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The Crown of Halacha

Metzorah 5776 – Nothing to Hide Behind

Nothing to Hide Behind

“And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water and he shall be clean; and after that he may come into the camp, but dwell outside his tent seven days. And it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall (again) shave the hair off his head, his beard and his eyebrows etc…” (Vayikra 14:8-9).
Rashi: All his hair…: [This is] a general statement, followed by a specific statement [namely, “that of his head, his beard, his eyebrows,”] followed, in turn, by another general statement [namely, “all his hair,]” to include [the shaving of] every place where hair grows in a bunch and is visible, [bearing a similarity to the hair of the head, the beard, and the eyebrows]. — [Sotah 16a]

According to Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 169, Parshas Tazria), a person is a confirmed Metzora when a white spot the color of an egg and the size of a grain of barley, appears embedded on his skin. If the Kohen pronounces him a Metzora he is exiled from the camp until the Kohen determines that the white spot has disappeared. The Metzora then shaves off all his hair and immerses in the mikva. The Sefer Hachinuch explains that the mikva should not be a kli, rather it should be part of the earth. The water should be “mayim chaim”, water that was never gathered in a vessel. When he enters the mikva he should have in mind that the whole world is water, just like the first day of creation. In his hairless state, he resembles a newborn child who is also just beginning. Spiritually he is brand new.

Next, he brings a korban to atone for speaking lashon hara. Then he is allowed back in the camp.
However, when he comes back into the camp of Am Yisrael, it’s not so easy! He once had a head of hair and a full beard. He once had eyebrows and peyos. Now he looks abnormal! People may laugh at his odd appearance. How can we subject him to such ridicule after he has done tshuva? Doesn’t this go against the issur of reminding the baal tshuva of his past? Let him purify himself without becoming a spectacle!

This part of teshuva is the hard part. He has no beard and peyos to hide behind. He lost his reputation and now he must return to society. At first, people may laugh and perhaps even avoid him. Some may suspect him, “So he’s the one who spoke lashon hara about me.”

In his strange hairless state he has only one way to win favor in the eyes of others, he must earn their trust through sincere humility. Earning their trust with honesty is the final step of his tshuva.

We can all learn from the Metzora. A person might think, “I did tshuva, why is life so hard? Doesn’t Hashem see how sorry I am? Why do people avoid me?” Yet if we are to rebuild our lives and our relationships we must not become discouraged. It takes time to recreate ourselves. Just as surely as hair grows back so too will the life and the reputation of the sincere ba’al teshuva.

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