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Parashat Metzora / Shabbat Hagadol

Leilui Nishmat My Grandmothers Miriam bat Sarah A'H and Fahima bat Tova A'H by Elliot Elo and Family

Parashat Metzora / Shabbat Hagadol Metzora It says in Parashat Metzora, “This shall be the law of the metzora—leper (14:2).” As we learned last week, one of the ways to become a metzora is through speaking lashon hara. The Gemara (Arachin 15b) says that the word “metzora” is a combination of two words: motzi raone who brings out evil. The punishment for this is nega tzara’at — the plague of leprosy. The Torah prohibits lashon hara by commanding, “Lo telech rachil beamecha—You shall not be a talebearer among your people (19:16).” These four words have the numerical value of 883, the same as the numerical value of “nega tzara’at,” which teaches that the sin and punishment are exactly midah keneged midah—measure for measure. Last week’s parasha discussed the penalty of tzara’at—leprosy that came as a punishment for speaking lashon hara. This week discusses the cure for tzara’at. Interestingly, one part of the cure is to take two birds, slaughter one, and let the other go free. Rashi comments that the birds are used as an atonement for lashon hara, because their constant chirping is comparable to our mindless chatter, Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen brings down a thought from Rav Shlomo Ganzfried, author of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, who asks several questions on this process. Firstly, why was it necessary that two birds be involved, why was one insufficient? Furthermore, why was one killed and the other left alive? Rav Ganzfried answered by elaborating on the symbolism of the birds. The bird that is killed corresponds to the kind of speech that involves lashon hara. However, if only this single bird was offered, then one may come to believe that the only way of avoiding lashon hara is to not speak at all. Thus, the Torah tells us that there is a second bird that should be left alive, which corresponds to positive forms of speech, such as Divre Torah. This speech is not only acceptable but life-giving. He proves this with a verse from Mishlei, “Death and life are in the hands of speech (18:21).” This Shabbat will be Shabbat Hagadol, or the Shabbat that falls before the holiday of Pesach. How fitting for this week’s parasha, where we learn about positive and negative speech. The very reason B’nei Yisrael were in Mitzrayim is because the shevatim were speaking lashon hara about Yosef, which set off a chain of events that led the nation down to Egypt. Next week, we will all be able to engage in positive speech. We will gather with our families to celebrate the Seder meals and read the Haggadah. The word Haggadah means to tell over. We have an obligation from the Torah to tell our children the story of the Exodus from Egypt and how Hashem saved us from the hands of Pharaoh. The whole essence of Passover is positive speech! Instructing Our Children On Pesach we celebrate our freedom from slavery in Egypt over 3,300 years ago. We express our gratitude and dedication to Hashem for saving us and giving us the Torah, the greatest gift a nation could ever receive! We have an obligation to teach our children about all the miracles of Yetziat Mitzrayim. There are four times that the Torah commands us to “instruct our children” about something. The first mention of the obligation is in Parashat Shemot, where it talks about this mitzvah of teaching our children about the Exodus. “And it shall be when your children say to you, what is this service to you? You shall say, it is a Pesach feast offering to Hashem, Who passed over the homes of the children of Israel when He killed the firstborn of the Egyptians, but He saved our households (12:26)!” The parasha continues and says, “And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, what is this? You shall say to him, ‘With a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt from the house of bondage (13:14).’” The second time we hear of instructing our children is in Parashat Yitro. The Torah teaches us to refrain from work on Shabbat. The passuk says, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to Hashem; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son [or] your daughter (20:10).” Rashi points out “to instruct the adults regarding teaching the children” the Shabbat laws. The third time is in Parashat Emor, “Speak to the kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them (21:1) …” Rashi explains the word “speak” is the command for the adults, and the “say to them” is the obligation for the adults to teach the children about the laws of the kohanim. The fourth and final time is in Parashat Shemini, two parshiot ago, where we are instructed to refrain from eating insects, blood and unkosher animals. The passuk uses a spelling that can be read two ways, “do not eat them” or “do not give them to eat.” The second meaning is referring to our obligation to teach our children about forbidden foods. Rabbi Rachamim Aboud wrote in the JSOR Passover pamphlet about these instances. Why are we instructed to teach our children about these four mitzvotYetziat Mitzrayim, Shabbat, the mitzvah of kohanim, and refraining from unkosher foods? Rabbi Aboud answers that each of these mitzvot teach a fundamental aspect of Judaism: emunah —belief in Hashem through the generations.

