Preventive Medicine

April 24, 2017 at 10:13 PM , , ,

“…All the days the lesion is upon him… he shall dwell in isolation; his dwelling is outside the camp…” Vayika 13:46

כָּל יְמֵי אֲשֶׁר הַנֶּגַע בּוֹ . . בָּדָד יֵשֵׁב מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה מוֹשָׁבוֹ – ויקרא יג, מו

The impurity of a metzora, a person afflicted with tzora’as,is unusually severe in that a metzora’s mere entry into a home conveys impurity to the home’s contents.

According to R’ Yehudah (see Mishna, Negaim 13:11; Tosefta, Negaim 7:11), this applies only when the metzoraenters the house with permission, in which case the house is deemed “the metzora’s dwelling” and becomes impure.  If the metzora enters without permission, however, R’ Yehuda is of the opinion that “everything remains pure until he stays long enough for a candle to be kindled.”

What is the reasoning behind this leniency? According to R’ Yehudah, the home is only deemed “the metzora’s dwelling” if the residents of the home approve of his entry. As the people of the home might be preoccupied with something else when the metzora first enters, R’ Yehuda allows for the time it would take to light a candle before deeming them compliant. What is the significance of the time it takes to light a candle? The sages based this allowance on the lighting of the Shabbos candles, which one may not interrupt before the bracha has been recited, and therefore one could not tell the metzora to leave (see Tiferes Yisrael).

That the lighting of Shabbos candles is the “standard” which determines how long the impurity of tzora’as can be kept at bay is a powerful indication of the importance of lighting Shabbos candles.

The purpose of the Shabbos candles, says the Talmud (Shabbos 23b), is to promote shalom bayis, peace in the home. The light of the candles allows the people of the home to enjoy Shabbos by eliminating the discomfort caused by darkness and the discord it engenders. And just as the Shabbos candles save the home from physical distress, the light of this mitzvah also protects the home from any spiritual maladies—in this case, the impurity oftzora’as. Moreover, tzora’as is caused by lashon hara, derogatory speech, which “causes rifts between husband and wife or between man and his fellow” (see Talmud, Arachin 16a-b). It thus follows that the way to fend off the divisiveness and discord that is synonymous with tzora’asis the kindling of the Shabbos candles which promote peace and harmony.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 17, pp. 141-143


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