(Leviticus 12:1-15:33) (Haftara: Melachim II, 7:3-20)

 (Pirkay Avot: Chapter 2) (Sfirat Ha’omer)

Introduction: One becomes tameh (impure) in a number of ways: touching a dead human body, having one’s monthly period for a woman, letting out semen for a man, a woman’s giving birth, etc.  Becoming tameh basically means that there are holy activities that one may not do: entering the Temple area, eating the Kohen’s portion and so on. The skin disease of tzara’at is understood to come about as a result of speaking “lashon hara”—saying something bad about someone without any constructive purpose.

1. [13:2 ] “When a man will have a rising or a scab on the skin of his flesh…”   This parsha seems more like a detailed textbook for Kohanim, rather than something of interest to every Jew.  How is it relevant to everyone and what is it a metaphor for?

2. [Haftara Melachim II, 7:17 ]   “…the people trampled him in the gate and he died…”  The king’s officer was killed as a punishment for his being cynical when he heard the prophet’s words. Our tradition is very critical of cynicism and cynical people. Why is cynicism considered such a bad quality?

3. [Pirkay Avot 2:1]  “…what is the straight (or honest)  way that a person should choose…”    The mishna tells us that we should live our lives in such a way that we balance our own aspirations against other people’s expectations. Why is this called the “straight way”, rather than the “effective way” or the “happy way”?

4. [Pirkay Avot 2:1]   “Be as careful with a light mitzvah as you are with a heavy mitzvah…”  What can this mean?  Can you think of a scenario where a “light mitzvah (making a blessing on food, helping a person carry groceries)”  could have a major impact on someone’s life or on the world?

5. [Sfirat Ha’omer]   During Sfirat Ha’omer  we are commanded to count the days between Pesach and Shavuot. Some say that every day is a separate commandment, and some say that there is only one commandment to count 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot. What might be halachic (legal) or philosophical differences between these 2 approaches?

Commentary

The omer  which is offered on the 16th of Nissan is barley,  which was animal food in former times.  On Shavuot we offer bread which is food for people. Barley represents faith—that which is not open to human intellectual investigation.  Bread represents the human intellect.  We must develop total faith, and also total dedication to logic and  intellect.   In the personality of the Jew, both intellect and faith must be very strong and both must be practiced with total commitment.

R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, Lithuania and Israel, 1865-1935

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Rivkah Rochel bat Ya’akov haLevi and Chaya Kornberg, and Yechiel Eliezer ben Yitzchok Meir and Rochel Laya Kornberg