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Parshat Tazria - Metzora - Yom Haatzmauth

When you come into the land of canaan which i am about

To give to you as a possession, and i inflict

An eruptive plague upon a house in the land you possess...

(Vayikra 14: 34-35)


The reason for 'When you come into the land" - For this [phenomenon of a house plague] exists only in the land [of Canaan], because of its high standing, because the Sanctuary is within them and His honor is within the Sanctuary.

(Ibn Ezra, Vayikra 14:34)


The author of the "Kli Yakar" commentary notes two possible emphases in the text, each indicating an attitudinal flaw which brings the plague upon the house.

A.                 The mistaken belief that it is Israel's power which enables it to conquer the land and possess homes full of wealth. This attitude is implied in the phrase "your possession" - you, not Almighty God, took possession over the house.

B.                 Emphasis on the phrase "he whose house it is" indicates exclusivity; the house and its contents are his alone - to be enjoyed only by him, to the exclusion of all others.

Despite their dissimilarity [the first is a conceptual flaw, the second a practical one] both errors derive from a single character trait - "tsarut ayin" [Lit. "narrowness of the eye] - stinginess, meanness, ingratitude. The Israelite's failure to see the hand of God as possessing the house and its wealth, and his refusal to share "the house" with others are expressions of tsarut ayin. Tsarut ayim brings the plague upon the house. [Translator's note: 'Tsarut' - narrrowness, and 'tsaraat' - a form of eruptive skin affliction, are phonetically similar, implying a 'measure for measure' relationship].

(Kli Yakar, Ibid, ibid.)



Our father in heaven, bless the state of israel and its inhabitants,

Protect it with pinions of your loving-kindness and spread over it

Your tabernacle of peace and send your light and your truth

To its leaders, ministers and counsellors and give them good counsel

Bring peace to the land and everlasting joy to all its inhabitants.



On the way to 'the prayer for the welfare of the state'

Yoel Rappel

On Saturday night, 29/11/1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved the resolutions of the UNESCOP regarding the political future of Eretz Yisrael. By a vote of 33 against 13, with 10 abstentions, the Assembly voted for the establishment of two nations, one Jewish one Arab, in the Land of Israel. The Jews consented to the resolution, accepting it joyfully, but the Arabs rejected it. Yet more, they immediately (30/11/1947) began attacking Jewish settlements in Eretz Yisrael. The British government, which ruled over Eretz Yisrael by virtue of the 'League of Nations' mandate, rushed to announce the termination of the mandate on May 15, 1948. As masses of Jews throughout Eretz Yisrael filled the streets in celebration of the recognition of the establishment of a Jewish state, the rabbi of Petach Tikvah, Rabbi Reuven Katz, sat down to compose the first prayer to give liturgical expression to Jewish independence in Eretz Yisrael. A day later, on the 18th of Kislev 5708 (30/11/1947), he sent the the prayer to Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael. Thus, at the initiative of a rabbi of a (then) small town, began the long path to the composition of the Prayer for the State of Israel. At this early stage, however, no attempt was made to create something original; Rav Katz's suggestion was a reworking of an existing prayer - "He Who Grants Victory"" - to meet a new need:

He who grants victory - He who grants victory to kings and dominion to princes, his kingdom is a kingdom for all ages; he who delivered his servant David from the evil sword, he who opened a road through the sea, a path amid the mighty waters, may He bless and protect, assist and exalt, the Kingdom of Israel now being established in the Land of Israel, and the entire Jewish nation which bears the yoke of its establishment and its security.

May the supreme Kings of kings, in his mercy, sustain them and deliver them from all distress and misfortune. May He subject peoples to us, and defeat our enemies, and may we succeed in all our endeavors.

May the supreme King of kings, in his mercy, inspire all the kingdoms, their counselors and aides with righteousness and recognition of the justice of our enterprise, to deal kindly with us and with the Kingdom of Israel in the Land of Israel, and to extend mercy upon all the dispersed of Israel in all their lands of settlement.

In our days may Judah and Israel merit everlasting salvation; the Jewish nation shall dwell securely in our holy land. My we soon merit the ingathering of the dispersions of Israel to Jerusalem and Zion, our life-home, in eternal joy. May our eyes witness the coming of our just Messiah and the erection of our Temple. May this be His will, and let us say, Amen.

In his accompanying letter, Rav Katz suggests that: "The Chief Rabbinate shall instruct that this prayer be recited throughout the Jewish world every Sabbath; this will make a great impression upon all the world, something which will not be so in the case of recitation of the Hallel, which contains no innovation".

Rav Katz, as he composed the prayer, saw before him the accepted version of "He Who Grants Victory" but he replaced all personal allusions ["king", "president", etc.] with national terminology.

Identification of the blessing's recipient: "Kingdom of Israel, being established in the Land of Israel, and the entire Jewish nation that bears the yoke of its establishment and its security."

Request for protection: "Sustain them and deliver them from all distress and misfortune"

Request for victory: "May He subject peoples to us, and defeat our enemies"

Political acumen: "may we succeed in all our endeavors"

To bestow favors... with the Kingdom of Israel in the Land of Israel.