  1. The Exodus teaches that Hashem runs the world, can change nature, and He rewards and punishes for one’s deeds.

  2. Shabbat teaches that not only does Hashem run every aspect of the world, but He is responsible for creating it in six days.

  3. The kohanim are dedicated to serving Hashem. Preserving the sanctity of the kehunah solidifies faith.

  4. The Torah says that when someone eats nonkosher food, he creates a blockage in his heart and brain which prevents his understanding of the wisdom of the Torah. Therefore, the Torah says we must instruct our children to avoid eating any nonkosher foods so that we retain a clean mind that Torah wisdom can penetrate.

Magid The main mitzvah of Pesach is ‘Magid which comes from the same source as Haggadah, also meaning to tell over. As we learned, we are obligated to speak to our children about our redemption into the late hours of the night. Why is it so important to tell the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim? This is how the Torah instructs us to show our hakarat hatov—gratitude to Hashem! We only have these two nights of Passover each year to really thank Hashem for what He does for us every day. So, we are obligated to make the most of this holiday, by telling over the story in detail, and to look at our lives and count our blessings. That way, we can truly celebrate this holiday with simcha, and let it carry over until next year! We sing the uplifting song Vehi Sheamda with pride to start the Seder meal. “The promise made to our forefathers holds true also for us in every generation. For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and Hashem, blessed is He, saves us from their hands!” We hold up our glass of wine and thank Hashem for being a Jew! In the end, no matter what the world throws at us, Hashem will always save us. In the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum there’s an area that displays the events that took place on the night of “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass.” This was the night of November 9th, 1938, when the Germans destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses throughout Germany. In the museum, there are videos of survivors speaking of that terrible night. One elderly woman spoke of the horrors she experienced as a young girl. She said, “We were Germans first, then Jews. We loved the country, the Germans were our friends, and they loved us. We danced together, played together, and ate together. When my mother tried calling her friends to see what was going on, none of them answered the phone, until one did answer, and she screamed ‘Death to the Jews!’ It was at that moment that we realized we were not Germans, we were Jews.” Now with Pesach quickly approaching, we will sing Vehi Sheamda, a song of identity, and we will teach our children the privilege and honor of what it means to be Jewish. An Unexpected Blessing There’s a very famous story about the Abulafia Bakery, owned by an Arab family in Jaffa. It’s a world-renowned bakery that has the best zaatar bread and middle eastern delicacies. Every year on Passover they had lines out the door, because unfortunately, non-observant Jews from Tel-Aviv bought their bread from there since all the kosher bakeries were closed for the holiday. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Shtouber, A’H, who owned a shoe factory next door to the bakery, was very distressed from seeing Jewish people buying bread on Passover, so he asked the owner of the bakery to close for the week. The owner, Saiid Abulafia, said “Do you know how much money I make in that one week alone? I would never close on that week!” The rabbi asked what his profit was, and was shocked when Saiid disclosed a staggering amount, enough to buy an apartment Jaffa. Imbued with rock-solid faith that he would succeed, the rabbi told Saiid that he would organize the exact amount for him, if he would close his bakery for the entirety of Passover. And so it was. Saiid, closed the bakery, took advantage of the time to do a few renovations, enjoyed the vacation, and didn't lose a penny of profit. For the next five years, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Shtauber would arrive one week before Pesach with the payoff, and Saiid agreed each year to close on Passover. On the sixth year, Saiid Abulafia went to the rabbi early to change the agreement. “Our family has had so much profit and blessing from G-d in the merit of our closing on Passover, that there is no longer any need to pay us. We will stay closed without the money.” Both Saiid and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman since passed away, but Saiid’s grandson who carries the same name, now runs the bakery and honors the same family tradition. “This Arab bakery closes on Passover,” said the young Saiid on ILTV. May we steer clear of mindless chatter and lashon hara, as this week’s parasha reminds us. May we prepare for Pesach with the joy of knowing what it means to be a Jew, and the gratitude to Hashem for saving us not only 3,300 years ago, but for all our blessings He gives us every single day. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey Discussion Point:

  • Is silence ever an effective way to avoid speaking lashon hara?

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