Please Learn in the Merit of:

Please learn for the merit of a complete recovery for the following individuals:

Ya'akov Don ben Esther Ahuvah Sharona
Avraham Yishayahu ben Aviva
Perel Leah bas Sima

Please learn in the merit/memory of Eyal ben Uriel, Gil-Ad Michael ben Ophir, Ya'akov Naftali ben Avraham, and Alter Aryeh Leib Reuven ben Sima

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shmiras HaLashon א שבט - Shevat 1 - One-Hundred-and-Twentieth Day

© 2007 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Incidental [to the previous teaching regarding the obligation to remember Miriam’s punishment for having spoken Lashon HaRa concerning Moshe], we shall thoroughly explain [the] pasuk [dealing with the circumstances of Miriam’s punishment. As a result of this thorough explanation], all thinking people will recognize the truth of our words [when we teach that remembering the incident involving Miriam will greatly assist that person in rescuing himself from the sin of Lashon HaRa. Our explanation of this pasuk involves the following] four matters which The Holy Torah elucidates for us in reference to the mitzvah of remembering [Miriam’s punishment]:

1) “Remember that which [HaShem, your G-d] did…”[1] – That being that which [HaShem] did [to Miriam by punishing her with the tzara’as affliction for her having spoken Lashon HaRa].[2]

2) To whom did [HaShem punish with the tzara’as affliction]? “To Miriam”.

3) [Where] did [HaShem punish Miriam]? – “On the path”.

4) At what time did this incident [of Miriam being afflicted with tzara’as] occur? – [Miriam was afflicted with tzara’as at the time] “when you were leaving Egypt”.

What [practical teaching] is The Torah setting aside for us by mentioning these four [details]?

1) What practical difference is there for us if it was another punishment [instead of] the tzara’as affliction, [that Miriam suffered]?

2) [Furthermore, what difference is there] if this matter occurred to Miriam or to another person?

3) [Additionally, what is the significance concerning whether Miriam was afflicted with tzara’as] in the house or on the path?

4) [Moreover, what difference is there concerning whether Miriam’s tzara’as affliction] occurred at another time [rather than] at the time of their departure from Egypt?

Indeed, these four details [related to the circumstances under which Miriam was afflicted with tzara’as], are necessary to remember, and are of great benefit to one who contemplates [concerning] them. For this [reason, in the context of Miriam’s punishment], it is written, “Remember that which [HaShem] did…”, that being that [the person] will contemplate [concerning] the great punishment that was [inflicted] upon [Miriam] as a consequence of her having spoken [Lashon HaRa] concerning Moshe Rabbeinu, Alav HaShalom, [her] punishment being the tzara’as [affliction], it being an exceedingly severe punishment. [Concerning the tzara’as affliction], it is impossible to be cured [of] it, unless The Holy One, Blessed is He, interacts with [the person in a manner which] surpasses the [course] of nature, and He will [consequently] heal [the afflicted individual] in a miraculous manner. [The above] follows that which was taught in “Midrash Rabbah” (Vayikra Rabbah: Parsha 16, 9), as follows]: ““And the kohen shall command, and the one bird[3] shall be slaughtered…”[4] (Vayikra: 14; 5) “Why does [the person] slaughter one [of the birds] and allow [one of the birds to live]? [The above comes to] inform you [that] just as it is impossible for the slaughtered [bird] to return, [similarly, it is impossible for [the] tzara’as afflictions to return to where it came from].”[5] [Furthermore], the impurity [of the mitzora] is exceedingly severe, for he is required to sit outside of the three camps, this not being the case [with respect to] the other types of impure people. Additionally, [the mitzora] makes all of those who enter his tent impure, as is written in the pasuk. ([The fact that the mitzora causes all of those who enter his tent to become impure], hints [to us] that all those who associate with the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa will become impure as he is, [as they will similarly be afflicted with tzara’as as they will also come to relate Lashon HaRa]). [The mitzora] is also considered like one who is dead, as our Sages of Blessed Memory have said [in masechesNidarim” (64b)[6]].

