Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Parashat Metzora - HaGadol
Shabbat Hagadol - Before Redemption - Rabbi Meir KahaneFor behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the wicked people and all the evildoers will be like straw... (Malachi 3:19)
Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome Day of Hashem. And he will turn back [to G-d] the hearts of fathers with [their] sons and the hearts of sons with their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with utter destruction. (Malachi 3: 23,24)
Then you will return and see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves G-d and one who does not serve Him. (Malachi 3:18)
Before us, then, there is a fundamental principle regarding the future of the Jewish People: Redemption can come by one of two ways. If we merit it, through repentance and deeds worthy of it – especially faith and trust in G-d, without fear of the non-Jew – it can come through G-d hastening it, quickly, immediately, “today, if we hearken to His voice”. Not only will it come quickly, but with glory and majesty, without the suffering or Messianic birth pangs of which both Ula and Rabbah said (Sanhedrin 98b), “Let it come without my seeing it”. If we do not merit this, however, then the Messiah will certainly come and the Redemption with him, but only later on, “in its time”. This redemption will be accompanied, G-d forbid, by the terrible suffering of Chevlei Mashiach, Messianic birthpangs.
We seem to have two contradictory redemption processes before us; [...] but there is no contradiction. Rather, both are possibilities. That is, either can happen, but not both. As for which it will be, that depends on the Jewish People and their deeds. If they prove worthy, they will merit redemption “in haste”, glorious and majestic, without Messianic birth pangs. Otherwise, a different process will occur, a process that does not have to be – complete redemption through unparalleled suffering, and all because of our sins and our stubbornness. Only the blind and those who refuse to see will fail to understand that today we are right at the very heart of the Ikveta DeMeshicha, “the footsteps of the Messiah”, the beginning of the redemption. This State of Israel is the beginning of G-d's wrath against the nations who do not know Him and who have profaned His name with scorn and derision. Yet, it is clear that a redemption whose beginning is based exclusively on redemption “in its time”, on, “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel” (Ezek. 36:22), on, “Not for your sake do I do this, says the L-rd G-d. Be it known unto you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel (Ezek. 36:32) has concealed within it tragedies and Messianic suffering from the Supreme King of Kings; and whoever says that G-d concedes shall concede his life (Bava Kamma 50a).
There will be no “hasty” redemption (Isaiah 60:22), glorious and majestic, devoid of dreadful suffering, unless the Jewish people return to their Father in Heaven, accept His yoke, and chiefly, unless they trust in Him completely and are ready to sanctify His name through self-sacrifice. The redemption which began despite our sins in order to sanctify G-d's name before the nations in might and splendor, has, in the hands of an “ungrateful, unwise nation” (Deut. 32:6), turned into a profanation and a blasphemy carried out precisely by those whom G-d sought to redeem. If the beginning of the redemption and the state served to sanctify G-d's name, then the only way to move on to “hasty” redemption is to continue reinforcing the Kiddush Hashem which the state's very establishment constituted. The Divine imperative is continued Kiddush Hashem through trusting in G-d, and liquidating the Chilul Hashem without fear of the non-Jew, without fear of flesh and blood. Every retreat, every submission, every concession to the non-Jew, every hand raised against the Jew, every attack, let alone murder, of a Jew in the Land, every taunt and curse by a non-Jew in the Land is a Chilul Hashem. Now, instead of continuing to reinforce the Kiddush Hashem process, the Jewish people retreat and profane G-d's name.
Whoever does not allow Jews to live everywhere in the Land, whoever ties their hands [...], profanes G-d's name and profanes the great miracle and the powerful dream realized by G-d at the start of the redemption.
A time will come when G-d sees that to the nations and most of Israel, it seems that “His power is gone” - He is impotent. He will see that for many Jews and non-Jews, He is “nothing”, non-existent, Heaven forbid. For many others who pay lip service to His existence, He will appear “hindered”, powerless to act, a king “caught in tresses” (Song of Songs, 7:7), without connection or relevance to the world. He will see that there are masses of Jews who keep rituals, who keep the practical mitzvot by rote, yet who in times of danger, at the moment of truth, abandon their faith and trust in G-d.For them, G-d will become like one “abandoned”, and no Chilul Hashem could be greater. G-d will then wish to sanctify His great name, transformed by faithless heretics to “nothing, hindered, and abandoned.”
Listen well, my friend, to a great axiom of redemption. Ostensibly, those who ridiculed the mourners of Zion, who mocked those who believed in redemption, were the nations. Clearly this is so, yet also countless Jews do not believe, and they ridicule those who look forward to redemption, and, in general, the whole concept of redemption and the Messiah. Do not let your brother, friend or the rabbi to whom you feel closest lead you astray by saying that redemption will come without suffering or tragedy, for that is impossible without repentance and trust in G-d through bold deeds without fear of the nations.
Redak's quotation from Isaiah is part of the following (Isaiah 26:20-21): Come, My people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for a brief moment until the wrath is past. For the L-rd shall leave His abode to punish the earth's inhabitants for their sin. With this, G-d informs Israel that before redemption comes, before G-d leaves His abode to punish the nations for their sin, there will be a moment of wrath; that is, a period of wrath and suffering. This clearly is referring to the war of Gog and Magog. Although it says, “Hide yourself for a brief moment”, and Redak commented that they would “suffer briefly”, woe to us for that brief moment, for it will include Jerusalem's conquest and accompanying atrocities, [...] and the nations' conquest of Eretz Israel for nine months, and in G-d's eyes, that, too will constitute just a “brief moment”. Who can measure the suffering and anguish which that moment will generate, if it comes through redemption “in its time”? All the same G-d, Who has control over time and place, has the power to transform that “moment” into a very short time, if redemption comes “in haste”. This is a major principle regarding the Messianic birthpangs, and we must not forget it.
