Parshat Tazria Metzora
By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
“I shall call the praise of God’s Name, and His great kindness I shall sing and intone, He saves me from all trouble, in the depths of the sea, also in the Sharon, and He shows me a straight path, to the threshold of Kaleb son of Hetzron, the place of Avraham and Sara, in Kiryat Arba – Hebron.” (‘Yedid Nefesh to Hebron’, Rabbi Moshe Zakut)
Many songs and oratories have been written and said about the Holy City of Hebron. Hebron means connection (hibur), and therefore the art of connecting through eloquent communication is so natural to this city. This is the city where King David, the Singer of Israel, first reigned. This is also the city by which Kaleb, the great speaker in praise of the Holy Land, received his air of inspiration. This city is also the capital of the tribe of Judah, praised for its princely leadership (see Midrash Raba Naso 13), which calls for the eloquence of speech to inspire, to move, and to lead the people. It seems that even the name Judah hints to the gift of speech in the service of HaShem. Judah was called such when Leah his mother said, ‘now, I shall praise [‘odeh’] HaShem,’ and ‘praising HaShem’ involves speaking God’s praises outwardly. Similarly, both Judah, the son of Leah, and Rabbi Judah, the Tannaic master, were both known for their gifted ability of speech. Judah, the son of Leah, is the one to persuade his brothers to lift Joseph from the pit, he is the one to confess openly in regard to Tamar, he is the one who persuades his father to send Binyamin to Egypt, and he is the one who speaks on behalf of Binyamin before Joseph. Also, the Tannaic Master R. Judah is called ‘the head speaker in every place,’ in Tannaic literature.
This parsha teaches us the high importance attached to speech, when we learn about the severe implications of slander, leprosy. ‘Measure for measure,’ just as the slanderer separates between people, so too he receives leprosy and is thereby commanded to be separated from the populace. This concept may explain why even true negative information about a person must not be communicated. As we just explained in the context of Hebron – the City of Connection, HaShem gave us the gift of communication to connect and not to separate, just as the source of communication comes from the One God, as Onkelos translates the verse, ‘and God breathed in his nostrils the soul of life and man became a living creature.’ ‘A living creature’ Onkelos translates as ‘a speaking being’. This verse also brings us to the understanding that man is inherently good and Godly, and therefore any negative speech about man is essentially false. Nevertheless, sometimes in the larger context negative speech is for the good of man, such as for the purpose of helping the one discussed or in saving others from harm, and therefore such speech is essentially not negative but rather positive.
In the introduction to the classic work ‘Hafetz Haim’ (a book using speech for good, and not speaking any form of slander), R. Yisroel Meir HaKohen of Radin teaches that one of the major motives of this work was to cease the exile from the Holy Land, which was caused by the transgression of slander.
One of leading rabbis of Hebron known for his beautiful speeches and sermons was Rabbi Avraham Konki. Rabbi Konki was born in 5408 (1648) in Hebron. At the age of sixteen(!) he was sent as an emissary on behalf of Hebron for a period of ten years. He traveled to Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, to mention just a few, and he stayed in dozens of cities. He met all the great Torah luminaries of his generation, some of them being Rabbi David Openheim and Rabbi Naftali Katz. Rabbi Konki was one of the boldest of emissaries. He knew how to deliver the importance of the Holy Land and explain the Jewish community’s needs. He was able to penetrate into communities that had been before considered ‘off-limits’ to the emissaries of Hebron. His book, ‘Avak Sofrim’, is comprised of his sermons, ‘Em Hayeled’ on the Torah, ‘Ugat Retzafim’ – various commentaries, ‘Em LaBina’ – various topics, ‘Minhat Kenaot’ on the attribute of jealousy, and ‘Avak Drachim’ – sermons compiled in conjuction with his son-in-law Rabbi Yisrael Zeevi and his brother Rabbi Yosef Konki.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #261
‘I was once discussing a kabbalistic passage with my hevruta which discusses the significance of the number 413. About three hours later I went shopping in the supermarket and the groceries added up to exactly 413 NIS.’
Sources: Sefer Hebron p. 94
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