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Insights From The Plague Of Leprosy

Miller-Rabbi-Avigdor

Although the tzoraas affliction is no more in contemporary times, it teaches lessons that are eternal. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that foremost among these lessons is the greatness of Torah leaders and their wisdom. Another lesson: The opportunity the affliction presented to the afflicted for repentance and self-improvement.

“To Aharon the kohen or to one of his sons the kohanim. And the kohen should see the nega and the kohen shall shut up the [man of the] plague seven days” (13:2-4).

For the sake of brevity the verse could have stated, ”He should be brought to one of Aharon’s sons, the kohanim,” but we see that it is preferable that Aharon himself should be consulted if possible. We are hereby taught that we should always seek the most authoritative Torah opinion if it is available.

The leper is entirely dependent on the verdict of the kohen. He is brought to the kohen (13:2), and the kohen must see him (here, and 13:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 20, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 34, 36, 39, and 43); and similarly in the case of leprosy of garments and leprosy of a house, the kohen is constantly mentioned. Now the kohen becomes the central figure in this man’s life. No other lsraelite is as dependent on the kohen. (Even if a non-kohen is a great Torah scholar, he does not have the authority to declare the man unclean or to pronounce him clean [Negaim 3:1 and Arachin 3a]. Even an Elder of the Sanhedrin can do no more than to instruct the kohen, but the actual pronouncement must be made by the kohen.)

The benefit Hashem intended was to bring us into contact with the Torah teacher; and the most beneficial contact is with the greatest Torah teacher. Thus, when a question of kashrus arises, we should perceive that Hashem caused this question to arise in order that we meet the Torah sage who may have for us instruction and counsel even more important for us than the kashrus question.

When the sage is greater, the encounter with him is so much more valuable. “Righteousness, righteousness you should pursue” (Devarim 16:20); ”Go after the best beis din… after the sages in the Marble Chamber” (Sanhedrin 32b). Not only will the greatest sages give you the truest opinion, but their influence upon you will also be the most effective: “to Aharon the kohen.”

Each time the man came to the kohen with a heart hovering between hope and despair, we can be certain the kohen did not coldly render his decision but spoke words of encouragement and consolation and urged the man to exert himself in prayer and in repentance. After his contact with the holy son of Aharon, he certainly became a different person; and that indeed was Hashem’s intention in sending the plague upon him.

During his seven-day period of separation he is given the opportunity to repent. and thus he may be spared. “When a man sees that suffering comes upon him, let him search into his deeds” (Berachos 5a). The purpose of the plague, and of misfortunes in general, is to make men more aware of Hashem; and especially to remind them how great was Hashem’s kindliness hitherto that He had spared this man from such misfortune. “He that chastises nations, is He not showing something [or: is He not rebuking?], He that teaches Knowledge to man” (Tehillim 94:10).

This Knowledge has chiefly of two aspects: that Hashem conducts all the affairs of the world, and that He bestows happiness on mankind. Even now, in his misery, the leper is more blessed than chastised: if he is able to see, to talk, to think rationally, to walk, to eat and to sleep, he must learn to be grateful and to understand that the blessings are more than the suffering.

He now should repent and learn to thank Hashem for all the good days he had enjoyed hitherto but had failed in the function of singing in joy to Hashem; and he should even now be grateful for all that Hashem gives him in abundance. The leper should also find solace in the very great benefit that his plight causes others to fear Hashem.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

About the Author: The Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, was founded and authorized by Rabbi Miller to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com. For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.


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