier that honey is one of the liquids that is huchshar food to become unclean.  This is true only of bee honey.  Although date honey or sugar is also occasionally referred to as "honey" it is not one of these seven liquids. (Matteh Yosef; Yad Aaron; Teshuvot Radbaz 83; Kenesset HaGedolah loc. cit.)

Similarly, the only type of oil included among the seven liquids is olive oil.  If does not include sesame oil or the like. (Ginat Veradim 11:29; Matteh Yosef)

If one east pasta such as spaghetti or macaroni or the like, he must wash his hands because it has been wet with its cooking water.  I goes without saying that one must wash his hands if it has been seasoned with olive oil because olive oil is one of the seven liquids. (Turei Zahav 158)

If one dips cake or fruit in rakki brandy he must wash his hands because it is one of the seven liquids.  Although it is merely a distillate and not the liquid itself, since it is made from raisins or wine it has the same status as wine and one must wash his hands. (Devar Moshe, Orach Chayim 17)

11:35 Vechol-asher-yipol minivlatam alav yitma tanur vechirayim yutatsz tme'im hem utme'im yiheyu lachem
Everything upon which any part of their carcasses fall, shall be unclean [even] an oven and a hearth shall be shattered, they are unclean and they shall be unclean to you.
36 Ach mayan uvor mikveh-mayim yiheyeh tahor venogea benivlatam yitma
However, a well-spring and a pit, a gathering of water, shall be pure.  [But] that which touches their carcasses shall be unclean.
37 Vechi yipol minivlatam al-kol-zera zerua asher yizarea tahor hu
If any part of their carcasses falls on any sowing seed that will be planted, it remains [ritually] clean.
38 Vechi yutan-mayim al-zera venafal minivlatam alav tame hu lachem
If water was once placed on seeds and part of their carcasses fall upon them, they are unclean to you.
The stove and the range mentioned here are portable stoves and oven ranges.  Since they are not attached to the ground they have the status of a vessel and they become unclean if one of these eight sheratzim falls on them.  Since they are made of pottery they cannot be immersed; therefore, they must be smashed.  They cannot be used for anything that must be ritually clean.

However, if they are attached to the ground as our stoves are then they do not become unclean.

Similarly, a spring or well which is attached to the ground dos not become unclean.  Not only that, but if a person is unclean and immerses himself in it, he is purified.

However, if one touches any of these dead sheratzim, even if the touches them inside a cistern and is immersing at the time, he becomes unclean.  He is not protected from uncleanliness merely because he is in a mikvah.

The Torah goes on to say that if the dead bodies of any of these animals fall on any edible seeds that are planted, the plants remain clean.  Moreover, even if the plants have already been picked, if they have not yet been wet by water or other beverages and thus become readied to become unclean, they remain clean.  They cannot become unclean unless they have come in contact with water after they have been picked.

However, if water or any other liquid has been placed on any vegetable, even if it was dry later when it was touched, it is unclean. (Rashi)

One may wonder why the snake is not included among the unclean animals.  After all, it was the serpent that brought uncleanliness to the world.

This is because the snake is a harmful creature   If G-d had declared it unclean people would avoid it.  Therefore, so that people not refrain from killing it, it was not included among the unclean animals. (Bachya)

11:39 Vechi yamut min-habehemah asher hi-lachem le'ochlah hanogea benivlatah yitma ad-ha'arev
If any animal dies [of those] that are permitted to eat whoever touches its carcass shall be unclean until evening.
40 Veha'ochel minivlatah yechabes begadav vetame ad-ha'arev vehanose et-nivlatah yechabes begadav vetame ad-ha'arev
Whoever eats of its carcass shall wash his garments and is unclean until the evening.  Whoever carries its carcass shall wash his garments and is unclean until evening.
The Torah is speaking about kosher species.  If an animal of a kosher species is not slaughtered, it has the status of a nevelah or "carcass."  The Torah now discusses the ritual impurity of such a nevelah.