The final sentence in the prayer emphasizes the difference between the two prayers, the original "He Who Grants Victory" and that composed on the threshold of Jewish independence.

The original states: "In their days and in our days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security and a redeemer shall come to Zion, and let us say, Amen". Rav Katz expands this short sentence into a great hope: "In our days may Judah and Israel merit everlasting salvation; the Jewish nation shall dwell securely in our holy land. My we soon merit the ingathering of the dispersions of Israel to Jerusalem and Zion, our life-home, in eternal joy. May our eyes witness the coming of our just Messiah and the erection of our Temple. May this be His will, and let us say, Amen"

Rav Katz did not alter the name of the prayer, "He Who Grants Victory". This prayer was, to the best of my knowledge, the only one relating to Jewish independence prior to the declaration of the State. What happened on the night of the resolution's acceptance by the General Assembly of the U.N. was repeated in Tel-Aviv, during the Declaration of Israeli Independence ceremony, on 5 Iyar 5708 (14/5/1948). While David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence of the first independent Jewish state in 2,000 years, Rav Isser Yehuda Unterman, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo, sat in his Tel-Aviv home and penned a "Mi Shebeyrach" prayer for the new state.

 "He who blessed [Mi shebeyrach], our fathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, He will bless the members of the administration and the council of the State of Israel, for all this holy assembly prays for their welfare.

May the Holy One, blessed be He, watch over them and protect them from misfortune and adversity and plant in their hearts wisdom and understanding that they may manage the matters of the nation justly and fairly, and cause peace to dwell in the land, and protect it from every enemy and oppressor.

In their time and in ours may our Father in Heaven gather all the dispersed of Israel into our land and rule over (over us) in Zion and Jerusalem, and let us say "Amen"

For Rabbi Unterman, the prayer was the "Declaration of Independence" of the religious public who believed in national revival in the Land of Israel. He saw before him the Mi shebeyrach recited publically every Shabbat. "He who blessed our fathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, may He bless all this holy congregation along with all the holy congregations"... and all who are involved in public needs in good faith, may the Holy One blessed be He grant their reward and remove from them all illness and heal all their body and forgive all their sins." It seems that he "lifted" the final passage from the "He Who Grants Victory" prayer. Why did Rav Unterman prefer the "Mi Shebeyrach" version over Rav Katz's "He Who Grants Victory" version? The answer lies in the character of the "Mi Shebeyrach" prayer which does not feature His divine name and His kingship, and thus has no possibility of being a beracha l'vatalah - a blessing recited unnecessarily. Rabbi Unterman caught the greatness of the moment and found the spiritual powers to compose - that very afternoon, right before the entry of the Shabbat - a prayer which was recited already on the morrow, 6 Iyar (16/5/48) in the Tel-Aviv Great Synagogue.

Rav Unterman composed his prayer on Friday, as the Independence Proclamation ceremony was taking place in the Tel-Aviv Museum, as the Sabbath was about to enter. Twenty four hours later, on Motsie Shabbat, the literary researcher, Prof. Dov Sadan, too, sat in Tel-Aviv and composed a prayer which he titled: "Prayer for the Welfare of Israel". This prayer came to light when Sadan published it in the Maariv newspaper on 30/4/1968, the Friday preceding the 20th Independence Day of the State of Israel. Dov Sadan wrote as follows:

Master of the Universe, God of Israel,

Bless Your holy land, estate of the children of Your covenent;

Exalt their state and return to it the dispersed of your nation;

Make its land fruitful and support all who work upon it,

Make wondrous the diligence of its builders and increase the strength of its defenders.

Grant understanding to the hearts of its representatives, and wisdom to its government,

May Your Torah enlighten their ways, and Your commandments their paths

Let your loving-kindness be their assistance and Your truth their fortress.

Spread your peace over this pleasant land, and in its peace, peace to all your creations.

Build Your house soon, your eternal .dwelling;

And speedily send Your righteous redeemer and let us see the light of Your salvation;

And may all the inhabitants of Your world proclaim,

God, Lord of Israel, is King, and His kingdom rules over all."

Exactly one month after Rav Unterman composed his new prayer, a "Mi Shebeyrach", for the young state, another version, based upon the old and familiar "He Who Grants Freedom" was formulated. "HaHed", a newspaper edited by R' Benyamin (Yehoshua Redler-Feldman) published the adaptation "He who grants freedom to His people Israel", which includes blessings for "the President of Israel, its ministers and its armies". In this new, Eretz-Yisrael version, there is a return to the personal, rather than national, prayer; the political and military leadership are blessed, not the nation.

It is worthwhile noting that the opening and concluding portions of the prayer, which was recited on the Shavuot festival in 5708, in Jerusalem's Jeshurun Synagogue, are identical to the opening and closing of the familiar "He Who Grants Freedom" prayer. The anonymous composer of the prayer created for the supplicants the direct link between the prayer they were used to reciting in the Diaspora and the prayer in their new state. It is not known whether this prayer was recited in synagogues other than Jeshurun; for the latter there exists written conformation. Beneath the printed prayer, the editor provides important information: "This prayer was recited by the cantor of the "Jeshurun" synagogue on the Shavuot festival 5708. This is not the final version which is still under discussion".

