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Parashat Metzora 5782 — 04/09/2022

Parashat Metzora 5782 — 04/09/2022

Beginning with Bereishit 5781 (17 October 2020) we embarked on a new format. We will be considering Rambam’s (Maimonides’) great philosophical work Moreh Nevukim (Guide for the Perplexed) in the light of the knowledge of Vedic Science as expounded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The individual essays will therefore not necessarily have anything to do with the weekly Torah portion, although certainly there will be plenty of references to the Torah, the rest of the Bible, and to the Rabbinic literature. For Bereishit we described the project. The next four parshiyyot, Noach through Chayei Sarah, laid out a foundational understanding of Vedic Science, to the degree I am capable of doing so. Beginning with Toledot we started examining Moreh Nevukim.

Vayikra 14:1-15:33

Shabbat haGadol

The next word on Rambam’s list is kisse (root kaf-samech-aleph). Rambam gives as the original meaning throne. It has come to mean a chair, or anything like a chair that someone can sit on. In modern Hebrew the beit hakisse has the same derived meaning as “throne room” used to mean in colloquial English (this being a throne everyone is required to use, not just royalty). I believe that in Biblical times chairs were not common – people generally sat on the floor, so the more limited meaning may have been the original one. There are, however, pictures of Roman toilets which were long benches with holes to sit in, that had water channels underneath where the wastes could be flushed, so such arrangements would have been known in Talmudic times, and certainly Rambam would have been familiar with them. He is more interested in subtler meanings, as references to Gd’s Throne of Glory are numerous in Scripture and Talmud:

Throne [klsse]. Originally the meaning given to this word in the Hebrew language was that it was the term designating the throne [RAR: Rambam uses the Arabic word here.].  As, however, only people of high rank and great authority, such as kings, used to sit on a throne, and the throne became an existent thing indicative of the grandeur, the high rank, and the great dignity of him who was thought worthy of it, the Sanctuary was called a throne, because of its indicating the grandeur of Him who manifested Himself therein and let His light and glory descend upon it. Thus, Scripture says: Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning and so on. On account of this sense, the heaven is called a throne, as indicating to those who have knowledge of them and reflect upon them the greatness of Him who caused them to exist and to move, and who governs this lower world by means of the overflow of their bounty. Accordingly, it says: Thus, saith the Lord: The heaven is My throne, and so on. That is, He says: the heaven indicates My existence, grandeur, and power, as a throne indicates the greatness of the individual who is considered worthy of it. That is the doctrine that those who investigate the truth ought to believe, whereas they ought not to believe that there is a body onto which the deity, may He be greatly exalted, raises Himself. For it will be demonstrated to you that He, may He be exalted, is not a body. How, therefore, could there be for Him a place and an abode situated above a body? The matter is just as we have pointed out: namely, every place, such as the Sanctuary or the heaven, distinguished by Gd and singled out to receive His light and splendor is called a throne. This term is given a wider meaning in the Hebrew language when it says: For my hand upon the throne of the Lord. [RAR: The word used here in Scripture – Ex 17:16 – is missing the final aleph. Much has been written about the significance of this change.] What is meant is the attribute of His greatness and sublimity; this ought not to be imagined as a thing outside His essence or as a created being from among the beings created by Him, so that He, may He be exalted, should appear to exist both without a throne and with a throne. That would be infidelity beyond any doubt. For it states explicitly: Thou, O Lord, sittest for all eternity, Thy throne is from generation to generation; whereby it indicates that the throne is a thing inseparable from Him. Hence the term throne signifies, in this passage and in all those similar to it, His sublimity and greatness that do not constitute a thing existing outside His essence, as will be explained in some of the chapters of this Treatise.

It appears that Rambam’s primary focus here is to show that when speaking of Gd we are not speaking of a corporeal Being who needs a place to sit down. This is another example of the anthropomorphism which is used throughout Scripture and which Rambam takes pains to point out cannot be understood literally. A literal understanding would see Gd as bounded and finite (e.g., sitting on His Throne or being somewhere else), and changeable (e.g., sitting now, standing up after a while, or maybe just shifting positions to be more comfortable). I’ve made these positions seem ridiculous, but of course there are people even today who believe that every word of the Bible must be taken literally. It seems obvious to me that one can take the stance that the entire Torah is Gd’s Word directly communicated to the Jewish people via Moshe Rabbeinu, and simultaneously believe that to understand what Gd is trying to communicate to us (any failure not being on Gd’s part, but ours) one cannot take the words at their surface value. If a poem, written by a human being, can have multiple levels of meaning, and can use words in a figurative sense, how much more so can Gd?! Apparently Rambam felt a need to make this point over and over again.

Rambam associates the throne with kingship, grandeur and majesty. I suppose one could add uniqueness, in the sense that each country would only have one king. Thus, he says: That is, He says: the heaven indicates My existence, grandeur, and power, as a throne indicates the greatness of the individual who is considered worthy of it. In other words, when we speak of Gd’s Throne it applies to certain of Gd’s Attributes. However, these Attributes are not accidents, in the sense that Gd happens to be like this or that, but are inseparable from Gd’s own nature. As Rambam says: Hence the term throne signifies, in this passage and in all those similar to it, His sublimity and greatness that do not constitute a thing existing outside His essence… [my bold]

This inseparability of Gd’s essence and Gd’s Attributes is a very fundamental doctrine, and is equivalent, I believe, to saying that Gd is non-composite, that He is a Unity that is not assembled from parts It is also the same as saying that there is nothing about Gd that is contingent – everything in creation is contingent on Gd, but Gd is not contingent on anything else. Gd is completely whole and Self-sufficient. Any attempt to read Scriptural anthropomorphisms literally can only violate these basic principles.

