Category Archives: Parshas Metzorah

Parshas Metzora – Shabbos HaGadol: Just Have Faith!

Parshas Metzora – Shabbos HaGadol

Just Have Faith!

“Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, “In the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house.” (Exodus 12:3)

The Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Shabbos. 

What is the reason that this Shabbos is called the Great Shabbos?

The Tur (chapter 430) says that on the 10th day of the month of Nisan the Jews were commanded to take a sheep and set it aside for the Korban Pesach (Pesach offering). The head of each family took a sheep and tied it to the foot of his bed. Each one did this knowing that the sheep was the god of the Egyptians. Their act of bravery showed their total faith in Hashem. When the Egyptians saw what the Jews were doing, they asked, “What are you doing with these sheep?” “We are putting them aside in order to slaughter them as an offering for Hashem” the Jews replied. The Egyptians were enraged at the idea that their god was going to be sacrificed. Hashem performed a great miracle, and the Egyptians were powerless to stop the Jews. The Egyptians were also powerless to even express their anger.

Rabbi Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff ( quotes the Chiddushei HaRim and the Sfas Emes who give a different answer as to why this Shabbos is called Shabbos Hagadol. They say that there are three other instances in which the word “gadol” was used. We can conclude from those other contexts what Chazal, our Rabbis of blessed memory, may have had in mind when they used the word “gadol” by Shabbos HaGadol.

One of those instances is the term “Anshei Kenesses HaGedola” — the men of the Great Assembly. This term refers to our Torah leaders in the early years of the Second Beis HaMikdash. The Talmud (Yoma 69B) explains that the assembly was called “Gedola”, Great, because they restored Hashem’s crown to its former glory. How did they restore it?

Moshe Rabbeinu referred to Hashem (Devarim 10:17) as “HaGadol, HaGibor, VehaNorah”, “the Great, the Mighty, and the Awesome”. Later generations could not in all honesty apply those words to Hashem. Yirmiyahu, the prophet, witnessed the Babylonians desecrating the Beis HaMikdash, and asked: “Where is Hashem’s awesomeness?” Seeing no sign of Hashem as being awesome, he deleted the word “VehaNorah”. Yirmiyahu (32:18) referred to Hashem only as “HaGadol, HaGibor”.

When the prophet, Daniel, saw how the Babylonians oppressed their Jewish captives, he asked: “Where is Hashem’s might?” Seeing no evidence of Hashem’s “might,” Daniel deleted the word “HaGibor” and referred to Hashem (Daniel, 9:4) only as: “HaGadol Vehanora”.

The Anshei Kenneses HaGedola said that, on the contrary, what the Jews witnessed was, in fact, powerful evidence of Hashem’s might and awesomeness. Were it not for His great might, He would not have been able to stand by as His people were oppressed. And were it not for His awesomeness, the Jewish people would have ceased to exist. Thus, interpreting the evidence differently, the Anshei Kenesses HaGedola recognized that Hashem is indeed mighty and awesome. Therefore, they reinserted the attributes of “HaGibor VeHanora” into our understanding of Hashem. To this day, we say all those words in the first bracha of Shmone Esrei. That was indeed “restoring Hashem’s crown to its former glory”!

The Sfas Emes sums this up and explains that the word “gadol” (as in “Shabbos HaGadol”) refers to the ability to see through apparent reality and to perceive Hashem’s Omnipresence. Our ancestors demonstrated this ability in Egypt when they dared to prepare the deity of their former masters for slaughter. That action required personal bravery.

The Bach (on the Tur 430) asks a very insightful question. We always celebrate a Yom Tov on its calendar date because that date is infused with a special spirituality in every year that follows. If so, why is the miracle that occurred in Egypt on the 10th of Nisan associated annually with the Shabbos before Pesach and not with the 10th of Nisan when this event took place?  True, the miracle occurred on Shabbos of that year, but wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to designate the 10th day of Nisan, no matter when it falls, as the day of commemoration?

