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אחרי מות שני בני אהרון... והיתה זאת לכם לחקת עולם לכפר על בני ישראל

After the death of Aharon’s sons… This shall be to you an eternal decree to bring atonement upon Bnei Yisrael. (16:1,34)

The Yalkut Shemoni (Shmuel 2:155) teaches: “On the first of Nissan, the sons of Aharon (HaKohen) just died. Why does the Torah record their passing juxtaposed upon the laws of the Yom Kippur service? This teaches that just as Yom Kippur serves as an atonement, so, too, do the deaths of the righteous (expiate the sinful acts of Klal Yisrael). Why is the death of Miriam HaNeviyah juxtaposed upon the laws of Parah Adumah? This teaches that just as the ashes of Parah Adumah purify one from ritual contamination, so, too, does missas tzaddikim, the death of tzaddikim, atone.” What…

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בקרבתם לפני ד' וימותו

When they approached before Hashem, and they died. (16:1)

Chazal (Vayikra Rabbah 20:6; Eiruvin 63a) enumerate a number of errors/sins attributed to Nadav and Avihu which precipitated their tragic, untimely deaths. One of these infractions is moreh halachah bifnei rabbo; “renders a halachic ruling in the presence of his rebbe” (in this case, Moshe Rabbeinu). We have no question that to paskin, rule halachically, in front of his rebbe is disrespectful and interrupts the chain of transmission/Mesorah from Sinai, but does it warrant such a devastating punishment? Furthermore, the Torah alludes to the reason for their deaths. B’karvasam lifnei Hashem va’yamussu, “When they approached before Hashem and they died.”…

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ומאת עדת בני ישראל יקח שני שעירי עזים לחטאת

From the assembly of Bnei Yisrael, he shall take two he-goats for a sin-offering. (16:5)

Actually, only one of the he-goats was used as a sin-offering. The other one was sent into the wilderness to Azazel. Why does the Torah refer to them both as a chatas? Horav Zev Weinberger, zl (Shemen HaTov), explains that both he-goats were selected (almost) simultaneously, with a requirement that their appearances resemble one another. At first, they were both potentially a sin-offering. Ultimately, only one “makes it,” because the other one was selected to be a Korban l’Azazel. A powerful lesson to be derived herein. We see that it is not one’s direct personal achievements that carry weight, but…

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וחי בהם

By which he shall live. (18:5)

If one cannot/does not live bahem, in them (Torah and mitzvos), he has no life; he is not living in the true sense of the word. A life without purpose is not living. Torah gives purpose to life. The Chiddushei HaRim interprets the enjoinment of V’chai bahem as an exhortation to live through mitzvah performance; mitzvos should be alive, our primary sense of joy, through which we enthusiastically live life to the fullest by observing mitzvos to perfection. Anyone who has ever davened well, studied through a difficult blatt, page, of Gemorah will attest to such an ecstatic, rapt feeling….

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זאת תהיה תורת המצרע

This shall be the law of the metzora. (14:2)

We are under the impression that the barometer which determines the quality of a friendship is time spent together socially, in conversation and the frequency of communication. Conversely, one who has no external relationship, does not visit or go out to lunch/dinner, manifests limited communication, is not much of a friend. Horav Eliyahu Svei, zl, cites the Midrash Mishlei (12) that sheds a different light on the criteria for meaningful friendship. Shlomo Hamelech says, Mirmah b’lev choshvei ra, u’l’yoatzei shalom simchah, “There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but, for the counselors of peace, there is…

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זאת תהיה תורת המצרע

This shall be the law of the metzora. (14:2)

The metzora is one who is ritually contaminated due to a physical manifestation of a spiritually-induced disease, sort of a spiritual leprosy. The term metzora is an acronym for motzi shem ra, “one who brings forth a bad name” (Arachin 15), engages in evil, slanderous, vulgar speech. It is a broad term which applies to one who uses his mouth to disparage and hurt others. It is not, however, always about vulgarity and disparaging; it is about decency and sanctity, recognizing that the power of speech is a gift from G-d, which is meant to distinguish us from animals. Speech…

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ונתתי נגע צרעת בבית ארץ אחזתכם... ונתץ את הבית את אבניו ואת עציו ואת כל עפר הבית

When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I gave you as a possession… He shall demolish the house – its stones, its timber, and all the mortar of the house. (14:34,45)

A balance must be maintained between reward and punishment. With regard to nigei batim, an affliction that strikes a house, the owner must call the Kohen to determine if, in fact, it is tamei, ritually contaminated. Prior to making his tamei pronouncement, the Kohen orders that everything be removed from the house, which must now be demolished. Otherwise, whatever is in the house will be declared tamei as well. The lesson we derive from here is that the punishment one administers should not be overly aggressive, certainly not more noteworthy than the infraction. A balance should exist. Prior to punishing…

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והגיד לכהן לאמר כנגע נראה לי בבית

And declare to the Kohen, saying: “Something like an affliction appeared to me in the house.” (14:35)

Chazal (Arachin 16a) teach that leprous (spiritually induced) marks (tzaraas) afflict a person for seven sinful matters: malicious speech; bloodshed; an oath taken in vain; immoral prohibited relations; arrogance/vulgarity; theft; stinginess. (I have taken the liberty of translating gasus ha’ruach as both arrogance and vulgarity, because the arrogant person is vulgar – even if he does not realize it.) The Tosefta (Negaim 6:6) interprets the word leimor, saying (in the above pasuk), as applying to the Kohen; he says to the afflicted person: “Go home and introspect your actions/behavior and repent your ways, because the tzaraas affliction is only visited…

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וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו

On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (12:3)

The eighth day following birth plays a critical role concerning both a human male and a sacrifice. It also is the day that the Kohanim were inducted into service at the Sanctuary. [Aharon and his sons were instructed to wait in the Ohel Moed for seven full days while Moshe Rabbeinu performed the inauguration service. The inauguration service concluded with the induction of Aharon and his sons as Kohanim on the eighth day.] What is so special about the eighth day? Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, cites the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 27:10) which states that both an animal and a human…

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והובא אל אהרן הכהן או אל אחד מבניו הכהנים

He shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen, or to one of his sons the Kohanim. (13:2)

Aharon HaKohen was destined to live another forty years at the most. The chances are that in the future the metzora will present himself to one of Aharon’s descendants. Why is Aharon mentioned here for posterity, when, in fact, his tenure was short? The Tiferes Shlomo explains that the achievements of tzaddikim inspire for generations to come – long after they have left this world. He relates an incident that occurred concerning the Arizal, one time when he was sitting surrounded by his students. In came Horav Shmuel DiOzida, zl, author of the Midrash Shmuel, who was a young man…

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