If Israel heed G-d's voice and follow in His ways, He will subdue Gog and Israel's enemies “kim'at”, like the kim'at rega, the “brief moment” of Isaiah 26:20. Then, redemption will come quickly and “forever”.
Parashat Metzora – Insights from Rabbi Meir Kahane's 'Peirush HaMaccabee'The Kohen shall command; and for the person being purified there shall be taken two live, clean birds; cedar wood, crimson thread, and hyssop. (Lev. 14:4)
The Kohen has to take two birds, and slaughter one of them such that its blood drips into an earthenware vessel with flowing water, and dip cedar-wood, hyssop, crimson thread, and the other bird into the flowing water which is mixed with the blood of the slaughtered bird. He then sprinkles this over the metzora (“leper”) or the house seven times, after which the live bird is set free. Now the whole subject of the metzora carries tremendous morals: the Talmud says: These afflictions come because of seven things: lashon ha-ra’, blood-shed, swearing false oaths, sexual immorality, arrogance, robbery, and stinginess (Arakhin 16a).
A person who sinned by committing robbery and being stingy is condemned to sitting alone outside of the camp, thereby losing money because he is unable to work; and sometimes, his house becomes afflicted and has to be destroyed. And if he shed blood, he is reminded of this sin by having the bird’s blood sprinkled over him; he is afflicted with bodily suffering as a punishment for having afflicted bodily suffering on someone else. As a punishment for pursuing sexual immorality he becomes physically repulsive, such that no woman will want him. As a punishment for having spoken lashon ha-ra’ and thereby causing division among people, he is now divided from everyone else and dwells alone.
It goes further: he guarded his tongue neither from lashon ha-ra’ nor from swearing falsely; so the Talmud says, What makes the metzora unique, that the Torah commands him to bring two birds to purify himself? – G-d said: His actions were the actions of a chatterer, therefore the Torah enjoins him to bring [birds which are] chatterers as a sacrifice (Arakhin 16b). And for his sin of arrogance he brings the wood of the cedar tree, one of the tallest and proudest of all trees, together with hyssop, one the smallest of all plants, on which the Midrash explains: Why is the metzora cleansed with the tallest of the tall and the lowliest of the lowly?... – Because he is afflicted with tzara’at for having aggrandised himself like a cedar tree; so when he humbles himself like a hyssop, he is cured (Pesikta Rabbati, Parah 14, 60b). The sinner thereby purifies his sin which was as red as the crimson thread and makes it as white as snow. It seems to me that his arrogance is the source of all his sins, and all the other sins are a result of it, as I shall show immediately.
These two birds represent important concepts. The Torah commands him to bring two birds, live and pure (Leviticus 14:4), which the Midrash expounds upon: Rabbi Yosé the Galilean says: Specifically a bird which lives outside of town. And which bird is this? – A swallow (Sifra, Metzora 5:14). And the Sifra further says: The birds must be live, and not slaughtered; pure, and neither impure…nor non-kosher (ibid. 1:12). The swallow, whose Hebrew name is צִפּוֹר הַדְּרוֹר, tzippor ha-dror (literally “bird of freedom”) which must be a clean fowl, serves to symbolise the person: every person is born pure, clean of all sin, unblemished; like the swallow, the tzippor ha-dror, the bird of freedom, free to go in any direction he desires, free to choose good or evil. If he does good, he will live and receive his just reward; and if he does evil, he will be punished. And the way to achieve the good is through humility and modesty, whereas arrogance and callousness lead to denying G-d and shaking off His yoke. And this being the case, it is good for a person to be modest and humble and quiet, not to raise his voice and his head – because what is he? – Dust and ashes, decay and maggots! And what are we?! (Exodus 16:7). G-d will punish anyone who transgresses His commandments, thereby transforming his pure and beautiful and wondrous soul into something ugly. And since it is impossible to see the ugliness of a soul, G-d afflicts him with tzara’at, making him physically ugly for all to see, symbolising the ugliness of his soul (and sometimes, G-d afflicts only his garments or his house, for him to see his soul reflected therein). And he – this man who wanted to aggrandise himself above all others – is then forced to humble himself, to dwell in solitude, this man – who wanted only bodily pleasures – suffers bodily afflictions. Thus he takes two birds; one of them he slaughters, and the other one he sets free. Two birds, symbolising his free choice – good or evil.
The Abravanel comments there: The purpose here is to indicate that both the birds were previously alive – and at G-d’s command and word one of them died. Such it is with humans: one can fall sick and die, while another one remains alive. Everything depends upon G-d’s decree. And this is why He commanded [the Kohen] to slaughter the bird into earthenware vessels, alluding to the human who is as an earthenware vessel, fashioned by the hands of the Potter, blessed be He… And the bird is slaughtered over flowing water in the vessel to symbolise the Torah…because the bird who was slaughtered died because of the Torah which was not kept properly… And the Torah says that in the end “he shall send out the live bird free over the field” (Leviticus 14:7) – that is to say, to roam free in its natural habitat – symbolising that the purified person returns to the camp, there to roam free as and when he pleases, no longer to be confined. And I would add to this final detail that what this means is that he is hereby given a new opportunity for free will – if he will only learn his lesson.
Source: "Peirush HaMaccabee" on Shemot, Chapter 2, English translation by Daniel Pinner
~ SHABBAT SHALOM ~