SALT - Friday, 7 Nisan 5776 - April 15, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Torah in Parashat Metzora outlines the procedure for the purification of a metzora, which concludes with the offering of a series of sacrifices in the Beit Ha-mikdash.  The blood of one of the sacrifices, we read, is placed on the metzora’s right earlobe, thumb and bigtoe (14:14), after which oil is placed on those same spots (14:17) and then on the metzora’s head (14:18).

            The Mishnayot in Masekhet Negaim (14) explain that this is done while the metzora stood just outside the Temple courtyard (by “Sha’ar Nikenor”).  Since the metzora is not permitted inside the Temple until the completion of his purification process, which includes the offering of these sacrifices, he may not enter the Beit Ha-mikdash at this point.  Instead, he stands outside the gate and thrusts his head, hand and foot through the gate for the purpose of these rituals.

            The Gemara, in Masekhet Zevachim (32b) addresses the case of a metzora whose day for bringing his sacrifices fell on Erev Pesach, and he experienced a semenal emission the previous night.  A ba’al keri (somebody who experienced a semenal emission) may not enter or even place his hand into the Temple courtyard until the following night (after he immerses).  Normally, then, if a metzora experienced a semenal emission the night before he was scheduled to offer his sacrifices, he would be forced to delay the sacrifices another day, as his status of ba’al keri makes it forbidden for him to place his head, hand and foot into the Temple courtyard.  However, if this occurred on Erev Pesach, a special dispensation is made in order to allow him to partake of the korban pesach.  Although a ba’al keri (even after immersion) is generally forbidden from placing even one hand into the Temple courtyard until the next night, the metzora in this case is permitted to place his head, hand and foot through the gate so he can complete his purification and then participate in the korban pesach that night.

            The Tolna Rebbe noted the irony in the fact that a special dispensation is made specifically for a metzoraTzara’at marks the most severe form of ritual impurity, which imposes the greatest number of restrictions and requires the longest and most involved process of purification.  The metzora, unlike all other temei’im (impure people), is banished from walled cities, and must conduct himself like a mourner in several respects.  In order to regain his status of purity, he must undergo a special ritual and then offer a series of sacrifices eight days later.  This is the strictest level of tum’a, and yet the Torah gives him a special privilege to allow him to participate in the korban pesach, one which is not granted to others.

            The lesson that perhaps emerges from this halakha, at least on a symbolic level, is that no matter how low a person sinks, once he begins the process of return, he must be warmly embraced and given every opportunity to complete the process.  Just as the Torah “assists” the metzora to complete his purification in time for the korban pesach, we, too, must show understanding and sensitivity, and offer assistance, to all those who genuinely seek to improve and return to a proper Torah lifestyle, no matter how dark the stains are on their record.  If somebody is sincere in his desire and attempts to repent and improve, we must accept him and grant him the support he needs, irrespective of his troubled past.