Sefer Hatoda’ah explains that the miracle only transpired because it was Shabbos! Normally, there would have been nothing so unusual about the Jews putting sheep aside. What caught the Egyptians’ eyes was that it was Shabbos, and they knew that the Jews were forbidden to handle the live animals on Shabbos. The Egyptians were curious, and questioned what the Jews did. That is how the miracle came about. Thus, the miracle is attributed to Shabbos. 

Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair says that each of the 10 plagues halted, temporarily, on Shabbos. The 10th of Nisan occurred during the plague of Darkness. Had the Jews walked their sheep through the street any day other than Shabbos, the Egyptians would not have seen them. There would not have been a miracle. Thus, it was only due to Shabbos that the miracle occurred.

The Sfas Emes says that the act of taking the lambs in readiness for a sacrifice was considered as if the Jews had observed Shabbos! The basic idea expressed in observing Shabbos is the acknowledgement that Hashem created the world in six days. By taking the lambs, the Jews rejected idolatry and accepted Hashem. This was not merely an action which took place on the tenth of Nisan. This was a watershed of Jewish history. The Jews had joined Hashem in a Shabbos! (Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff)

When our ancestors in Egypt took the sheep, the Egyptian god, to sacrifice, it was suicidal! Their Egyptian masters should have slaughtered the Jews.  The Jews showed total faith in Hashem and Hashem protected them.

The Final Redemption will mirror the redemption from Egypt. May we all reach the level of total faith in Hashem. May that herald Hashem’s performance of miracles for us.

May that herald the arrival of Eliyah HaNavi and the ultimate redemption with the coming of Moshiach.


Parshas Tazria- Metzora: This Cloud had a Silver Lining!

Parshas Tazria- Metzora

This Cloud had a Silver Lining!


“When you will come into the land of Canaan that I will give to you for a possession, and I shall put the plague of tzora’as in the house of the land of your possession.” (Vayikra 14:34)

Once, Eliyahu HaNavi, the prophet, was met by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi. Rabbi Yehoshua begged Eliyahu HaNavi to take him along on his journey. Eliyahu HaNavi agreed on the condition that Rabbi Yehoshua was not permitted to question his actions. They began their travels. Towards evening, they came to an old, shaky hut belonging to a poor couple. Both the man and his wife welcomed the strangers to their humble home, sharing their meager food and giving their own beds for their guests to rest. Their cow was their only valuable possession, for its milk was their sole source of income. In the morning, after thanking the kindly couple, Eliyahu HaNavi prayed that the couple’s cow should die. It did. Rabbi Yehoshua was terribly shocked. He wanted to speak-up but remembered that he was not permitted to question Eliyahu HaNavi’s actions. The next night, they came to a fine mansion and asked permission to spend the night there. The rich owner was not welcoming. After much begging by the travelers, he begrudgingly permitted them to stay in the barn with the animals. In the morning, Eliyahu HaNavi noticed a crumbling wall near the rich man’s house. Eliyahu HaNavi fixed it so well that it would last for a long time. Rabbi Yehoshua was perplexed why Eliyahu HaNavi had done a favor for the unkind rich man. They continued their travels. Rabbi Yehoshua was perturbed by many of Eliyahu HaNavi’s actions. Finally, Rabbi Yehoshua was no longer able to control himself. “It seems to me that you reward good with evil, and evil with good. Please explain to me your strange ways.” Eliyahu HaNavi explained that the poor old couple who had treated them so nicely on the first night of our journey, certainly deserved their gratitude. Eliyahu HaNavi saw that that the woman was destined to die that day. He prayed to Hashem that she should live, and that their cow should die in her place. “What about that rich miser, and his cracked wall?”  Eliyahu answered, “There was a huge treasure buried beneath the wall. Had it collapsed, the miser would have found it and he did not deserve it. Before Eliyahu took leave of Rabbi Yehoshua, he told him that people should not be disheartened when they see the wicked prosper, or the righteous suffer. For while man judges by the sight of his eyes, Hashem looks into the heart, and He rules the world with justice and mercy.” (A Treasury of Judaism by Philip Birnbaum)

Hashem told Moshe and Aharon to tell the Jews that when they enter the Land of Israel, their houses will be plagued by tzora’as. The tzora’as will be manifest by colors of deep green or deep red on the walls. If the tzora’as would remain for one week, then the stones which contained those colors would need to be removed from the house and would need to be taken outside the city. The mortar on the house would need to be scraped clean and new stones would need to be put in its place. If the colors would return the following week, then the entire house would be demolished, and the stones would be taken outside the city.

