Parshas Metzora

זאת תהיה תורת המצורע ביום טהרתו והובא אל הכהן   יד:ב

Chazal tell us that Klal Yisrael were purged of the defilement of the primordial Serpent through the experience of Maamad Har Sinai, and death would no longer be applicable to them.  However, because of the sin of the eigel ha’zahav, that defilement returned.  The Leviim, though, did not participate in the debacle of the eigel ha’zahav.  They were nevertheless included in the restored reality of death because of a “gezeiras ha’kasuv” type of blanket-rule.  However, they still retained a certain quality that transcends the reality of death.  This quality is manifest in the fact that removing the defilement of a dead body can be executed only be a Kohen.  This finds expression in the Kohen’s exclusive ability to carry out the purification process of a metzoraChazal tell us that the defiled state of a metzora is akind to the tumah of a dead body.  The Kohen’s ability to do away with that tumah stems from the fact that Shevet Levi had no part in the eigel ha’zahav.  They therefore maintained - to some degree – the power of being above death that granted us at Maamad Har Sinai.

(From Reb Matis Feld)


והבא אל הבית...יטמא...והשכב בבית יכבס את בגדיו והאכל בבית יכבס את בגדיו       יד:מו-מז

A Mishna in Maseches Negaim (13:9) says that we learn from these pesukim the following halacha: if someone carries keilim (e.g. clothing, shoes, jewelry) into a house that is afflicted with tzaraas, just like the person becomes tamei right away because he is bah el ha’bayis – he entered the house - so too do the keilim become tamei right away, because they are also “bah el ha’bayis”.  However, if the person is wearing those keilim, then only he becomes tamei right away, but the keilim do not become tamei unless he stays inside the tzaraas house for the amount of time equivalent to k’dei achilas pras.  So, the question is, what happened?  Why is it that, all of a sudden, the keilim are not considered bah el ha’bayis because the person is wearing them?  The Beis Ha’Levi answers that when the person is wearing them, they become batel and tafel to him.  So they do not have their own, independent entry into the house.

Based on this, the Beis Ha’Levi propounded the following tremendous chiddush.  Two people reach a doorway simultaneously.  One is carrying teffilin and the other is wearing teffilin.  Who should go in first?  The one carrying the teffilin goes in first!  Why?  Because the teffilin that are being worn are, in a certain sense, batel to the person wearing them.  It is not the teffilin that are waiting to enter, but the person.  However, the teffilin that are being carried are not batel to the one carrying them.  They are considered as “independently” about to enter through this doorway, and the other person therefore has to demonstrate respect by letting them go first.  So the person carrying teffilin is the one who should go in first.

One cannot help but be amazed by this idea.  But after that – after the amazement – one should note that there are others who object to this chiddush based on a Mishna in Maseches Bikurim (3:3) that says the workers in Yerushalayim would have to stand up for the people bringing Bikurim (even though those under the employ of others are exempt from rising for Talmidei Chachamim) because the latter are involved in performing a mitzvah.  That being the case, even if you want to say that there is no requirement for the one carrying the teffilin to demonstrate respect for the other teffilin because they’re batel to the person wearing them; nevertheless, he should still have to honor the person who is currently involved in the fulfillment of the mitzvah of teffilin!  There are mefarshim, though, who hold that it is specifically regarding Bikurim that even the workers have to show them honor because it’s a whole group of people that is doing the mitzvah (ed. note: see the pirush ha’mishnayos of the Rambam who says this explicitly).  If that is the case, then it really is not such a kashya on the Beis Ha’Levi since there wouldn’t be a source for requiring someone to show honor to an individual involved in doing a mitzvah.  According to the other mefarshim, though, that imply that there is no difference between an individual and a group of people vis a vis the requirement of rising for those involved in a mitzvah, there is a heh’arah from this Mishna in Bikurim on the Beis Ha’Levi.

(From an audio recording.  Ed. note: perhaps Tosafos in Maseches Sukkah 25a [“Shluchei Mitzvah”] could provide an answer to the question on the Beis Ha’Levi, which would explain why Rav Twersky ended off by referring to it as a heh’arah as opposed to a kashya.)


וצוה הכהן ולקח למטהר שתי צפרים חיות טהרות…ושחט את הצפור האחת…ושלח את הצפר החיה על פני השדה” (יד:ד-ז)


The Gemara in Chullin (140a) says that we learn from the word “tehoros” that one cannot use birds from an ir ha’nidachas for tziporei metzora.  The Gemara says, though, that this derasha is only needed for the tzipor ha’shechuta but not for the tzipor ha’meshulachas since we anyway know that the tzipor ha’meshulachas must be mutar b’achila because “lo amrah Torah shalach l’takalah”.

The Achronim ask why would that be considered a shiluach l’takalah seeing that it would be batel b’rov?

One possible answer is that bitul b’rov doesn’t b’etzem make a chaticha of issurinto a cheftza shel heter, just that there is a heter to eat it; but klapei Shmaya it is still considered an aveirah when it is eaten.  However, this point is the subject of a machlokes Rishonim.