[In order to distance the individual from Lashon HaRa], the pasuk states, “Remember that which [HaShem, your G-d], did [to Miriam]…” (Divarim: 24; 9) [Who was afflicted with tzara’as]? “…Miriam…” [was afflicted with tzara’as], she being a greatly righteous individual, in whose merit the well[7] ascended, in addition to being a prophetess, as is written “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took…”[8] (Shmos: 15; 20) [Furthermore, Miriam only spoke [Lashon HaRa] concerning her brother whom she loved [to the same degree that she loved] herself, [having] endangered herself to save him from the water [when he was a baby][9]. [Miriam] did not speak disparagingly of [Moshe], rather, she [spoke Lashon HaRa about Moshe while] comparing him to the other prophets[10], ([this teaching is based on that which] the RaMBa”M wrote in the end of Hilchos “Tumas Tzara’as” (Chapter 16; Halacha 10)). [Miriam also] did not speak in [Moshe’s] presence, [in which case he may have been] embarrassed, nor [did she speak] in public [concerning Moshe, rather, having limited that which she had spoken in reference to Moshe, to having taken place only] between herself and her holy brother [Aharon], in private, her intention [in having spoken with Aharon concerning Moshe being for the purpose] of [the proliferation of mankind[11]. Notwithstanding all of the above, Moshe] did not take any offense [concerning that which Miriam spoke against him], as it says, “And the man Moshe was exceedingly humble…”[12] (Bamidbar: 12; 3) Nevertheless, [even in light of all of the above, Miriam’s] good actions were of no benefit to her [in the context of her having spoken Lashon HaRa, as] she was [nonetheless] punished with tzara’as for [her involvement in Lashon HaRa]. [Where] was [Miriam] afflicted with the punishment [of tzara’as]? “…On the path…” (Divarim: 24; 9), [this comes to teach us that] the greatness of [Miriam’s] merits did not [benefit her by] by postponing [her punishment] until The Children of Israel came to encamp at a given place, for [if Miriam had instead been afflicted with tzara’as while The B’nei Yisrael were encamped], her punishment would not have been so apparent. However, now [that Miriam] was immediately punished [while The B’nei Yisrael were] on the path, as they were journeying, as is written, “…and the nation did not travel until Miriam was gathered [into the camp]”[13], (Bamidbar: 12; 15) the greatness of [Miriam’s] shame was made apparent to everyone, as it is written, “…would she not be ashamed…?”[14] (Bamidbar: 12; 14) At what time did the incident [of Miriam having spoken Lashon HaRa and her ensuing tzara’as affliction], occur? “…[A]t the time when you left Egypt.” (Divarim: 24; 9) [Miriam’s punishment occurred at the time that The B’nei Yisrael left Egypt], for the incident [occurred] at the beginning of the second year [after having] departed Egypt, [at which time] the greatness of the punishment that befalls [the person] for [involvement in the sin of Lashon HaRa] was still not known [to The B’nei Yisrael]. ([However, concerning] Moshe Rabbeinu, Alav HaShalom, [the tzara’as] was immediately removed from him [and therefore the punishment of tzara’as befalling one who speaks Lashon HaRa was not known to The B’nei Yisrael], as it is written, “…and, behold, it returned to being like his flesh.”[15] (Shmos: 4; 7)) [In contrast to the lack of awareness concerning the severity of the sin of Lashon HaRa at the time that The B’nei Yisrael departed Egypt], subsequent [to Miriam’s well-known punishment of tzara’as], at the time that [The B’nei Yisrael] needed to enter The Land [of Israel], and were corrupted through the Lashon HaRa [spoken by] the [ten] spies, the sin was much greater, for they had seen the punishment [inflicted upon] Miriam and did not take moral rebuke. Therefore, the Parsha of “Sh’lach” is juxtaposed with the Parsha [which discusses the incident] involving Miriam, [the above teaching follows] RaSh”I’s explanation [on that pasuk]. (Bamidbar: 13; 2)

[1] The entire pasuk reads, “Remember that which HaShem, your G-d, did to Miriam on the path when you left Egypt.” (Divraim: 24; 8 – 9)

[2] In seferChofetz Chaim” (Introduction – “Prohibitions”, sif 3), in his discussion concerning the prohibitions that the rocheil (talebearer) transgresses, the Chofetz Chaim writes, “…[Our Sages] have explained in “Sifrei”, that that which The Torah wrote “…to exceedingly guard…” (Devarim: 24; 8), [when discussing the tzara’as affliction], the intended [teaching is] that one should be careful to not forget to be careful [to avoid] Lashon HaRa, so that you will not [be afflicted with] tzara’as as a result of relating [the Lashon HaRa].”

