Lesson in Modesty
Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12-15 )
The Torah discusses various kinds of "leprous" afflictions which can befall man, his clothing and his home. The whole section is difficult for us to understand because the Torah speaks of "tzora'as," which is a phenomenon with which we are not personally familiar. Nevertheless, we must learn these laws. In addition to teaching us the finer points of the laws, the Sages, as always, were acutely sensitive to any moral or ethical lesson that can be learned from them. Following is a verse which describes a step in the procedure, once a sign of "tzora'as" is found on the walls of a house.
"He whose house it is, shall come and tell the Priest saying: Like an eruption has appeared to me in the house."
Like an eruption has appeared to me in the house - RASHI: Even if he is a talmid chochom (a learned man) and he knows that (this discoloration on the wall) is certainly an affliction (of tzora'as), nevertheless he should not decide the matter with certainty and say "An eruption has appeared to me."
Rashi offers us a moral lesson in modesty. What is the basis for this lesson?
What is bothering Rashi?
An Answer: The verse uses strange wording - "LIKE an eruption..." Why not say simply "an eruption has appeared ..."? The word "like" teaches us that the homeowner, no matter who he may be, must present the situation to the Priest in an uncertain way. He may think he knows for certain that this mark on his wall is a clear indication of tzora'as, nevertheless he must be hesitant and say only "it looks LIKE a tzora'as."
How fitting that Rashi should teach us this lesson. He himself followed it often, as we know from his commentary. Over seventy times in his commentary on Tanach, Rashi admits "I do not know what this comes to teach us." He could have remained silent. Yet he made the point so that the student would realize there is a problem with the verse, though Rashi himself could not figure out the answer. And in the process he taught us a lesson in modesty.