Intellect, Gerim, and Moshiach – Finding Light Outside the Camp
Rabbi David Katz
Parashas Metzora comes across to us plainly as a Parasha that deals with skin conditions, and as such, one must see the Priest for his remedy. Yet hidden inside this maze of Priestly jargon, is a path that ultimately contains the light of redemption. So perfectly contained in a vernacular of the scholar, yet Hashem has highlighted His brilliance within Creation, all within the framework of a dictum, "From the mouth of God we heard two." Resolving the paradox of Creation, simply put, for every word that God has spoken [or written], there is a complete parallel universe waiting to be beheld. This is what gives us life and experience, taking the tzedaka of existence that Hashem has blessed us with, as a dual consciousness that materializes into an identity unique to each one of us; all the while it remains in Hashem's hands as His Creation and a story that only He can tell and ultimately did tell in a unique way through Moses at Sinai. Expressed in simple and easy terms, in Metzora we learn about skin stuff, but this is not another case of another Naaman and his Tzaaras, for underneath the Metzora is the God of Naaman, and He is telling us the rest of Naaman's story. The story takes us outside the camp, the place that Naaman [and Jethro] ventured off into away from a Jewish comfort zone, a place of Gerim, [Torah] Intellect, and most ironically, the Messiah himself. Oblivious, we shall forever continue reading about the leper in Metzora, evading one of the Torah's clearest paths to the doors of redemption.
In Tazria 13:2 we are introduced to the Sapachas, and by reading the Rashi Commentary there, you will easily read that this is a skin malady synonymous with becoming afflicted with Tzaaras and now being classified as a Metzora. It is precisely here that the river forges into the divisions of Pardes [four levels of exegesis] and we can accept the story of God, for the Metzora is a major cog in the engine that runs the World, otherwise known as the Temple; without Priests working, the Temple stands for naught.
However when we kick in the famous Torah of Emunah [faith] concept, we find a new wing to the entire Torah [yet again]; this time it truly rings loud and clear with Messiah and redemption. Even more importantly, we can shed serious light on the abstract concept that authorities reference as the beginning of the redemption, such that it is termed the redemption of the Ger. How wonderful of an analogy to have this in Parashas Metzora – for every healing is a mini redemption for that soul to come back into the camp. One need not look far to see the micro/ macro elements working here, and on a mystical level the mind can fathom the obvious connections [and all the more so from Torah source implications of the like] through Torah of Emunah how we move in and out of holy camps in what is called life, based on the same principles as this article, in Torah intellect, Gerim, and Messiah. We all contain these facets when we succeed in creating them into our psyche, and behold, it appears before us – a revelation from God.
The Maharal of Prague quickly jumps on to this beautiful assist from Rashi, for the chain of events is as follows: the Torah lists Sapachas as a malady, Rashi explains it is a pre-cursor condition that can turn white, and we leap laterally to a famous Talmudic passage that says Gerim are harsh to Israel like sapachas. In this context Sapachas is referred to as a condition when Gerim and Jews interact not for the sake of heaven, and become [poorly translated] as "as thorns." The example often cited is as one who comes close to Israel, becomes jaded and leaves, and thus ultimately takes on an antagonist role against Israel. Yet metaphorically when Gerim are called sapachas [and sticking close to Rashi's definition] the exegesis usually revolves around the difficulties in relations between Jews and [MAKING] Gerim. Due to the reality that Gerim are close to those far from God, many challenges can rise for the Jew-Ger connection, for an unlimited amount of accusers can enter into the confines of this holy arena; the arena is simply a platform to make Gerim, and fill the World with God's Light. By definition, this job will go through thorns and maladies by direct association on both sides. The Maharal however, in being consistent with Rashi and ways of exegesis offers a fantastic view, that in his way, the Ger and sapachas on Israel is a merit, and one linked with Torah intellect and Messiah. The brilliance of the Maharal will show symmetry between Gerim, Intellect, Messiah, and Tzaaras as a path to redemption.
