Parshas Tazria – The Three Levels of Tzraos

In this week’s Parshiyos, we learn about the various types of Tzaraos. There are three types, of the person, of clothing, and of a building. If we examine these three categories, they are the complete existence of a person. The Tzaraos of the building is outer protection of humanity. Clothing is the innermost; and of the person is his own essence. This idea is found in various places, and I would like to try to clarify it.

In various sources this idea is mentioned. The Maharal (נתיבות עולם נציב העבודה פרק ט”ו) defines these three ideas in the concept of three Mitzvoth; Tefilin, Tzitzit, and Mezuzah. The Tefilin represent the body. The Parshiyos are attached to the person, and the name of HaShem is inscribed on the person. [The name of HaShem of the Tefilon is Shadai. The Shin is on the front of the Tefilin shel Rosh. The Dalet is the knot at the back of the Tefilin shel Rosh. The Yud is the knot of the Tefilin shel Yad. Having them in their bag does not make a name of HaShem, since they are disconnected. Only when they are put on the body of the person do they join together into a name of HaShem. Then the person’s body itself becomes holy as the parchment upon which Torah is written.]

The Tzitzit are holiness of the clothing. Specifically the Techelet are the sign of connection to the Kisa HaKavod. As the Maharal writes, the article of clothing is in the shape of the person, but the strings which extend beyond the body, to connect to holiness.

The home has the Mezuzah. In the Gemarra a person’s wife is also called his home. This is the completion of a person. When he has a home and a place to live, it is not enough that it is physically complete, but needs a spiritual completion. This is the Mezuzah which has the Parsha of Shema in it. This is declaration of subservience to HaShem, that is meant to permeate the home. With all three of these man is complete.

The Megaleh Amukos (in this week’s Parsha) brings this idea in the context of this week’s Parsha. He writes that till we had brought this three levels from the impurity of Egypt to holiness, we could not leave. The Mechilta says, “The waters were a wall for them on their right and left. The right is Mezuzah and the left is Tefilin.” Thus we see that they left Egypt and were saved from these two Mitzvoth. The clothing and Tzitzis are not mentioned. I think there are two possible answers. One, is the clothing of Klal Yisroel was already holy, since they never allowed themselves to wear Egyptian’s clothing. The other, is exactly the opposite.

The Aron is gold both inside and out, to show that a Talmid Chochom is meant to be completely gold. If so, why is the middle wood? I think the answer is that to be completely gold is extremely difficult and the Torah recognizes that. Therefore, the Torah says that so long as the interior desire is to be gold, and the actions are gold; if in the middle we have doubts and battles, one is till a Talmid Chochom. Leaving Egypt, we were still unformed as a people. Says HaShem, if I wait for you to be complete in all three of these levels, you will never leave. So long as the inner and outer levels are good, we can work on the process as we travel toward to Eretz Yisroel.

There is one more place that I would like to bring where this idea is expressed. In the rebellion of Korach, he begins by defying the authority of Moshe. In most sources the challenges are two. One is if I have a room full of Sifrei Torah does it need a Mezuzah. The second is if I have an article of clothing made completely of Techeles, does it need Tzitzit. We see he is using two of our three levels. But where is the third?

In the Yerushalmi in the beginning of the tenth Perek of Sanhedrin, there is a third challenge. If a small lesion of Tzoraos makes one Tameh, why if the entire body is covered is one Tahor?

The challenge of Korach is to the leadership and authority of Moshe. People always desire autonomy. One of the greatest challenges of Kabolos Ol Malchus Shamayim is that we are subservient. This si not a childish desire to be unconstrained. We are created in the image of HaShem. HaShem is completely unfettered. The greatest sacrifice that HaShem wants is that we give up our autonomy, and place it in His hands.

Since there are three areas which define a person, we could possibly suffice with being untied in any one of them. Korach as the representative of this desire to be free, challenges all three. If he would have been able to find freedom in any one, then he would not need to rebel. In the same vein, a Metzorah wants to not be responsible for his actions and their impact on others. The Torah requires us to reach that level of freedom from the desire to be free. We are given Tefillin , Tzitzis and Mezuzah to reach that. But if we do not, then this week’s Parsha is the result.


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