In the “B’air Mayim Chaim”, the Chofetz Chaim’s notes on the main text of seferChofetz Chaim”, he notes that the reason that the teaching concerning the tzara’as affliction is taught in the context of the rocheil, is to teach us that aside from Lashon HaRa, the sin of rechilus also would result in the punishment of tzara’as. As proof of this, the gemara in masechesArachin” (16a), as RaSh”I explains, teaches that one suffers from tzara’as afflictions if his speech leads people to quarrel with one another. Talebearing is a sin which commonly leads to quarreling. In masechesSanhedrin” (106b), we learn that Doeg was afflicted with tzara’as, it being known that he was a rocheil. The Chofetz Chaim points out that we learn from the tzara’as of Miriam that a person could be afflicted with tzara’as even if they relate the Lashon HaRa in private. The Chofetz Chaim writes that if someone accepts the Lashon HaRa that was related as being true, but remains silent and thereby doesn’t assist the speaker in reference to the Lashon HaRa that he spoke, then there is a question whether such a person could be afflicted with tzara’as. From the above, we see that if someone accepts the Lashon HaRa and verbally assists the speaker, then he could be afflicted with tzara’as.

[3] In “Vayikra Rabbah” (Parsha 16; 7), we learn that a type of bird which is referred to as a “דרור” – “d’ror” is used in the purification process of the metzora. Rabbi Yehuda bar Simone teaches that the birds used for the metzora are a type of bird which regularly makes its voice heard, this being the case as a bird whose voice is always heard should atone for the metzora, who used his voice to sin by speaking Lashon HaRa. Therefore, HaShem commands us that such a bird is to be used for the metzora.

The RaMBa”N, on ParshasMetzora” (Vayikra: 14; 4), quoting Rabbi Yosi HaGalili, teaches us that the d’ror is a type of bird which lives in the field, outside of the city. Rabbi Ovadiah from Bartenura on maseches “N
ga’eem” (14; 1), explains that the d’ror lives in the house just as it lives in the field.

The process of purification for the metzora, among other things, requires that one of the birds be slaughtered, its blood being used toward purifying the metzora, while the other bird is left to fly free over the field.

Quoting masechesChullin” (62a), the RaMBa”N teaches that the “d’ror” does refer to one type of bird, though the “d’ror” birds which are kosher are to be used for the process. If another type of kosher bird is used in the process, the metzora is purified b’di avad (“b’di avad” refers to a situation where someone performed a certain halachic act in the way in which it should not initially be performed, if, after the fact, the person realizes his error, in some situations his action would be considered to be halachically acceptable, or “b’di avad”). In Modern Hebrew, “d’ror” is translated as “sparrow”. The “sparrow” is a kosher bird, which, if truly in the category of “d’ror” would be able to be used towards the purification of the metzora. However, if the sparrow is not halachically considered a “d’ror”, it would only work toward purification b’di avad.

Perhaps the fact that a bird which lives outside of habitated areas, is used in the purification process of the metzora, teaches us that this individual who spoke Lashon HaRa, is sent outside of the areas of human habitation for having spoken Lashon HaRa. The type of bird which is slaughtered also has the characteristic of making its voice heard. The speaker of Lashon HaRa should be careful with his voice so as not to potentially cause himself and others great harm, as can be learned from the slaughtering of one of the birds.

