Former Shaliach in Greater Washington
As this year is a leap year, Parashot Tezriah and Metzorah are read on consecutive weeks instead of being read on the same week. As a result we have the opportunity to look into each Parasha separately and in more depth. Both Parashot are filled with complex details, some of which are not even relevant to our lives today. We need to take more time to look into the deeper meanings of the context in order to discover how we can relate them to our every day lives.
The name of our Parasha relates to the topic of half of what it deals with – Leprosy. From many sources we know that leprosy is punishment for the sin of Lashon Hara (slander). We learn this from Rashi’s comments when Miriam speaks slander against Moshe’s wife, and from many other sources of our Sages. The Chafets Chaim says that the cure for leprosy is not by a doctor but by a Cohen, as it is a sin of talking, and the sinner will not be cured until the Cohen classifies him as Tahor (pure). The sinner sees the power of speech and understands that “life and death are in control of the tongue” [Gemarah in Masechet Erchin].
Lets look now at what the Torah tells us the leper has to do in order to be cured and thus pure. In Perek 14 Pasuk 4, it says that he must bring as a Korban two birds to atone for his sin. One must ask himself why does he have to bring birds? This is answered by Rashi. He says that since leprosy is a result of evil chatter, the endless chirpring of birds, who do not ‘speak’ because they need to but just for the sake of it, it symbolizes just that, i.e.: the misuse of that power of speech and of slander.
One must then ask himself why must two birds be brought to the Cohen? Why isn’t one enough? The Torah commands us sacrifice one bird and that the other one be sent “over the fields”. What is the meaning behind that? We know that the idea behind the Korbanot of atonement is that the animal we sacrifice comes in our stead. We are the ones who should have been sacrificed, and G-d gave us the opportunity to atone for our sins and continue living. The Gemarah in Masechet Erchin tells us that if only one bird was brought and sacrificed, the sinner would have learned from it that all kinds of speech are evil, and he should act as a mute for the rest of his life. But there are other kinds of speech which are good and beneficial, such as Torah learning. The second bird symbolizes that, and gives the sinner the complete and correct way to view and outlook on the power of speech.
The last question that arises is why does the Torah specifically tell us that the remaining live bird has to be sent over the fields? Why not in the city or any other place? The Gemarah in Eiruvin says that the sending of the bird over the fields comes to show us the importance of learning. In the fields you can find the Talmidey Chachamim who work there but still make sure they have time for learning. It shows us the importance of learning. Learning when you have all the time in the world and no other worries or distractions is not very hard. But when you have to work, support yourself and take care of so many other day to day things, the time that you dedicate for learning torah is very significant. This is what the sinner has to see and try and follow.
Wishing you all Pesach Kasher Ve Sameach.