Parashas Metzora, Part 2

In Vayikra Rabbah 16:9, the Midrash interprets Yeshayah 57:17-18 as referring to a metzora. The passage in Yeshayah reads as follows:
Because of his sinful thievery I became incensed and I smote him. I [later] hid Myself and became incensed, for he waywardly followed the course of his whim. When I saw his [penitent] ways I healed him and I guided him; [later] I paid consolations to him and his mourners. [As we noted in a previous piece, theft is one of the sins for which a person is stricken with tzaraas.]
The Midrash inteprets this passage as describing a metzora who repented and was healed, but then fell back into waywardness; upon his return to sinful ways, he was stricken once again with tzaraas, and was then mourned over by his own limbs.
The Maggid explains this Midrash as follows. Our Sages teach: Kol Yisrael yesh lahem chelek l’olam ha-ba (Sanhedrin 90a). The Maggid notes that the teaching says l’olam rather than b’olam. Thus, the Sages are not saying that every Jew has an automatic portion in the World to Come. Rather, they are saying that every Jew is given a portion of spiritual assets that provide him a way to gain entry to the World to Come. Ever since Sinai, Hashem has implanted every Jew with a propensity to fear and love Him. If a person engages in willful sinning, this propensity can die out. But so long as a person does not defile himself in this way, his propensity for righteousness constantly abides within his soul. And so, when he commits a sin, he feels shame and mourns over himself. This is what the Midrash means when it describes the person’s limbs mourning over him.
An earlier passage in the same chapter of Yeshayah reflects the foregoing ideas. This passage reads as follows (Yeshayah 57:11-12):
Whom did you dread and fear, that you have become duplicitous? You did not remember Me; you did not take [Me] to your heart. Behold, I have kept silent, as always, but you did not fear Me. I attest to your righteousness and your [propensity for performing worthy] deeds, but they do not avail you. 
The Maggid explains this passage as follows. There are a few sinners who are brazen enough to show their face in public. These are people who have gone completely bad; they are like a garment that is completely black with dirt, so that the dirt is not even recognizable as dirt. But most people hide themselves in shame when they sin. This is a sign that their inborn fear of Hashem has not died out, but remains still implanted in their hearts. In the passage in Yeshayah just quoted, Hashem challenges such people: “You act with duplicity – because of your fear of other people, you hide your evildoing from them. Why, then, do you not show fear for Me? The fact that you hide shows that your inborn fear of Me still abides within your heart. But it does avail you, for you are not exercising it properly.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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