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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach





The interplay of purity and impurity

In this blog for parshat metzorah for the year 5784, we examine purity and impurity of speech through Likutey Moharan and Shemen HaTov. In response to the verse found in Leviticus 14:4

the priest shall order two live pure birds, cedar wood, crimson stuff, and hyssop to be brought for the one to be purified. וְצִוָּה֙ הַכֹּהֵ֔ן וְלָקַ֧ח לַמִּטַּהֵ֛ר שְׁתֵּֽי־צִפֳּרִ֥ים חַיּ֖וֹת טְהֹר֑וֹת וְעֵ֣ץ אֶ֔רֶז וּשְׁנִ֥י תוֹלַ֖עַת וְאֵזֹֽב

In the previous Parasha, it was emphasized that Tzara’at is, among other things, the result of Lashon hara – speaking ill or gossiping about others. This destructive behavior is so harmful to society that the person afflicted with it is ostracized from the community. Only after a process of purification can they return to society.

In this purification process, various ingredients are used to create a mixture that is sprinkled on the person. One of these ingredients is a piece of cedarwood, symbolizing pride. Pride can easily lead to speaking ill because one looks down on others. To overcome this, the person must learn humility. That is why hyssop, symbolizing humility, is also used. Learning humility is crucial because a humble person will not look down on others or speak ill of them.

Symbolic contrasts of the ingredients are also reflected in the use of two birds. In the process, two birds are used, with one ultimately being buried and the other allowed to fly away freely. Likutey Moharan 1,3 indicates that these two birds represent respectively the voice of holiness and the source of impurity.

The text states:

These two live, clean birds are the source for the “voice of holiness,” which corresponds to the cherubs upon the Ark in the Sanctuary. The Ark is the source of prophecy; thus, the word ChaZaN (jrn, singer) is related to ChaZoN (11th, vision-i.e., prophecy). When a person sings for the sake of God, he draws his song from the two live, clean birds and from the inspiration of the cherubs, the source of prophecy. That kind of music can inspire many others to serve God. But when a person is motivated to sing vulgar or profane songs, or songs for personal gain, then he draws his music from the “birds of impurity.” That kind of music can spiritually damage anyone who hears it.

When someone sings for G-d, their song is inspired by the source of holiness, which can inspire others to serve G-d. But when someone is motivated to sing vulgar or selfish songs, they draw from a source of impurity, which can be spiritually harmful to those who hear it. The concept of opposites applies not only to music, as described above, but also to the words we use, both bad and good. As Shemen Hatov emphasizes, Lashon hara includes not only speaking ill but also withholding good words. Not expressing words of encouragement can be as harmful as speaking ill. Simple compliments like “Good morning,” “How are you?” “Thank you,” or “Well done” can bring someone who is depressed or lonely back to life. Therefore, it is important not only to avoid speaking ill but also to actively show kindness and appreciation to others.”

Let us be mindful of our words, burying the impure ones and allowing the pure ones to soar freely in our surroundings.

By Angelique Sijbolts


See also the blog: PARSHAT TAZRIA 5784 – GOSSIP CYCLE BREAK (If it is not a leap year, Parshat Tazria and Metzora are read together.)

Rebbe Nachman’s Torah parasha Metzorah
Two Birds Parshas Tazria Metzorah by Rav Frand


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