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Metzora 5760

Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12-15 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  A couple of years ago, after Pesach, I received a note from a young lady. She attended what she called a "Hurry up with the Haggadah and can't we eat already" Seder. The host was cynical and derisive and she was depressed. During the meal she gathered her courage and pulled out her copy of the Shabbat Shalom Fax and read the piece reproduced below. She wrote, "Rabbi, the whole tone of the evening changed. After I finished there was a stunned silence and then burst forth a tremendous discussion on the nature of Freedom and what the Torah says about it." Perhaps you'll consider reading the following piece at your Seder! I love this story!


The year is 1978 and the man's name is Yosef Mendelovich. The setting: a dank cell, deep within the bowels of the Christopol prison the Soviet Union. The date is April 12. On the Jewish calendar it is the 14th of Nisan, one day before the start of Passover.

Yosef is a prisoner. He is a gaunt human shell, and he is about to light a candle. Made of hoarded bits of string, pitiful droplets of oil, and stray slivers of wax, this is a candle fashioned by Yosef's own hands. The candle is lit -- the search for chametz begins.

Sometime earlier Yosef had complained of back problems. The infirmary in hell provided him with mustard to serve as a therapeutic plaster. Unused then, this mustard would later reappear as maror -- bitter herbs -- at Yosef's Seder table. A long-saved onion bulb in water has produced a humble bit of greenery. This would be his karpas. And the wine? Raisins were left to soak in an old jelly jar, water occasionally added, and fermentation was prayed for. This was wine. The Haggadah which Yosef transcribed into a small notebook before being imprisoned had now been set to memory. The original was secretly passed on to another "dangerous" enemy of the State: Anatoly Sharansky.

Is Yosef free? He cannot do whatever he wants. He has been denied even the liberty to know when the sun shines and the stars twinkle. For Yosef the world of free men doesn't even begin to exist.

Yet, Yosef, perhaps, is more free even than his captors. Clearly self-aware, he knows exactly who he is, what he wants, and is prepared to pay any price to have it. Today he walks the streets of Israel, studies Torah, and buys box after box of Matzah to serve at his Seder. He is a free man now, just as he was even behind
those lifeless prison walls.

Self-awareness means that we are able to stand outside of ourselves; to look within and assess our goals, values, priorities, direction and truthfulness. Unaware of these things, we remain mired in a dense fog of confusion and doubt. Can we ever be fully self-aware? Probably not. But aware enough to set ourselves
free? Yes, and this is one of life's most pivotal challenges.

Achievement and maintenance of freedom is available only through the ongoing struggle for self-awareness. This process of clarification, coupled with the conviction to follow wherever it may lead, is the only way to achieve a spiritually sensitive, value-driven life of liberty. Ironically, this freedom can land you in a prison where you are the captor, while your guards are the prisoners. Just ask
Yosef Mendelovich -- one of the freest people who ever walked the earth.

-- from the Passover Survival Kit by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf;
try your local Jewish book store or call toll-free 877-758-3242.


  1. A Jewish man was waiting in line to be knighted by the Queen of England. He was supposed to kneel and recite a sentence in Latin. Comes his turn, he kneels, the Queen taps him on the shoulders with the sword ... and in the panic of excitement he forgets the Latin line. Thinking quickly, he recites the only other line he knows in a foreign language which he remembers from the Passover Seder:
    "Mah nishtana ha-lailah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-leilot." The puzzled Queen turns to her adviser and asks, "Why is this knight different from all other knights?"

  2. The supply of ch'rain (horseradish used by many for bitter herbs
    at the Pesach Seder) being off-loaded at the Madrid airport was stopped by a freight handlers' strike. It seems that the ch'rain in Spain stayed mainly on the plane...


Hundreds of families in Israel are unable to afford groceries for Yom Tov (the holiday). This group gives them coupons redeemable only for food. They arrange with the supermarket to get an extra 10% on every dollar you give them. I know they are
legitimate and I give them money! Send your tax-deductible contribution to:
Keren Y&Y
805-A Roosevelt Ct.
Far Rockaway, NY 11691

Fulfill the special mitzvah of Maos Chitim, helping the poor for Pesach!

Portion of the Week


This week's portion contains: the purification process for the metzora, the person who defamingly spoke about others; Tzora'as on houses and purification process for afflicted houses; the purification for bodily discharges. (Undoing damage due to speech is likened to trying to gather together all the feathers from a down pillow -- after they are cast to the wind.)


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "And the priest shall command to take for him who is to be purified two birds alive and pure, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop." (Leviticus 14:4) What lessons about life
do we learn from these?

Rashi, the great commentator, cites the Sages that the cedar symbolizes arrogance (a cedar tree is tall and "haughty"). Tzora'as comes from arrogance and the contempt for others which allows him to talk negatively about others. What is the cure? He should work on humility, which is symbolized by the scarlet that is made from a lowly worm and the use of hyssop which is a small,
low bush. (The two live chirping birds are symbolic of the chatter of
idle gossip.)

Our lesson: Be aware of one's own faults and limitations rather than focusing on the faults of others.


Jerusalem 6:28   Miami 7:26  New York 7:16
L.A. 7:05  Hong Kong 6:24  Singapore 6:51
Guatemala  5:58  Honolulu   6:32  J'Burg 5:34
Melbourne 5:38  Moscow 7:14  London 6:36
Atlanta 7:50  Toronto 7:42


Nothing hurts more than
having to pay an income tax,
unless it is
not having to pay an income tax.
-- Thomas Dewar

Dedicated by...

A Sweet & Happy Pesach

to Family & Friends
Len, Mitch, Ravit, the Cohens & Alexanders
With Love,
Miki and Sam Feldman

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