By Rabbi Doug Zelden, Guest Torah Columnist
Torah Portion: Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33)
Unlike the four special Sabbaths which have preceded this Shabbat, Shekalim, Zachor, Parah, and Hachodesh, on this Shabbat there is no special Maftir Torah Reading, and only one Torah scroll is taken out of the Ark. (Last week we read from Three Torah Scrolls – or did a lot of rolling.)
Here are some of the interesting reasons given for this Shabbat being called Shabbat Hagadol – The Great Shabbath:
Rabbi Yeshaya of Trani gives the following reason: When the Israelites were in Egypt, Moses succeeded in obtaining from Pharaoh a respite for them of one day a week from their work, the Shabbat. Each week, as soon as Shabbat was over, they were immediately plunged back into their wearisome toil. After this Shabbat, however, they did not return to slavery and therefore gave it the title “Hagadol.”
The “Mateh Moshe: gives this reason: Our special Sabbaths are named after significant words in the special portions we read. The word “hagadol” is the penultimate word of today’s Haftarah and also of all the prophecies in the Bible. The last word of the Haftarah is “norah” – terrible – which is obviously unsuitable as a title. Thus the Sages adopted the second last word “hagadol,” which aptly describes this Shabbat.
A third reason is that this Shabbat before Passover is one of the few times in European Jewish life that the Rabbi gave a long speech. It is called Hagadol, because in speaking about Passover, there are more laws to review than all the other holidays in the Torah combined. Thus this is the Great Sabbath.
Now let me share something about this week’s Torah Portion, Metzorah.
In the times of the Bet HaMikdash (Holy Temple) there was a spiritual affliction known as Tzara’at (commonly called leprosy). It manifested itself on a person’s home, clothing, and body.
A person, who suspected that he or his property might be affected, called the Kohen (priestly descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses) to inspect the suspect areas and to make a determination.
There is a Jewish legend in the Midrash that tells of a very poor Kohen who decided to leave the land of Israel to go elsewhere in order to earn a decent living. He began teaching his wife the laws of Tzara’at so that she could substitute for him in his absence. “The appearance of the hairs is crucial to proper determination.” Said the Kohen to his wife. “Each hair has its own follicle which nurtures its growth. If the hair has dried up know its source underneath the skin has spoiled.”
“If every single hair is nurtured individually by G-d certainly he would provide for every human being” commented his wife. The Kohen changed his plans and did not move.
The question is what persuaded him to change his mind? He certainly
already knew and believed what she told him! We can truly understand a concept and even teach it to others, yet fail to apply the principal to our own lives. The Kohen knew that Hashem (G-d) provides for all but did not properly focus on the idea, nor did he relate the concept to the reality of his own life. Once his wife had crystallized the idea into a practical application regarding his life he decided not to move or travel to earn a livelihood.
How pleasant life would be if we never shared a negative comment and never heard others do so. In order to improve and grow we must develop a daily routine that includes study of ethics and personality development! The constant repetition will create an incredible impression on us and help us achieve our life goals of character development and spiritual perfection.
Rabbi Doug Zelden is Rabbi of Congregation Or Menorah in Chicago, chaplain for Home Bound Healthcare, and host of the weekly T.V. show “Taped With Rabbi Doug” (www.tvrabbi.com).