He begins by stating that our world is physical and anti-Messiah, for he is spiritual – in that he is of Torah intelligence, a spiritual way of life rather than overtly physical. At the same time, he says intelligence is a Ger in this World, i.e. not indigenous amidst physicality. The Talmud then enters the equation and says two foundational principles: Messiah is with the lepers, and even is considered a leper himself. When this all weighed together, you have a Messiah son of David [to which David calls himself a Ger numerous times] who is outside the [popular] camp of Israel, is depicted as a leper, has intellect as the catalyst of his exiled nature, and associates with people like himself.
Once we parallel Messiah and his status as Metzora, enter the Ger who is like sapachas, and is thus a Metzora allegorically as well. Join in the Maharal who says intellect is a Ger in this World, and it becomes literal – for a Ger IS this Torah intellect! We learn that the Messiah makes his company with – Gerim, for they are both perfectly parallel in every way among the Torah, Maharal, Talmud, and all other works on this subject and associate on this positive level of context. The picture becomes quite clear, in that we have a Jewish continuum that plays a vital role in sustaining the physical World [in tandem with Gerim] and by the End of Days, they will have lost sight of the Messianic Light completely; this leaves two entities outside the camp of Israel – Gerim and Messiah, and thus they are destined to unite, not surprisingly causing a beginning to redemption.
The Gerim are seen as outsiders for their sublime intellect for Torah is virtually unacknowledged, and are thus seen as outside and sapachas by nature – on many levels of interpretation. The Messiah is spiritual, and thus the physical World that Jewish proper represents perforce reject his light, leaving him on the outside as well. The Messiah by definition then is a conceptual [Jewish] Ger [as David said of himself] and identifies as a Metzora, a sapachas, and it could be said he too is as thorns to Israel; King David was the biggest perceived threat in Israel's history, and ironically, he was perhaps the greatest man to ever walk the Earth! Ironically, it is outside the camp where the Gerim and Messiah are destined to meet and unite under the pretext as societal rejections, a rendezvous of spiritual reality and intimate Torah intellect, preparing the Lights of redemption; of the Ger, of the World, and for all of Israel.
The Metzora remains a skin malady to Hashem's book and the story moves on; yet underneath the plot, Hashem sows redemption, similar to the saga of Judah and Joseph, for we bother with Judah, while Joseph's journey is Hashem redeeming within perfect story engineering. Once the Parasha closes its final chapter, the Metzora lives on in Torah tradition, pulling together all of its loose ends. We will learn how the Messiah is a Metzora, Intellect is a Ger, and the Ger is forever in the background, all leading to an immaculate story of redemption emerging from affliction, reminiscent of the Red Heifer context! The emphasis that Hashem is making clear is that there are two directions of the World – to God and away from God, and they don't always get along or cooperate. The Messiah is the program that gives leadership to the "to God" agenda, one that the Gerim personify, for God loves the Ger.
The Jewish people are also loved by God, and play a special function in the plan as does every member of God's society. But as the show must go on mentality within the play called "life" there is a subplot, and it is laced in every sector that society wishes not to frequent – for they wish to remain in their created camp. It is the Ger who personifies out of the camp consciousness, and surprisingly through the eyes of the Ger, we can behold the Messiah, and his lonely playground. Harsh on Israel like thorns are Gerim, for they encourage Messiah and his World to take center stage, much like the Priest who comes to remedy the Tzaaras. How sweet it is, to find out against all odds, you were actually on the winning team, albeit the massive underdog! A glorious redemption is promised and will come, one led by Messiah and followed by Gerim [as states the Midrash]; and in the end we learn about the God of Naaman. The God of Jethro. The God of Abraham. The God of Israel, God is one, and he shall purify His World, his World is of Torah, and once the dust settles, we will all inhabit a World filled with Knowledge of God, a World of the Ger, illuminated with His dwelling on Mt. Zion, spinning with Priests and Gerim – in eternal Peace, Happiness, and Unity.
Class is Motzie Shabbos 11 P.M. Tzfat Time