Hiding the Sin - Approching Yom Kippur

Negaim | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

One who removes a marker of tumah from a nega on his body transgresses a negative biblical prohibition. For example, an indication of tumah for tzara’at found on the skin is the subsequent growth of two white hairs. A person who plucks them from the site has transgressed the prohibition. The Tifferet Yisrael explains that this prohibition applies to all forms of negaim, whether affecting the body, clothes or a house. The Mishnah Achrona adds that it even extends to a baheret that has not developed one of those indications of tumah.

The Bartenura explains that the source of this prohibition is the following pasuk (Devarim 24:9):

Beware of a tzara’at affliction, to be very careful and to act; according to everything the Kohanim, the Levi’im, shall teach you – as I have commanded them – you shall be careful to perform.

The Ohr Ha’Chaim notes that this pasuk, the source of the prohibition, is immediately followed by the mitzvah to remember what Hashem did to Miriyam. Consequently one is reminded that the true source of tzara’at is not of physical or medical root, but rather punishment for sins committed – the more famous of those listed being evil speech. Consequently cutting off the indication of tumah is clearly not the right path. Rather teshuva and improving on the character flaws at its root should rather be sought.

The Oznayim Le’Torah comments that the above quoted pasuk contains three expressions of caution eluding to the three things that tzara’at can affect – skin, clothes and houses. He then cites the Rambam who explains that initially tzara’at would affect ones house. If he does not get the message and continues to sin, his clothes will be affected and then his body. The Oznayim Le’Torah explains that this is why the Torah cautions one to be “very careful” as “if one becomes accustomed to sinning, he no longer sees anything wrong with his actions, making it difficult to repent.”

The above reasoning can explain the Ramban’s unique position that expands this prohibition to cover one that simply hides his affliction and does not show it to the kohen. The Ohr Ha’Chaim explains elsewhere that the realisation that the illness was of a spiritual nature would “force” him to go to the kohen to seek guidance in Teshuva. Consequently, concealing the problem would also not achieve the intended end.

Finally, perhaps we can understand why this prohibition appears in the parasha of Ki Teitze and not Tazriya-Metzora with the other law regarding the metzorah. The parasha of Ki Teitze begins with going out to war. Many understand that the description can also be understood as the war against the yetzer ha’rah. The prohibition against concealing or superficially slicing away the physical manifestation of the sin is well suited on this battlefield. For this is exactly what the yetzer ha’rah wants. He wants us to glaze over our deficiencies, become accustomed to our sins so that we simply continue on a downward spiral. However, our task is to recognise and repair. Even though there may not be a physical blemish, a “kohen” should still be sought for clarifying matters not readily obvious.

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