If one touches the nevelah of any kosher animal that has died on its own, he must immerse in a mikvah and then remain unclean until evening.

However, when such an animal is slaughtered, even if it become a terafah and is forbidden as food, it does not have the unclean status of a nevelah.

If one eats such a nevelah unwittingly, not realizing that it was a nevelah and that the animal had not been slaughtered, he is unclean.  He must immerse both his body and his clothing and then he remains unclean until evening.

Similarly, if one lifts up a nevelah he must immerse not only his body in a mikvah, but also his clothing, and then he remains unclean until evening. (Rashban)

11:41 Vechol-hasheretz hashoretz al-ha'aretz sheketz hu lo ye'achel
Every creeping creature which crawls on the ground is repulsive, it may not be eaten.
The Torah uses the word sheretz to describe these small animals.  These are the small invertebrates that crawl on the ground. (Rashi)

The Torah says that these must be shunned and not eaten.  If one eats any of these animals he is guilty of violating a negative commandment of the Torah.

Worms

This is a good place to discuss the strong prohibition against eating any type of worm.  Unfortunately, nowadays people take this lightly and do not consider it forbidden.  This is not because people take their obligations lightly but because they assume that this is a relatively minor infraction.

They support their case by arguing that eating unexamined vegetables merely involves a question; it is always possible that here are no worms in the vegetables.

However, it is a question (safek) involving Torah law. Therefore we must take the stricter course and it is forbidden to eat such unexamined vegetables.

People may say that they are doing so unwittingly since they do not know for certain that there are worms in such vegetables. However, what do they gain as far as their soul is concerned?  It is like someone carrying oil on his head, and then accidentally spilling it, staining his clothing.  He might not have wanted to spill the oil, but his clothes are stained nevertheless.

One must be particularly careful in these areas since the prohibition against worms is much worse than other prohibitions.  Each time a person violates a Torah law he is said to violate "a negative [prohibition]" (lav).

However, if one eats a worm one is in violation of five negative prohibitions:
  1. "Every small animal that creeps on the earth you shall not eat" (11:41)
  2. "Everything that creps on its belly among every small animal that breeds on the earth you shall not eat" (11:42)
  3. "Do not make your souls abominable to everything that creeps on the earth" (11:43)
  4. "Do not defile your souls with every small animal that creeps on the earth" (11:42)
  5. "Do not defile yourselves through them" (11:43)
If there is a flying insect such as a gnat, a fly, or a bee, then in additon to the violating these five negative prohibitions one is also in violation of the prohibition, "Every flying insect do not eat" (11:20)

The reason that Torah sets so many prohibitions against eating worms and insects and repeats the prohbition so many times is because this is a very common violation.  Worms are found in fruits, vegetables, and many other foods and a person cannot avoid them unless he is extremely careful.  The Torah therefore applies many negative commandments to them so that a person will make every effort to avoid them.

11:42 Kol holech al-gachon vechol holech al-arba ad kol-marbeh raglayim lechol-hasheretz hashoretz al-ha'aretz lo tochelum ki sheketz hem
Whatever crawls on its belly and whatever goes on its four [legs] or whatever has many feet; regarding all creeping creatures that crawl on the ground; you may not eat them, for they are repulsive.
43 Al-teshaktzu et-nafshoteichem bechol-hasheretz hashoretz velo titam'u bahem venitmetem bam
Do not make yourselves abominable by [eating] any creeping creature that crawls, and do not make yourselves unclean with them, for you will become unclean because of them.
Included in the prohibition, "Do not make yourselves abominable" is a prohibition against holding oneself in when he must have a bowl movement. (Orach Chayim 3)

It one holds himself back from urinating he causes himself harm.  This can in some cases cause sterility. (Turei Zahav ibid.)  He is also in violation of the commandment, "Do not make your souls abominable."

