Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger

Repair the Past, Dedicate the Future

The lesion has begun to fade and the turmoil of several weeks looks like it is starting to settle. The visits of the kohen, the ongoing scrutiny of the skin spots, and of course the loneliness and accompanying introspection of the days of censure will soon be behind him. That is the context of the opening of Parshas Metzora which describes the metzora's journey back to the community.

However a careful reading of the parsha reveals that he is reabsorbed in two distinct phases. In the first step the kohen uses a chattering bird together with a cedar stick and grass to sprinkle the metzora with the blood of another bird. Now he can come back to his old neighborhood. Nevertheless the Torah is very clear that he is not ready to rejoin his family fully until seven days later when he brings a full set of korbanos. Only then does he get to return "home".

Why the two stages? Is the community more forgiving and accepting than his own wife and children? After all, isn't loshon hora and arrogance more likely to disrupt and damage the community, much more so than the peacefulness within his own four walls?

Furthermore Rashi points out the relevance of birds that are known for their chattering and the cedars that represent arrogance while the silent grass stands humbly. These symbols combine as the goal of the teshuva process that should have been crafted by his days of censure and aloneness and without which, he is not welcome back into the camp. At this point he has had to confront the ill feelings, the threatened friendships or marriages, the shame or derision that his arrogant and hasty chattering may have caused. All of that is step one.

Perhaps before reentering his private life, the metzora is asked to realize that his own home has failed in nurturing happiness and real accomplishments. Surely a person, who derives pleasure and satisfaction from deriding others, must be either sorely lacking in his own sense of self worth or untrained in taking pleasure from his own strengths and accomplishments. Thus I would suggest that the next seven days, similar to the first seven of the communal mishkan, are days of dedication. During this period of time while he is waiting and sacrificing, sprinkled and groomed, the metzora focuses on the future, not on the damage of the past. "Outside of his own home" he tries to envision a home that takes great pride in the Torah studied therein, in the warmth of the relationships that it nurtured and ultimately in the nachas that Hashem has in being welcomed within it.

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