[4] The entire pasuk reads as follows:

“And the kohen shall command and he shall slaughter the one bird into an earthenware vessel, over the water of a spring.” (Vayikra: 14; 5)

[5] The entire teaching from “Vayikra Rabbah”, states as follows:

“Why does [the person] slaughter one [of the birds] and allow [one of the birds to live]? [The above comes to] inform you [that] just as it is impossible for the slaughtered [bird] to return, [similarly, it is impossible for [the] tzara’as afflictions to return to where it came from]. At that point in time, The Holy One, Blessed is He, calls to His legions, and says [to them], ‘It was not for no reason that I struck [this person with tzara’as afflictions], rather, “Due to his sin of theft, I became angry and struck him…”’ (Yeshayahu: 57; 17) Rabbi Abba, the son of Kahana said, ‘vomit returns to vomit’, as [it says in “Mishlei”], “As a dog who returns to his vomit, [so too is a fool who repeats his folly].” (Mishlei: 26; 11) Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, ‘the madman returns to his practice of insanity, as [it says in “Mishlei”], “…a fool repeats his folly.”’

“I have seen his ways [that he is submissive before Me (RaSh”I)], and I shall heal him, and I shall comfort him, and I shall provide compensation for him and for those who mourn for him.” (Yeshayahu: 57; 18) [“Those who mourn for him”] refers to [that person’s] limbs who are mourning for him.

“The Creator of the speech of the lips…” (Yeshayahu: 57; 19) Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, ‘If the person’s lips move in prayer, he will be promised that his prayer will be heard, as it says, “…You prepare their hearts, Your Ear shall listen attentively.” (Tehillim: 10; 17) Once he is unimpaired, he becomes pure from afar.’ Rabbi Huna and Rabbi Yudan [said] in the name of Rabbi Acha, ‘[The above refers to] a mitzora who was distant and was brought close. HaShem said, ‘And I shall heal him, I shall cure him for his sake’, as it says, “HaShem, cure me and I shall be healed, save me and I shall be saved…”” (Yirmiyahu: 17; 14)

[6] The gemara in masechesNidarim”, states as follows:

“We learn in a Barasia: Four people are considered to be like a dead person: One who is poor, [a] metzora, a blind person, and one who does not have any children. A poor person [is considered to be like one who is dead], as it is written, “…for all of the people [who are seeking your life] have died.” (Shmos: 4; 19) [This follows that which we learn earlier in the gemara, that according to Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, Dathan and Aviram are the one’s who the pasuk refers to when it says, “for all of the people… have died”. Reish Lakish explains that since Dathan and Aviram became impoverished, it is considered as if they had died.] A metzora [is considered to be like one who is dead], as it is written [in the pasuk where Aharon asks Moshe to pray on behalf of Miriam to be healed from her tzara’as affliction], “Do not let her be like a dead person…” (Bamidbar: 12; 12) One who is blind [is comparable to one who is dead], as it is written, “You have placed me in places of great darkness, like the dead of the world.” (Eichah: 3; 6) One who has no children [is considered to be as one who is dead], as it is written [in the context of Rachel speaking to Ya’akov concerning her not having had any children], “…‘Give me children, and if not, I am dead.” (B’reishis: 30; 1)

[7] In parshasChukas”, we read of Miriam’s death (Bamidbar: 20; 1), and in the next pasuk, we read that “…the people did not have water…” Based on this juxtaposition between Miriam’s death and the subsequent lack of water, RaSh”I comments that “[we learn] from here that [during] the entire forty-years [in the Sinai Desert, The B’nei Yisrael] had the well in the merit of Miriam.” (Ta’anis; 9a)

[8] This pasuk which mentions that Miriam was a prophetess, teaches us that at the time that HaShem split the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds, alternatively “Red Sea”) for The B’nei Yisrael when they were fleeing from the Egyptian army, Miriam went out to lead the women in song and dance in honor of HaShem, thanking Him for this great miracle in which He saved them from destruction at the hands of the Egyptian army. We see that at the time that Moshe was leading the men in song in honor of HaShem (Shmos: 15; 1), Miriam was leading the women in song. (15; 20) (See “Mechilta” and masechesSotah” (30b).)

The entire pasuk reads, “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the drum in her hand, and all of the women went out after her, with drums and with dancing.” (Shmos: 15; 20)

RaSh”I quoting Rabbi Nachman’s teaching from masechesSotah” (12b – 13a), notes that Miriam was a prophetess when she said that “In the future, my mother will give birth to the savior of Israel”. Rav Nachman points out that Miriam is referred to as “the sister of Aharon” in the pasuk which describes her as a prophetess because she prophesied before Moshe’s birth, when Aharon was her only brother.