Also included in this commandment is a prohibition against eating anything disgusting.  It is therefore forbidden to eat any food mixed with excrement or the like.  It is similarly forbidden to eat or drink from disgusting dishes.  Also, it is forbidden to eat if one's hands have a bad odor or from dishes which have a bad stench. (Yoreh Deah 116)

It is similarly forbidden to eat something that another person has had already in his mouth, even from one's own brother.

All these things are permitted if one needs them as a remedy.  It is even permitted to drink urine if it is necessary, as a remedy. (Pri Toar ibid.)

One who eats any forbidden food, in addition to defiling his soul in this world, also defiles his soul in the next world.  G-d is pure and holy and will repel this person from His domain.

This will also cause a person to defile himself with many other sins.  G-d no longer protects him or helps him avoid sin.

Our sages therefore taught us, "Run to a minor good deed and flee from a sin.  One good deed brings on another while one sin also brings on another" (Avot 4:2).  The sages are teaching us to run to do a good deed even though it may seem minor.  Besides the reward for the deed itself, it will lead one to do other good deeds.  The same is true of sin.

The Torah therefore says, "Do not defile yourselves with them, since you will be made spiritually insensitive through them."  Besides the sin itself, this causes one's mind to become insensitive. (Yoma 39a; Ikkarim 3; Reshit Chochmah, Shaar HaKedushah 4)

11:44 Ki ani HASHEM Eloheichem vehitkadishtem veheyitem kedoshim ki kadosh ani velo tetame'u et-nafshoteichem bechol-hasheretz haromes al ha'aretz
For I am HASHEM, your G-d; you shall sanctify yourselves and you shall become holy, for I am Holy and you shall not make yourselves unclean with any creeping creature that crawls on the ground.
G-d says, "You must be holy because I am holy.  Moreover, if you will remain holy I will also sanctify you in the next world." (Rashi)

11:45 Ki ani HASHEM hama'aleh etchem me'eretz Mitzrayim lihyot lachem l'Elokim veheyitem kedoshim ki kadosh ani
For I am HASHEM, who brings you up from the land of Egypt to be your G-d.  You shall be holy, for I am Holy.
G-d is saying, I brought you out of the land of Egypt from your bitter exile on the condition that you remain holy.

11:46 Zot torat habehemah veha'of vechol nefesh hachayah haromeset bamayim ulechol-nefesh hashoretzet al-ha'aretz
This is the Torah concerning the animals and the fowl and of all living creatures that swarm in the waters and for all creatures that crawl on the earth.
47 Lehavdil bein hatame uvein hatahor uvein hachayah hane'echelet uvein hachayah asher lo te'achel
To distinguish between the unclean and between the clean, and between the living creatures which may be eaten and between the living creatures which may not be eaten."
These are the laws that one must know in order to differentiate between kosher and non-kosher animals.

The intent here is not to differentiate between a donkey and a cow.  The means of identification were discussed earlier. Rather, the intent here is to determine whether a particular animal of a kosher species is kosher or not.

For example, if an animal is slaughtered and the majority of the two "signs" (simanim) (the gullet and windpipe) are severed, the animal is kosher.  If the majority of these two "signs" are not severed the animal is not forbidden as a carcass (nevelah)

Furthermore, one must know all the laws of fatal lesions (terefot) to know whether an animal is kosher, or forbidden as terefah.

One must also know the other laws about what is forbidden and what is permitted.  One must know what foods are "annulled in sixty" (batel be-shishim) and what foods cannot be annulled. (Rashi)

This verse "to distinguish between the unclean and the clean..." has its initial word, le-havdil and as its last word te'achel.  The first and last letters of this verse are Lameds (ל).  Since the Lamed has a numerical value of 30, the two Lameds together add up to 60.  This alludes to the fact that forbidden food is "annulled in sixty." (Baal HaTurim)

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MeAm Lo'ez, Baal HaTurim, Bachya, Rashi, Rambam, Ramban, Midrash

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