This week's short vort...
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אָדָם כִּי יִהְיֶה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ שְׂאֵת אוֹ סַפַּחַת אוֹ בַהֶרֶת וְהָיָה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ לְנֶגַע צָרָעַת וְהוּבָא אֶל אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן אוֹ אֶל אַחַד מִבָּנָיו הַכֹּהֲנִים
If a person has on the skin of his flesh s’eis or sapachas or vaheres, and it will become a tsaraas affliction on the skin of his flesh, he should be brought to Aharon HaKohen or to one of his sons, the Kohanim (13:2)
The Tiferes Yisroel records that he once asked Rebbe Akiva Eiger why there is no such thing as tsoraas today. Rebbe Akiva Eiger answered that he too was puzzled by this question and he has never come up with a suitable answer.[1]
The Chofetz Chaim answers that we do in fact have tsaraas even today. However, unlike the tsaraas of the times of the Beis Hamikdash where a Kohen could pronounce a blemish pure or impure, tsaraas today does not afflict one’s body; instead it attaches itself and afflicts only one’s soul!

The Chofetz Chaim explains that someone who speaks lashon hara may not see any change to his body while he is still alive, but after his death when he is separated from his body, his soul will have nothing to hide the terrible blemishes of tsaraas that his lashon hara caused. Furthermore, there is no greater disgrace and embarrassment that a soul can face, and such a blemished soul will surely not be permitted into Gan Eden, and will instead be forced to stay alone.[2]

The Chofetz Chaim’s words are terrifying, especially considering the fact that today we seemingly do not have any means of becoming purified from tsaraas since we do not have a Kohen or a Beis Hamikdash. Moreover, the Gemora tells us that to some degree everyone has transgressed the prohibition of improper speech;[3] therefore, according to the Chofetz Chaim’s words it would seem that everyone will be sitting outside of Gan Eden without any means of rectification!?

The answer to this question is that whereas in the past, the people needed to suffer from their tsaraas and then a Kohen would be required to declare their purity once the tsaraas had gone, today, explains the Chofetz Chaim, all we need is teshuva.[4]

Therefore, although it seems that since we do not see our tsaraas we are in a worse position than in the days of the Beis Hamikdash, in fact, we have an opportunity that they didn’t. By doing teshuva for speaking lashon hara and a commitment not to speak it in the future we can quite literally guarantee our places in the World to Come without the suffering that the Jewish People used to face as a result of becoming afflicted with physical tsaraas.[5]

May we all merit to reach this level.

[1] See the final paragraph in Mareh Kohen, the Tiferes Yisroel’s introduction to the Mishnayos of Nega’im (39) where he answers that since we do not know with certainty who is a Kohen nowadays, we may not shave our hair (or even burn our clothes) based on his declaration that a blemish is indeed tsaraas. This however only answers why we do not act to remove tsaraas today, it does not necessarily answer why tsaraas does not come anyway.
[2] Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Shmiras Halashon, chapter 6.
[3] Bava Basra 165a. Also, see an explanation of the Gemora’s words in Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Hilchos Lashon Hara chapter 9.
[4] However, see the last paragraph of Chapter 6 of Sefer Shmiras Halashon, where the Chofetz Chaim quotes the Sefer Hakaneh that today we do suffer from speaking lashon hara in the form of poverty!
[5] The Gemora relates the story of Rebbe Elazar Ben Durdaya who was a terrible sinner, yet through sincere teshuva of one moment’s contemplation he was accepted in the World to Come. (Avoda Zara 17a.)
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Regards from Yerushalayim
Moishe Kormornick
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