According to the “Mechilta”, Miriam is referred to as the “sister of Aharon” because, at the time that Miriam was afflicted with tzara’as after having spoken Lashon HaRa concerning Moshe, Aharon spoke to Moshe on her behalf, asking him to intercede and ask HaShem to heal Miriam from her affliction. (Bamidbar: 12; 11 – 12)

[9] Miriam was involved in saving Moshe from the water when he was a baby and was in a basin, floating in the Nile River, at the time that Pharoh decreed that all male Jewish babies were to be killed. (Shmos: 1; 16) Miriam stood from a distance to watch Moshe. (Shmos: 2; 4) Miriam saw that the daughter of Pharoh came to the Nile and noticed Moshe. The women with her tried, unsuccessfully, to get Moshe to nurse from any one of a number of Egyptian women, which Moshe didn’t nurse from, as he would speak with HaShem’s Divine Presence in the future. (RaSh”I on Shmos (2; 7), quoting masechesSotah” (12b)) Miriam went to suggest that Moshe should be nursed by a Jewish woman, she being Yocheved, Moshe’s mother. Apparently, by watching Moshe and exposing herself to Pharoh’s daughter (and her handmaidens) in order to try to save Moshe, especially at the time that Pharoh’s decree was in force, Miriam was risking her life while trying to help save Moshe’s life.

[10] The RaMBa”M notes that Miriam made a mistake by comparing Moshe to the other prophets, as Moshe’s level of prophecy was superior to the level of prophecy attained by the other prophets.

Miriam compared Moshe to the other prophets when she said, “…‘Does HaShem only speak with Moshe, doesn’t He also speak with us…’” (Bamidbar: 12; 2)

Miriam’s point was that Moshe’s shouldn’t be any different from her and Aharon, and should therefore not separate from his wife, as they were also prophets and did not separate from their spouses. (Tanchuma: 96; 13)

HaShem then immediately appeared to Aharon and Miriam, since they had not separated from their respective spouses, they were impure and therefore unprepared to have HaShem speak with them, and were crying out “water, water” in order to purify themselves. (RaSh”I quoting “Tanchuma” on Bamidbar (12; 4)) This came to teach them that Moshe’s prophecy was unique and superior to their prophecy, as Moshe had to be prepared to speak with HaShem at any time and therefore had to be separated from his wife so that he would remain in a state of purity.

HaShem then explains to Aharon and Miriam concerning the uniqueness of Moshe’s prophecy, as follows:

“…‘If you will have prophets [amongst you], HaShem will make Himself known to them in a vision, I shall speak with [them] in a dream. This is not the case with My servant, Moshe, he is the most trustworthy in all of My House. I will speak with him mouth to mouth, [I speak with him] in a vision and not through riddles, and he shall stare at the form of HaShem…’” (Bamidbar: 12; 6 – 8)

RaSh”I, quoting “Sifrei”, explains that, as we learn in parshasKi Sisa”, Moshe sees the back of HaShem.

[11] The Hebrew phrase “לבנינו של עולם” literally means “for the building of the world” which, in this context, refers to procreation.

[12] The entire pasuk reads, “And the man, Moshe, was very humble, [more humble] than all people on the face of the Earth.” (Bamidbar: 12; 3)

The RaMBa”N, quoting the “Sifrei” (Piskah 100), quotes Rabbi Nathan, who says that Moshe was present at the time that Miriam spoke Lashon HaRa concerning him to Aharon. However, since Moshe was so humble, he covered over the matter. According to the other opinion quoted in the “Sifrei”, Miriam spoke Lashon HaRa only to Aharon. The RAMBa”N notes that the pasuk mentions Moshe’s humililty, since, according to the opinion that states that he was present, that he heard what they said, bore it, and didn’t respond to them, and HaShem was zealous on behalf of Moshe.

Perhaps due to Moshe's humility, he didn't feel like telling Miriam and Aharon that his prophecy was superior to theirs. Therefore, HaShem came and defended Moshe be explaining to them concerning Moshe's superior level of prophecy.

Keser Yonasan” explains that Moshe was not bothered by the Lashon HaRa that Miriam spoke to Aharon, concerning him.

