By Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
This week we read two Torah portions. The first, ‘Tazria’ means ‘Giving seed’ and the second ‘Metzora’ is translated ‘Leprosy’ (actually a Leprosy-like disease caused by speaking with intent to harm).
These seem to be two opposites. ‘Giving seed’ is good and ‘Leprosy’ is bad. But Chassidut teaches that in a deeper sense they are both good.
Metzora is a name for The Moshiach (Messiah) [Talmud Sanhedrin 98b] whose arrival is the goal of Judaism; to make a good world. While ‘giving seed’ is how we reveal him; by being positive and ‘fertile’.
But after all, why is the Moshiach, who will bring world peace and blessing, called Metzora? And why does his arrival depend on us?
To understand all this here is a story. (HaGeula weekly page #460)
A wedding, even when it is a second marriage and the bride and groom are in their fifties, is a joyous occasion, a new beginning.
Rabbi Kasreal Kastel, one of the better-known figures in Chabad in Crown Heights, has thousands of acquaintances and one of them was the fifty plus year old groom. He was marrying for the first time and asked that the Rabbi attend the ceremony.
The bride was a widow and both were fairly recent Baali Tshuva; Jews that ‘returned’ to their true Jewish identity and now were embarking on a combined new future.
A Jewish wedding is also a very serious and complicated matter. There are many details that, if not done correctly, could actually nullify the whole thing; for instance, the witnesses and the Ketubah (wedding document) have to be exactly according to Torah standards. But that does not dampen the joy.
The ceremony was about to begin. The bride and groom were ready, the presiding Rabbi was getting the wedding document and witnesses in order, guests were filing in, the band was warming up and the tables were being set.
Rabbi Kastel was having a casual conversation with someone when a middle aged, clean-shaven fellow with a small white yarmulke on his head and an anxious look on his face, approached him, apologized for the interruption, and asked if they could speak in private.
Rabbi Kastel excused himself and they went to a corner.
“Listen, Rabbi, I’m not a very educated Jew, a long time ago I did learn in a Chabad elementary school but I have to admit I’m pretty simple about all the laws and things. But, well, I don’t know exactly how to say this, but well, I see you are a good friend of the groom so” He cleared his throat and continued ….
“Well it’s like this….. Last night I had a dream. Now, I’m not superstitious or mystical or any of that and usually I never pay any attention to such crazy things but well… the Lubavitcher Rebbe came to me in this dream and said, very matter-of- factly, ‘Don’t sign the Ketuba (wedding document) of your friend at the wedding.’ And I woke up.
“I wanted to just forget it. And, in fact, I sort of did… until just now when the groom just came up to me and asked me… to sign the Ketuba!
“No one ever asked me to do that. To sign a Ketuba. I can’t figure it out… I mean, what to do. He wants me to be one of the two witnesses and sign the Ketuba! Well, suddenly I remembered the dream. You know Rabbi, I’m a bit scared! I mean, it was only a dream but… I don’t know if I should sign or not! What should I do?”
Rabbi Kastel asked him if perhaps he was a relative of the bride or groom or some other details which would disqualify him as a witness but when the answer was negative, he said, “Listen, if the Rebbe appears in a dream it should be taken seriously. Don’t worry. I’ll talk to the groom and tell him I want to sign in your place. Good? The groom and I are good friends, I’m sure he’ll agree. No problem! Why take chances?”
And so it was. He told the groom that he wanted to sign. The groom agreed, The presiding Rabbi finished preparing the Ketuba, the first witness signed, the cameras flashed, everyone was smiling and happy and then came Rabbi Kastel’s turn. He took the pen in hand, bent over the paper to sign it, gave a quick glance at the document before him and his eyes widened.
“Tell me,” He turned to the groom and asked, “What is your name?”
“Why, Isaac” (pseudonym). He answered. Why do you ask? I mean, you know my name.”
“Because” replied Rabbi Kastel. “There is a mistake here. Instead of Isaac it’s written here; Naftali!”
“Naftali?” Said the groom, why, that’s the name of my wife’s …. that is…. my bride’s father!”
They all took a look. The presiding Rabbi tried smile and make excuses (he made the mistake) say the groom didn’t tell him clearly etc. etc. and began searching in his briefcase for another Ketuba form. But he couldn’t find one.