I’ll mention one other point here, and Rambam will get to it in a couple of chapters. One sits on a Throne. Sitting connotes rest and stability, thus our Shabbat liturgy says that Gd ascended on the Seventh Day and sat on the Throne of His Glory. The 2-letter root of both sit and cease (Shabbat means cessation) is the same: shin-bet (in Israel the Shin-Bet = Sherut haBitachon = Security Services). So, it seems that besides the attributes of grandeur and majesty, the throne also implies Gd in His attribute of silence, or pure potential. Of course, even when Gd is active, that is, when we perceive Gd as acting in creation, the reality is that Gd is only active within Himself; the activity is virtual as it were, as we have been discussing in the last few weeks. This attribute of silence is represented by Shabbat, the day of silence within the week of activity. But the truth is, all the activity of the week is subsumed in the silence of Shabbat, a situation that our tradition holds will be evident in the World-to-Come.

Chag Kasher v’Same’ach


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Metzora

Parshat Metzora teaches us the importance of living in love so that we do not set ourselves apart from our neighbors, near and far; we do not speak ill of others and we do not feel that we are better than others. Whatever skills we have, we remember, as the joke goes, “You’re unique, just like everybody else.”

It’s only through “loving Gd with all our heart, all our soul, all our might” and “loving our neighbor as our self (our Self)” that we can return to Full Awareness of the Source, Gd, our own Full Nature.

This parshah tells us we need to look at our lives as something we are personally responsible for and that is certainly vital for us to do. It is also vital that we ask what is the source of our thoughts, our decisions, our right actions, our wrong ones? What is the source of our health and our afflictions?

In Parashat Metzora, the angle is that the individual who has an affliction, a skin disease, is personally responsible. True!

But Torah and the parshah do not discuss that the thoughts and actions that lead to health or afflictions come to the individual from the Source the individual does not know. We need to rise to the level of awareness where we are aware of the Source, are One with the Source, are the Source and then our actions as individuals will always be healthy for us and everyone, never harmful, never!

Through love we rise to Love, to Happiness, Joy, Return to Full Awareness of One.

According to a Rabbinic drash, “Metzora”, short for three Hebrew words (“motzi shem ra”) means “saying bad things about people.” When a person develops skin lesions –incorrectly thought by some to be similar to leprosy – the community takes it as a sign that he has consistently spoken bad things about people and is therefore spiritually impure. comments beautifully that through failure to love he has isolated himself from the community. Part of the healing process is that he should be physically isolated from the community. Gd commands that he stay outside the camp (interpreters comment this has the value of allowing him time to reflect on his immoral behavior, to commit himself to moral behavior and to be healed; some also comment that this protects the members of the community from being further harmed, perhaps infected, by him). It is also a physical reminder of how damaging he has been to himself by isolating himself from his neighbors through his unloving thoughts, speech, actions; and through his conception of himself as greater than others.

When a kohen (priest) goes outside the camp and sees that the metzora is healed of his skin affliction, the process of purifying the metzora’s whole personality, his soul, begins. again comments beautifully that by leaving the camp where Gd’s Presence is so manifest in order to see if the metzora has been healed, the kohen is showing great love, he is a great role model for the metzora.

The purification process continues with two birds, spring water in an earthen vessel, a piece of cedar, a scarlet thread and hyssop.

One bird will be slaughtered, its blood put in the spring water in the earthen vessel. The other bird, the cedar stick, the scarlet thread and the hyssop will then be dipped in the water.
Rashi, the most-quoted commentator on Torah, observes that the birds constantly chatter and it is the chatter of the metzora that needs to be purified, restored to loving; the cedar tree is tall and so it symbolizes the haughtiness with which the metzora considered himself higher than others (and through the naturally tall cedar he can naturally be restored to his full height as a human being, an expression of Gd, High without Limit).

One bird is slaughtered: this is the old speech, unloving. The other bird lives: this is the healthy speech to which the metzora now becomes attached.

Spring water is a common symbol of purity and so it symbolizes the purity which the metzora will return to. Earth is a common symbol of Love, of stability, and so it symbolizes the stable love the metzora will return to.

The scarlet thread symbolizes the red tongue, to be purified by dipping it in the water.

Hyssop is a symbol of purity (it was used to paint the blood on doors to protect our ancestors from the plague of the death of the first born) and also a symbol of humility—it was used by our ancestors for so many purposes it serves as a symbol of willingness to serve Gd in whatever way Gd chooses.

Our religion, whatever spiritual practices we do, help us to act purely, to become increasingly aware of our Source, to become increasingly healthy, whole and to prevent ourselves from falling ill.

We have a very loving, joyful congregation, a blessing, a Blessing!

Baruch HaShem.