Another possible answer is based on the Rivash (siman 192) who says that although rov birds are kosher species, one is not allowed to rely on that rov.  The tzivuy of “v’hivdaltem” is mechayeiv one to check al pi simanim to make sure that it is not a non-kosher bird.  Yeish lachkor if this mitzvas bedika also applies to birds that are assur because they are from an ir ha’nidachas.  If it would apply, then one would not be able to be matir based on rov.  However, the Rivash himself says that there is no chiyuv to check to make sure that a bird is not a non-kosher species which is a miut sheh’eino matzuy in that locale.  So we see that even regarding that to which mitzvas bedika definitely does apply, one can rely on rov if it is only a miut sheh’eino matzuy.

There is another big hearah on this Gemara in Chullin.  The Gemara in Sanhedrin (112) questions if an animal of an ir ha’nidachas which is shechted is metamei mi’shum neveilah or not.  Rashi explains that the shailoh is whether or not a maaseh shechita is a kiyum of “l’fi charev” or not.  If it is a kiyum of l’fi charev then it is not shechita, rather it is misah.  Or, perhaps a maaseh shechitais not a kiyum of l’fi charev.  The Yad Ramah learns that shechting the animal is definitely a kiyum of l’fi charev, and the Gemara’s question is whether or not the din l’fi charev obviates a din shechita or not.

Either way, we see that the Gemara has a tzad that shechting an ir-ha’nidachas-animal is not called shechita.  Rabi Akiva Eiger (and others as well) asks, if so, why does the Gemara in Chullin say that we need a “tehoros” to teach us that the tzipor ha’shechuta cannot come from an ir ha’nidachas – anyway that should be pashut since it has to have a shechita done to it?!  Rabi Akiva Eiger answers that the Gemara in Chullin is taking on as a davar pashutlike the tzad that it is considered shechita and is metaher mi’dei neveilah even an animal from an ir ha’nidachas.  He adds that this is why the Rambam does not make reference to the ibaya in the Gemara in Sanhedrin.

The Chazon Ish gives a different teirutz.  He says that there is a chiluk between before the gmar din of the ir ha’nidachas and after the gmar din.  Even before the gmar din, there is already a chalos issur hanaah, but the din of l’fi charev is only chal after the gmar din.  Accordingly, the Gemara in Chullin means to say that we need the derasha of tehoros to tell you that even before the gmar dinyou are not allowed to use a bird from an ir ha’nidachas for the tzipor ha’shechuta.

You could say another teirutz, that the whole shailoh of the Gemara over there in Sanhedrin is davka talking about an animal that was shechted inside the ir ha’nidachas – b’rechovah shel ir – where there is a din l’fi charev.  If the animal would be shechted outside of the city, though, then there is no din l’fi charevand mi’meilah it is for sure considered a shechita, and that is why we need the derasha of tehoros, to tell you that you nevertheless cannot use it for the tzipor ha’shechuta since it is assur b’hanaah.  However, this assertion that the din l’fi charev is only b’rechovah shel ir is not so pashutv’yeish l’ayein b’Rambam.

Yeish lachkor, according to the mahn d’amar who holds ein shechita l’ohf min ha’Torah, is the shechita of the tzipor ha’shechuta of the metzora a proper din shechita or is it just like any other “shechitas ohf” that it is just that you have to make it dead.

(From the notes of Reb Daniel Fast)



לפי שהנגעים באים על לשון הרע מעשה פטפוטי דברים לפיכך הוזקקו לטהרתו צפרים שמפטפטים תמיד בצפצוף קול       רש”י יד:ד 

Rav Twersky was an absolute master at controlling the koach ha’dibur.  Even when he felt that he absolutely must say something l’toeles, he said it with a strong degree of restraint.

I was once raving about a certain seifer, how it is makif just everything.  Rav Twersky wanted me to realize, though, that the approach of that particular author is not necessarily one that we should strive to emulate.  This is what he said: “But he brings anyone who ever wrote about the topic; you too could be oleh l’gedulah!”

On a different occasion, after the seudah on Purim had already finished and a few bachurim were lingering in Rav Twersky’s house, I mentioned a certain talmid chacham and was effusively praising this person’s phenomenal bekius.  The individual was someone Rav Twersky knew well, and he was apparently concerned that I should not be negatively influenced by him.  All he uttered, though, were seven simple words that succinctly – and in a mild manner – indicated that I need to be careful.  When I asked him to elaborate, he responded, “What I said was mutar to say, and nothing more needs to be said.”

(From the editor)



כנגע נראה לי בבית         יד:לה, אפילו תלמיד חכם שיודע שהוא נגע ודאי לא יפסוק דבר ברור לומר נגע נראה לי אלא כנגע נראה לי מפני דרך ארץ…וזהו שאמרו חז”ל למד לשונך לומר איני יודע             רש”י ורא”ם שם 


Rav Twersky was generally quite reluctant to express his own novel insights, beyond that which was accepted pshat in any given sugyah.  He would use expressions like, “Efshar, maybe you could say….”, expressed in a tone of voice that conveyed great reservation.

