Pearls of Rashi – Tazria

This week we read the Torah portion of Tazria. It discusses the consequence of speaking ill of another Jew; namely a skin discoloration called Tzora’as. When “diagnosed” as having this illness he is rendered spiritually impure. The level of his impurity is so severe that he is required to leave the “camp,” living in isolation.

Who could diagnose the Metzora, one stricken with this malady, and declare him impure? Not a dermatologist, but rather a Kohen. Our Parshah tells us that[1] “if one has a lesion on his skin … he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen, or to one of his sons the Kohanim.” Rashi cites the words “to Aharon etc.” and explains that “it is a Scriptural decree that the impurity of lesions and their purity do not come about except by the pronouncement of a Kohen[2].”

The Rambam clarifies this with the following words[3]. “Despite the fact that everyone is acceptable to assess blemishes, the designation of a person as impure or pure is dependent on a Kohen. If there is a Kohen who does not know how to assess lesions, a sage should observe them and instruct him to say ‘you are impure.’ The Kohen then says, ‘you are impure.’ If the sage tells him to say ‘you are pure,’ the Kohen says, ‘you are pure.’ If the sage says ‘isolate him,’ he isolates him. The pronouncement must be made by a Kohen because the Torah says[4], ‘their statements will determine every quarrel and every blemish.’ It makes no difference if the Kohen is a minor or intellectually or emotionally incapable. The sage instructs him, and he either releases him from the inspection process, or isolates him.”

This ruling is extremely difficult to understand. Why should the status of a Metzorah depend on a Kohen, even one who is totally incapable of making a decision on his own? The Metzorah is not rendered impure until the Kohen declares him so! Why should that be the case?

One explanation is that this is because a Kohen is commanded “to bless His nation Israel with love.” The fact that Hashem demands something of someone, demonstrates that he is capable of fulfilling it. We therefore see that Kohanim have innate love for their fellow Jews.

Who is capable of deciding that a Jew must be isolated from the entire community? Only one who truly loves his fellow Jew. Such a person will not rest until he exhausts every possible way according to Torah to declare his fellow Jew pure.

The lesson for each of us is obvious. Each of us must strive to be Kohanim, by dedicating our being to the service of Hashem. Then, we will truly be able to love our fellow as ourselves, and find the purity within them.

Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 27, Page 88

Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י בני משפחתו שיחיו

[1]. Our Parshah, Vayikroh 13:2.

[2]. Rash’s source is Toras Kohanim 13, 43.

[3]. See Rambam, Laws of the Impurity of a Metzorah Chapter 9, Paragraph 2.

[4]. Devorim 21:5.

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