“No problem,” said Rabbi Kastel. About fifteen minutes’ drive from here is a Judaica store. I’ll be right back! I’ll just jump in my car, rush down there and…”
But the presiding Rabbi said he was in a hurry. He had a busy day before him and a half hour wait, there and back, was out of the question. He would simply put a line through the name he wrote, write the groom’s name above it, all the witnesses would sign above the correction and everything would be all right.
Rabbi Kastel was not happy about it, but the presiding Rabbi wouldn’t have it differently. So, with no choice they made the correction, the ceremony took place, everyone shouted “Mazal Tov” and the music began to joyously play.
But Rabbi Kastel was worried.
True, the wedding was valid but a husband and wife are not allowed to live together without a proper Ketuba and this one was certainly not a hundred percent. Not only that, but there were many unfortunate stories about couples that had troubles because of small mistakes in their Ketuba. But what could he do?
In the middle of the festivities a Chassidic Rebbe, a good friend of the groom and a very learned Torah scholar, entered with a few of his pupils. Rabbi Kastel approached him, asked him to have a look at the Ketuba.
His took the Ketuba, began reading, immediately pointed to the cross-out and his face darkened. He shook his head and agreed that such a Ketuba is very problematic. And being a man of action, he immediately ordered one of the Chassidim accompanying him to drive to that Judaica store and get a replacement. Twenty minutes later he returned out of breath with a brand-new certificate that he handed triumphantly to his Rebbe.
“Ehhh?” He said when he examined the new ‘Ketuba’ “Oy! Look here! He shook his head sadly no and pointed to one line of the text.
“Look!” He showed it to Rabbi Kastel. “It’s a Ketuba for a first marriage not for a second one. They gave you the wrong Ketuba form!” He looked at the distraught couple and said handing the document back to his Chassid. “There is a different Ketuba for a second marriage. Don’t worry, in just a few minutes we’ll have the right one.”
Without hesitation the Chassid rushed out, jumped back in the car, screeched off into the distance, made it to the store just before closing, and returned with the proper document in record time.
Meanwhile the bride and groom didn’t know what to make of all this confusion but Rabbi Kastel comforted them saying, “Don’t worry. It must be that in heaven this wedding is very important; otherwise there would not have been so many difficulties!! In fact, it says in the books that when there are problems at the wedding, there won’t be any in the marriage!!”
After the wedding meal finished, the final blessings were said and most of the guests had left, the man that almost signed the Ketuba again approached Rabbi Kastel eyes glistening with tears of gratitude and said, “Rabbi, do you realize what happened? If the Lubavitcher Rebbe hadn’t come in that dream I would have signed that ketubah and not noticed anything, not even the wrong name! Why, they would have an improper marriage for the rest of their lives! The Rebbe saved the day!!
This answers our questions. Sometimes what seems to be good (like the first Ketuba) is really not and what seems to be bad (like the Rabbi finding the faults) is the best.
So too the Metzora.
In the book by the first Rebbe of Chabad ‘Lekuti Torah (pg 22b)’ he explains that Tzoraat-leprosy was really a blessing in disguise; it occurred in people who thought they were totally good, but really weren’t.
The ‘leprosy’ brought the hidden evil to the surface… in the skin or garments etc. so it could be recognized and corrected.
So to the exile and Moshiach. In exile Jews see no problem in being far from Torah and awareness of G-d.
That is why Moshiach is called a leper; because he brings the false egotism and faults of the world to the surface so people can change their attitudes. Something like what the Rebbe did in our story.
The exile we are now in is likened to a dream (Psalms 126:1) and the Rebbe’s appearance in the dream to tell the man how to avoid mistakes (external ones at that) is like Moshiach appearing in the exile to direct us away from our mistaken ideas and attitudes (external ones at that).
And just as in our story the goal was a proper, lasting marriage so also Moshiach will assure that the marriage between G-d and the Jewish people (As king Solomon beautifully portrays in ‘Song of Songs’) is complete and fruitful.
But it all depends on us! The Lubavitcher Rebbe said time and time again that ours is the generation of Moshiach. We can reveal Moshiach even one moment sooner. But if we want our dreams to come true we must wake up….. and realize that ….
Even one more good deed, word or even thought is enough to tip the scales and reveal….
Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim
Kfar Chabad, Israel