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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Metzora

Hirsch At Your Table

Re-Entering the Mikdash

A brief Dvar Torah on the Parsha, based on R. Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Torah Commentary
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וביום השמיני יקח שני כבשים תמימים וכבשה אחת בת שנתה תמימה ושלושה עשרונים סולת מנחה בלולה בשמן ולוג אחד שמן: (Lv 14:10)
A leper is permitted to return to the community after completing seven days of isolation. However, the Torah imposes additional requirements for the individual to be permitted to enter the מקדש. On the seventh day, the day he returns to the community, he is again required to shave, wash his clothes and bathe his body. On the eighth day, he brings three animals as קרבנות, plus the מנחה that accompanies these קרבנות.

Reacceptance into the community is like a rebirth; the former leper can once again interact with neighbors and friends. However, a second rebirth is required to permit him to join in the expressly Jewish community of the מקדש. For this, he must again shave, יגלח, wash, כבס and bathe, ורחץ. He then renews his covenant with God’s Torah by bringing three קרבנות: two lambs, כבשים and a ewe lamb, כבשה.

The word יגלח is from the root ג-ל-ח which means "to remove hair." The word כבס is from the root כ-ב-ס "to scrub." The word רחץ is from the root ר-ח-ץ "to wash thoroughly." The words כבשים, כבשה are from the root כ-ב-ש "to whiten." Lambs have white wool.


Specifically, one lamb is brought as an אשם, guilt offering, the ewe is brought as a חטאת, sin offering, and the second lamb as an עולה, elevation offering. Nowhere else is there a command to bring this specific trio of קרבנות. This unique command underscores the uniqueness of a recovered leper’s return to the Jewish community and to the מקדש.

The three קרבנות represent different aspects of a person’s nature. קרבנות. The אשם is brought to erase the person’s past. He brings it first because it counteracts the egoism that caused him to contract leprosy in the first place. Second, the חטאת is brought to focus the person on the ethical and moral obligations imposed on him by the Torah. Third, the עולה is brought, in order to elevate the person and bring him closer to God and His Torah.

The word אשם is from the root א-ש-ם "to self-destruct". This root is a derivative of ש-מ-ם "to destroy. The אלף highlights the personal aspect of self-destruction. The word חטאת is from the root ח-ט-א "to sin". The word עולה is from the root ע-ל-ה "to elevate".


The verse also states that these three קרבנות are to be accompanied by a מנחה. A מנחה consists of pure flour, סולת, mixed with oil, שמן, along with the wine libation, נסך יין. These three ingredients represent the individual’s future: sustenance, represented by the flour, comfort, represented by the oil, and the joy of life, represented by the wine.

The word מנחה is from the root מ-נ-ח "to give willingly". The word סולת is from the root ס-ל-ת "to shake energetically". Fine flour is the result of heavy sifting. The word שמן is from the root ש-מ-ן "to nourish". The word נסך is from the root נ-ס-ך "to pour".


The final element in the קרבנות is a separate measure of oil, לוג שמן, representing physical health. The person who recovered from leprosy, a physical illness, initiates a new covenant with God and His Torah, ensuring a healthy future.

Just as a lamb is cared for and protected by the shepherd, who guides the lambs, the purified leper now turns to the Shepherd of Israel to direct his future.


Copyright © 2014, Matityahu Clark. All Rights Reserved. This is an excerpt from the forthcoming Hirsch At Your Table, a collection of brief divrei torah based on R. Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Torah Commentary.
Rabbi Matityahu Clark
Served in principal/director positions throughout North America. One of the founders of the Educator's Council of America, and former president of the Council for Jewish Education. Former Director of the Board of Jewish Education of Greater Washington.
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