May 14, 2024
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May 14, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Metzora

It is written in the Gemara Arachin (16a), Rabbi Shemual ben Nachmani—in the name of Rabbi Yehuda—said that Hashem afflicts a person with tzaraas to atone for one of seven sins and that lashon hara is one of them. The Gemara asks a contradiction to this. Rabbi Anani bar Sasson said that the meil (one of the priestly garments) is what atones for lashon hara! The Gemora answers that in actuality both tzaraas and the meil atone for lashon hara but each one atones for a different type. Tzaraas atones when the lashon hara caused damage, for example, it caused two people to fight or it caused one person to think less of another person. When nothing came out of the lashon hara, then the meil atones. From this Gemara, we see that even though lashon hara is a very severe sin, there is atonement for a person who transgresses it.

Zera Shimshon asks that this Gemara seems to contradict a previous Gemara. Just one amud before (15b), it is written that Rabbi Acha, the son of Rabbi Chanina, said that if a person spoke lashon hara he has no remedy, since Dovid HaMelech declared through ruach hakodesh that anyone who speaks lashon hara is cut off (kareis) from the Jewish nation, like it is written, “Yachris Hashem kol sifsei chalakos lashon medaberes gedolos—Hashem should cut off all the ‘smooth talking’ lips, the tongue which speaks boastfully!” How can we reconcile these two statements?

He answers by asking and answering another question. The Gemara in Moad Katan learns from the pasuk, “Tamei tamei yikra—one who contracted tzaraas should call out: ‘tamei tamei’ that one who contracted tzaraas shouldn’t keep it a secret, but he should publicize it in order that people will pray for his recovery.” Zera Shimshon asks: Why, specifically, concerning tzaraas does the Torah teach us that one needs public prayer to be saved from a difficult situation, and not in some other difficult situation?

He answers that the answer to this question lies in the exact wording of Rabbi Ananni bar Sasson: “If a person spoke lashon hara he has no remedy—ein lo takona. It is not written, ‘there is no remedy—ein takona,’ but it is written, ‘he has no remedy.’ He cannot heal himself since he is only one person, however the whole community has the capability to heal him with their prayers. Therefore, a person who contracted tzaraas should publicize his condition, so the whole tzibbur together can annul the decree and will be healed.”

In other words, when a person is stricken with tzaraas, it is as if a heavenly verdict was given. A single person isn’t strong enough to annul a sealed verdict, only tefillas harabim (public prayer). Tefillas harabim is not the only way to reverse a seemingly final heavenly verdict. Chazal teaches us that exile also has this power. The Gemara (Brachos 56a) says that a curse of a talmid chochom is effective, even if it was said for no reason! For instance, if a talmid chacham curses someone if he won’t do something and, in the end, he did do that thing, the curse is still effective. In other words, a curse of a talmid chochom is like a sealed, final and irreversible verdict. However, the Gemara concludes there that if the person goes into exile, that curse is annulled!

According to this—explains Zera Shimshon—we can now understand how it can be that tzaraas atones for lashon hara, even though it is also written that there is no remedy for one who speaks lashon hara. A person who was stricken with tzaraas has to move out of the city where he lived until the tzaraas heals and only then, can he return to his home and to his city. This means that goes into a temporary exile. Exile—we learnt—has the power to annul even a sealed verdict! Therefore, even though Dovid HaMelech declared through ruach hakodesh that anyone who speaks lashon hara is cut off (kareis) from the Jewish nation, this is only if he doesn’t go into exile. However, after he leaves his house and city for the whole purification process, he can be spared from the severe punishment.

(Zera Shimshon only explains how tzaraas atones for lashon hara. However, he doesn’t explain how the meil atones for lashon hara in a situation where the lashon hara wasn’t effective. I was thinking that—according to what he wrote—it can be explained that since the meil is bought from the money of all of klal Yisroel and not from only one individual, it is as if it is owned by everyone and, therefore, it has the power to atone like public prayer!)

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