SALT - Friday, 7 Nissan 5779 - April 12, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The opening section of Parashat Metzora describes the procedure through which a metzora regains his status of halakhic purity.  Throughout the Torah’s description, it is clear that the kohen plays the dominant role in this process.  The kohen must go outside the city to the metzora to affirm that the infection has been cured (14:3), and the kohen instructs bringing the birds and other materials for the purification ceremony (14:4).  He conducts this ceremony, and then, during the second stage of the process, he performs the various rituals involving the sacrifices and oil which the metzora is required to bring.
            On the other hand, the Torah on numerous occasions in this section refers to the metzora as the “mitaher” (simply translated, “person being purified”).  Meshekh Chokhma (14:4) comments on the grammatical construction of this word, which is in the “hitpael” form, which denotes a reflexive action.  This construction is used in reference to something a person does towards himself, as opposed to an action directed outward.  Significantly, the Torah speaks of the metzora not as “being purified,” but rather as purifying himself.  Meshekh Chokhma explains that the metzora’s purification hinges upon his efforts to repent and improve, to cleanse his inner being, no less than it depends upon the kohen’s strict compliance with the guidelines presented by the Torah.
            We are accustomed to delegating many different aspects of our lives, leaving to other people to take care of the things we need.  We hire people to provide goods and services that we require, reserving for ourselves as few personal responsibilities as possible in order to spare ourselves unnecessary work and inconvenience.  Our personal growth, however, cannot ever be delegated.  Even if we find a “kohen” in our lives to help motivate and guide us, a person or group of people on whom we rely for inspiration and direction, we cannot leave all the work to them.  The description of the metzora in this section as a “mitaher” reminds us that we need to take responsibility for ourselves, that we cannot passively wait for others to inspire and motivate us to maximize our full potential.  Spiritual excellence cannot be delegated, and can be achieved only through our own proactive work and effort.