(From Reb Matis Feld)

One of Rav Twersky’s oft-used expressions was v’habocher yivchar (those endowed with free-will choice will exercise that right to choose, in other words, each person will decide for himself which approach makes the most sense).  This was something he would say after presenting a sugyah with the various approaches of the Achronim regarding how to understand it.  He would also say things like, “How to understand this matter depends on which Beis Medrash you come from”.  (He gave as an example of two different “Batei Medrash”, the Dvar Avraham and Reb Chaim).  Despite being eminently suited to proffer a determination of which approach should be considered final – or even innovate his own approach – that was not Rav Twersky’s way.  Instead, he focused his primary attention on clarifying the primary opinions found in the words of the Rishonim and the main elaborating approaches of the Achronim, presenting them as such – of course with appropriate hearos, tzarich iyuns, and occasional hosafos and chiddushim – and would not make his own opinion or thoughts about the sugyah at all the focus of his shiur (and, to all appearances, of his own learning as well).  In one particular shiur, his self-effacement found expression in the following quote: “One thing that is for sure…well, you can’t really be sure about anything…”

Even when Rav Twersky felt strongly about a certain point, he would rarely (if ever) impose his outlook on his talmidim.  I remember arguing with him in learning on numerous occasions, and he would patiently reiterate and clarify what he had said, but never with force.  Always with nachas.  And if a talmid did not accept what he said in the end, he would not push the point.  He left it and allowed his talmidim independence of thought.

On a particular occasion, there was a fine point of hashkafa that I debated with him forcefully and vociferously.  I was quoting very big people of the previous generation, bolstered by an array of sources in the Rishonim and Achronim that Rav Twersky agreed seemed to concur with this approach, so I felt quite confident about what I was saying.  Rav Twersky, however, was equally adamant about his position.  The amazing thing is, though, that he allowed me to have it out with him as if with a contemporary!  He did not raise his voice.  He did not give the slightest impression of “Who do you think you are to argue with your rebbi”.  Not even a trace of such a thing.  And how did he bring the discussion to a close?  He told me this: “I am giving you a pikadon.  In another ten years, revisit the issue in your mind.”  And that was that.

There was a period of time during which I made a conscious decision to assume a stance of proper bitul daas to Rav Twersky.  During night seider, when we would review the shiur, one of the guys was very surprised at my new approach and told me as much.  He said, “Yehoshua, what’s going on?  You used to always ask kashyas on what Rebbi says just like the rest of us, hondelthe inyan, and then maybe come out like what Rebbi said in the end.  So why have you suddenly become such an aggressive defender of everything Rebbi says?!”  From his question, one can see the extent to which Rav Twersky did not all put himself “front and center” in teaching his talmidim.  On the contrary, he strongly conveyed the sense that his shiurim are not at all about him or his chiddushim, to the extent that, for the bachurim in his shiur, it was self-understood that of course there is nothing wrong with taking what he said however we pleased.  (If only we would have known better!)

This stark humility of Rav Twersky can also be seen, I think, through the following story told by veteran talmid, Rabbi Eliezer Niehaus:

“One time I was in a kollel where the Rosh Kollel was an absolute genius. Every pshat I suggested in the sugyah he would destroy with several pointed questions and then give his own “iluyish” pshat that did not sit well with me. I was getting quite depressed because I was left without any pshat at all in the sugyah!  So, I called Rav Twersky and he told me, “Don’t worry. Listen to your Rosh Kollel’s questions and do your best to answer them…but you do not have to accept his pshat!”

It seems to me that Rav Twersky felt perfectly comfortable giving this advice because that is how he felt his own talmidim should relate to him – that the main thing is for them to come to their own clarity and understanding.

Another one of Rav Twersky’s oft-used expressions was, “Could be”.  When a talmid suggested a pshat that was not ironclad, rarely would he dismiss it by saying mei’heicha teisi, rather, he would say “could be”.

(From the editor)

One time, Rav Twersky retracted a certain chiddush he had said the day before in shiur. He said “Last night I was m’ayein into the sugyah more and realized that what I said was wrong.”  He then stopped and began giving himself mussar, saying “who am I to say I was m’ayein into a sugyah? I pashut learned the sugyah and realized I made a mistake.”

(From Reb Leon Mayer)



כל זמן שהנשמה בקרבי מודה אני לפניך


On the 29th of Nissan, 5753 (April 20, 1993), Rav Twersky returned home to Eretz Yisrael. He had been in Boston the previous week, sitting shivah for his father. Thinking about the words, “as long as my neshama is inside of me, I give thanks to You”, Rav Twersky became puzzled. “But it can sometimes happen,” he wondered, “that a person is still alive – the neshama is still in him – but he is so ill that he cannot express thanks to the Ribbono shel Olam?!” Despite acknowledging that it’s not really such a kashya, Rav Twersky proffered the following explanation (he noted that this pshat may be b’derech melitzah): “instead of reading these words as saying ‘as long as my neshama is inside of me, I give thanks to You,’ it should be understood to mean, ‘for all of the time that my neshama is inside of me, I thank You…”

(From the Twersky Family)

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