Tazria-Metzora – Shabbat Rosh Chodesh


This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Iyar. During the course of this month, we will celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary of independence and Jerusalem’s 56th anniversary of reunification.

As well as being momentous occasions of celebration and thanksgiving, these days have given rise to wonderful Jewish music.

A prime example is the song, Hakotel. It was composed by Yossi Gamzu when the Western Wall was once again in Israeli hands. Its haunting melody and lyrics capturethe essence of thousands of years of Jewish emotion:

Yesh anashim im lev shel even, yesh avanim im lev adam

“There are people with hearts of stone; there are stones with human hearts.”

The capacity of inanimate stone to absorb words and emotions emerges from a seemingly negative passage in this week’s second parasha, Metzora. In describing the negaim or plagues on houses the Torah mentions that under certain circumstances, it may be necessary for the house to be pulled down.

The rabbis explain that this phenomenon did not correspond to normal problems that might occur like dry rot or fungus, but was rather a punishment, in biblical times, for speaking slander and lashon hara.

The great twentieth century teacher of Musar (Jewish Ethics), Rabbi Eliya Lopian, explains that the stones of a person’s house had absorbed the slander and evil talk such that they were saturated to a degree that made it necessary for them to be dismantled. The very stones had been spiritually contaminated by the negative talk that had taken place in the house.

Rabbi Lopian makes the observation that if this was the case for negative talk, how much more would it be the case for positive talk: prayer, the sound of Torah study, words of comfort, and words of kindness – all these would be absorbed into the very walls of the house suffusing them with an ever richer holiness.

The walls of our homes and our synagogues can be imbued with manifold layers of spirituality as a result of the very words we utter. Above all, the Kotel is the repository of the millions of Jewish prayers across the centuries, giving it, in Yossi Gamzu’swords, a sensitivity that can exceed that of many a person:

Yesh anashim im lev shel even, yesh avanim im lev adam

“There are people with hearts of stone; yet there are stones with human hearts.”