[13] The entire pasuk reads, “And Miriam was confined outside of the camp for seven days, and The Nation did not travel until Miriam was gathering [into the camp].” (Bamidbar: 12; 15)

[14] The entire pasuk reads as follows:

“And HaShem said to Moshe, ‘And her father shall surely spit in her face, wouldn’t she be ashamed for seven days, she shall be confined for seven days from outside of the camp and afterwards she shall be gathered [into the camp].”

RaSh”I explains that if Miriam’s father would show her an angry countenance for some wrong that she had committed, wouldn’t she be embarrassed for seven days. Therefore, it is all the more-so the case that Miriam should be confined for seven days.

[15] The entire pasuk reads as follows:

“And He said, ‘Return your hand into your garment’, and [Moshe] returned his hand into his garment, and he [then] took [his hand] out of his garment, and behold, it returned to being like his flesh.” (Shmos: 4; 7)

The previous pasuk discusses HaShem’s command to Moshe to put his hand into his cloak. Once Moshe took his hand out of his cloak, his hand had tzara’as. (Shmos: 4; 3) RaSh”I notes that Moshe was afflicted with tzara’as for having spoken Lashon HaRa against The Jewish People by having said, in punishment for having said that The B’nei Yisrael would not believe him when he would tell them that HaShem revealed Himself to Moshe, (Shmos: 4; 1) when Moshe would come and relate to them that HaShem had revealed Himself to Moshe in order to tell them that they would be redeemed from Egypt. (Shmos: 3; 16 – 17) HaShem then told Moshe that The B’nei Yisrael would believe him when he would tell them that HaShem would take them out of Egypt. (Shmos: 3; 16 – 18) HaShem told Moshe that there was no need to doubt whether The B’nei Yisrael would believe him. Moshe shouldn’t have a doubt, for even if they wouldn’t initially believe Moshe, which wouldn’t be the case, as the “Or HaChaim” says (Shmos: 4; 8), however, the signs would be for Moshe, for even “if” The B’nei Yisrael “wouldn’t” initially believe him, once they would see Moshe perform the signs they would believe his message. (Shmos: 4; 8) As HaShem told Moshe, The B’nei Yisrael did believe Moshe when he related his message to them, subsequent to his having performed the signs. (Shmos: 4; 31) According to “Shmos Rabbah”, (Parsha 5; 13), The B’nei Yisrael believed Moshe that HaShem would redeem them, without the aid of the signs that Moshe performed. The B’nei Yisrael believed Moshe that HaShem would redeem them, as there was a secret sign that was passed down to them from Ya’akov, which Serach, the daughter of Asher, was aware of, that being that when someone would come to them and say the words “פקוד פקדתי אתכם” – “Pakod Pakadti Eschem” – “I have surely remembered you”, this was the person who would come to lead them to redemption. Once Moshe said that phrase to The B’nei Yisrael, they believed as is evident from the wording in the pasuk, “And The Nation believed, and they heard that HaShem had remembered The B’nei Yisrael, and they knelt and they bowed.” (Shmos: 4; 31) Since the pasuk states that The B’nei Yisrael heard that HaShem had remembered – “pakad” – them, they immediately believed Moshe that HaShem would redeem them.

Moshe’s punishment, as evident from the pesukim, was very brief. (Shmos: 4; 6 – 7) In the following instructs Moshe about performing the signs – the staff turning into a snake and turning back into a staff, and Moshe’s hand becoming stricken with tzara’as. The RaMBa”N teaches that the first sign, involving the snake, hinted to Moshe that he had spoken Lashon HaRa against The B’nei Yisrael, whereas the second one, where he was briefly stricken with tzara’as was as a punishment for his having spoken the Lashon HaRa. (Shmos: 4; 3) We learn that Moshe performed these signs in front of The B’nei Yisrael. However, as the Chofetz Chaim writes, since the punishment of tzara’as which The B’nei Yisrael witnessed occurred to Moshe, was immediately removed from him, they were not truly aware of the serious consequences for speaking Lashon HaRa. However, once Miriam was stricken with tzara’as for a week and was temporarily banished from the camp of The B’nei Yisrael, especially in such an obvious manner, when they were traveling, the seriousness of the punishment for speaking Lashon HaRa become known to The B’nei Yisrael.

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