From this last note, we can conclude that the version was intended to be a temporary one and that at that very hour a different - final - version was under discussion. Who was engaged in this formulation? Under what conditions was it taking shape - we do not know. Were the anonymous authors toying with the idea of severing the prayer for the State of Israel from the "He Who Grants Freedom" format"? On the basis of later documents it may be determined than the express intent of Rav Herzog was to compose

a new version and not to rewrite an existing one. Approximately three months passed, and the middle of Elul, 5709, saw the initial appearance of "The Prayer for the Welfare of the State", which was composed by Chief Rabbi Herzog and received the approval of the Chief Rabbinical Council.                

Dr. Yoel Rappel, supervises the Eli Weisel Archives in Boston U. A machzor for Independence Day and Jerusalem Day, edited by Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau and Dr. Rappel, has been published by Koren Publishing House.



"Leprosy" [tzara'at] is a comprehensive term covering sundry incompatible matters. Thus, whiteness in a man's skin is called leprosy; the falling off of some of his hair on the head or the chin is called leprosy; and a change of color in garments or in houses is called leprosy.

Now this change in garments and in houses which Scripture includes under the general term leprosy was no normal happening, but was a portent and a wonder among the Israelites to warn them against slanderous speaking. For if a man uttered slander the walls of his house would suffer a change; if he repented the house would again become clean. But if he continued in his wickedness until the house was torn down, leather objects in his house on which he sat or lay would suffer a change; if he repented they would again become clean. But if he continued in his wickedness until they were burned, the garments which he wore would suffer a change: if he repented, they would again become clean. But if he continued in his wickedness until they were burned, his skin would suffer a change and he would become leprous and be set apart and exposed all alone until he should no longer engage in the conversation of the wicked, which is raillery and slander.

Now on this matter there is a warning in Scripture which says, Take heed in the plague of leprosy...remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam by the way (Devarim 24:9). That is to say, consider what befell Miriam the prophetess, who spoke against her brother, even though she was older than he and had nurtured him on her knees and had put herself in jeopardy to save him from the sea. Now she did not speak against him but erred only in that she put him on a level with other prophets; nor was he resentful about all these things, for it is said, Now the man Moses was very meek (Bamidbar 12:3). Nevertheless, she was forthwith punished with leprosy. How much more then does this apply to wicked and foolish people who are profuse in speaking great and boastful things!

 (RaMBaM Mishneh Torah Hilkhot Tumat Tzara'at 16:10, Yale translation)                                                          


And I shall inflict an eruptive affliction upon a house in the land you possess - This refers to the Temple, for it is said, I am going to desecrate My Sanctuary, your pride and glory (Ezekiel 24:21).

(Vayikra Rabbah 17:7)


R. Alshich, in line with the accepted understanding of the tsaraat of the house being a punishment for lashon hara - for tale-bearing - draws the following analogy:

"The house" is the human being.

"He whose house it is" is the soul for whom the body serves as a "house".

"The priest to whom he comes" is the Holy One, blessed be He.

When a person becomes a tale-bearer, his soul comes before the Holy One and says "Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house" i.e., "The person ["the house] in which I ["the soul"] reside is becoming afflicted with sin."

(Alshich on the Torah)


The character of the most completely unsociable being as represented by the dror bird at once springs to one's mind as the opposite contrast to what is demanded for re-entrance into the social life of the community. It is the contrast of the animals of the "field" to the humans of the "city."

The demand which is made as the condition for the re-entry into the social life of the community is that the priest shall slaughter one of the birds, i.e., the energetic subjection of the wild untrammeled animal life under the sharp control of the morally strong human will. (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch on Vayikra 14:8, based on Isaac Levy translation)

A cedar stickBecause lesions of tzara'at come because of haughtiness

a strip of crimson [wool], and hyssopWhat is the remedy that he may be healed [of his tzara'at]? He must humble himself from his haughtiness, just as [symbolized by] the crimson [tola'at lit., "a worm," which infested the berries from which the crimson dye was extracted to color wool], and the [lowly] hyssop.

(Rashi ad loc, based on Judaica Press translation)


The Rebbi of Gur, author of the Sefat Emet, used to say: Why was it necessary also to bring the cedar tree, which signifies pride? If the main intention is that the sinner lower himself like the hyssop, is it not sufficient that he bring the hyssop alone?

But, when the penitent repents and examines his sins, he reaches dejection and deep shame because of his previous pride. He is mortified and embarrassed by the haughtiness attendant upon his sin. It follows that his earlier pride now helps him attain humility. Therefore it is right that the cedar be part of the cure.

(S'fat Emet, as quoted in Ma'ayana Shel Torah)


Lowliness and submission do not mean that the body be bent and stooped, but that there be inside him a broken spirit even when the body stands erect, as the Baal Shem Tov explained: "Let every erect body bow down before you - bowing down before you, even with an erect posture."

When one lowers himself like a hyssop - but the humility is counterfeit, this kind of humble person is in need of atonement.

(Hiddushei HaRiYM)


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