Rashi and the Ohr HaChaim quoting the Midrash Rabba (Vayikra 17:6), explain that it was good news when the plague of “tzora’as” appeared on a person’s home. How did the Midrash know that it was good news? The Torah Temimah elaborates on the Ohr HaChaim’s explanation. When the Torah described the plague of tzora’as on a person’s body it says, “When there is a plague of tzora’as on a person” (Vayikra 13:9). When the Torah described the plague of tzora’as on a person’s clothing it says, “When there is a plague of tzora’as in a garment” (Vayikra 13:47). However, when describing the plague of tzora’as on a person’s house, the Torah changed the wording. It does not say, “When there is a plague of tzora’as on a person’s house”. Rather, it says, “וְנָתַתִּי“, that Hashem will put (give) the plague of tzora’as on the house. The Torah Temimah continues that the word “וְנָתַתִּי“usually refers to Hashem giving something good: As in, “I [Hashem] will give rains in its time”, “I [Hashem] will give peace in the land”, “I [Hashem] will bring salvation to Zion.”

So, what was good about the fact that the house was demolished due to the plague of tzora’as?

Rashi and the Ohr HaChaim answer that during the whole 40 years that the Jews were in the desert, the Canaanites and Amorites concealed treasures of gold in the walls of their houses. They knew that the Jewish People would be entering the Land of Israel and would conquer it from them. They hid their treasures to prevent the Jews from finding them. When the Jews conquered the land, they found the hidden treasures only because their homes were demolished because of tzora’as. Thus, the plague of tzora’as turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it resulted in the Jews becoming very rich.

The Sifsei Chachamim asks, if so, what was the purpose of a plague of tzora’as in the case in which the tzora’as disappeared after one week? In that case, the home was not destroyed! Furthermore, according to the Talmud (Arachin 16A) it seems that the tzora’as was a punishment and not an act of kindness! The Talmud says that one of the causes of the plague of tzora’as was as a punishment for stinginess. A person would ask his neighbor to borrow some wheat. The neighbor would reply, “I don’t have any.”  A woman would ask her neighbor to borrow a strainer.  The neighbor would reply, “I don’t have one.”  As a punishment for this stinginess, Hashem brought the plague of tzora’as on the house. While the person was bringing out their possessions to prevent them from becoming tamei, impure, the people will see, and say, “Didn’t they say that they didn’t have what I had asked for? Look, they do have it!”

The Sifsei Chachamim bridges these two explanations, by saying that one question can answer the other. Certainly, the plague on the house came because of a transgression. However, Hashem graciously made it possible that sometimes good would come out of the punishment. Sometimes, the Jewish homeowner would find the hidden treasures.

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (as quoted in Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissacha Dov Rubin) offers a different answer. Rav Moshe zt”l questioned why sinners would be worthy of finding the hidden wealth. “How is it conceivable that specifically those who are guilty of stinginess are granted such reward?” Furthermore, “Why is their reward directly connected to the punishment that they receive because of their flawed character?!”

Rav Moshe zt”l answered that had the man not been a sinner, he would have discovered the treasures without having to break the walls of his house. However, when he finds the treasures only because he had sinned and had to destroy his house, it will be an embarrassment to him. That embarrassment will cause him to improve his ways, if only to avoid being placed into this position in the future.

Sometimes there is a “silver-lining in a dark cloud”.

What may appear to us to be bad may actually be the source of much blessing from Hashem in our lives.