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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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LEVITICUS — 14:2 leper

We should publicize the importance of refraining from loshon hora. The Midrash (Yayikra Rabbah 16:2) states that the word metzora (a person afflicted with tzoraas) comes from motzi shaim ra (a slanderer), since the disease of tzoraas is a punishment for speaking against others. ... Speaking against others causes quarrels, disputes, strife, and heartache; all of which are likely to shorten a person's lifespan. On the other hand, a person who refrains from speaking against others will lead a much more peaceful and tranquil existence, and will live longer (Kochav MaiYaakov, cited in Mayanah Shel Torah on this verse).

LEVITICUS — 14:4 order

By reflecting on the instruments needed to purify the metzora, we can appreciate the severity of lashon hora. Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv of Kelm wrote that studying the portion of Metzora is analogous to visiting a doctor prior to an operation. If the patient sees that the doctor requires a large amount of the surgical instruments for the operation, it will frighten him. Let us look at the instruments required by the Torah to purify the metzora after he is healed from the physical aspects of the affliction: [this verse]. The Torah continues for an entire section with a description of the instruments and operations that are necessary to cure the metzora spiritually. From here and we can learn the gravity of loshon hora, and should be deterred from this sin. (Chochmah Umussar, vol. 1, p. 332).

LEVITICUS — 14:7 open

(Continued from Leviticus 16:9 offering SACKS 185-7) The psychology of shame is quite different to that of guilt. We can discharge guilt by achieving forgiveness--and forgiveness can only be granted by the object of our wrongdoing, which is why Yom Kippur only atones for sins against G-d. Even G-d cannot--logically, cannot – – forgive sins committed against our fellow humans until they themselves have forgiven us. Shame cannot be removed by forgiveness. The victim of our crime may have forgiven us, but we still feel defiled by the knowledge that our name has been disgraced, our reputation harmed, our standing damaged. We still feel the stigma, the dishonor, the degradation. That is why an immensely powerful and dramatic ceremony had to take place during which people could feel and symbolically see their sins carried away to the desert, to no-man's-land [referring to the ceremony of the scapegoat, Leviticus 16:7-22]. A similar ceremony took place when a leper was cleansed. The priest took two birds, killed one, and released the other to fly away across the open fields [Leviticus 14:4-7]. Again, the act was one of cleansing, not atoning, and had to do with shame, not guilt. Judaism is a religion of hope, and its great rituals of repentance and atonement are part of that hope. We are not condemned to live endlessly with the mistakes and errors of our past. That is the great difference between a guilt culture and a shame culture. But Judaism also acknowledges the existence of shame. Hence the elaborate ritual of the scapegoat that seemed to carry away the tum'a, the defilement that is the mark of shame. It could only be done on Yom Kippur because that was the one day of the year in which everyone shared, at least vicariously, in the process of confession, repentance, atonement, and purification. When a whole society confesses its guilt, individuals can be redeemed from shame.

LEVITICUS — 14:12 guilt

Speaking loshon hora implies a lack of awareness of G-d's presence. Sforno explains why the metzora was required to bring a guilt offering. When someone speaks loshon hora, he usually does so secretly. This implies a lack of awareness of G-d's omnipresence. Just as a person must bring a guilt offering for the sin of misusing sacred property (me'elah), so too the metzora must bring a guilt offering for his trespass against G-d. The Yeraim also expresses this concept in his explanation of the Talmudic statement that speaking loshon hora is tantamount to atheism (Erchin 15b). Although the speaker of loshon hora usually makes sure that the subject is not listening, he forgets that G-d hears every word.

LEVITICUS — 14:35 something

A most upsetting factor in rendering a just and impartial judgment is the subjectivity of the judge himself. The obtrusive influence of self-interest and personal bias is most difficult to overcome. Scrupulous honesty and penetrating insight are required to detect the presence of such extrinsic motivations. To report a plague in one's own house, the Bible directs a person to say, "Something like a plague has appeared in the house" [this verse]. Learned though he be, where he is involved he cannot render a final decision. Only a cohen, an outside authority, may first pronounce his house unclean. On the other hand, this very element of subjectivity can often be helpful. To view a situation from the perspective of the one involved is to grasp the situation most fully and profoundly. While objectivity can make for impartiality, it can also make for insensitivity to the consequences of a judgment in terms of its human element. Therefore, some interpret the word m'thunim (deliberate) as though it read n'thunim (subject): Consider yourself as if subject to the judgment. Put yourself in the defendant's position. How would you have acted under similar circumstances? How would you judge yourself? Law implies a universally applicable rule, a general criterion which is a constant: a truth which holds good at all times and in all conditions. Yet, the particular area to which we apply the rule is a shifting and variable one. The problem for the judge is precisely this: to determine the crucial element in the situation which fixes its true character as distinguished from the irrelevant factors.

LEVITICUS — 14:35 something

Based on a Torah verse, the Talmud declares that lying in all business activities is forbidden, i.e., that your "yes" should really be a yes, and your "no" should truly be a no (Leviticus 19:36, Bava Metzia 49a). A sixteenth century Rabbi writes that telling the truth and not lying in a Jew's everyday routine is an actual Mitzvah, a commandment (Sefer Charedim, Mitzvot Asei Bipeh, 26). The Talmud describes four groups of people who are denied the Divine Presence, and one of them is people who lie regularly (Sotah 42a). By using one extra letter, the Torah teaches us to be exact in our words and never lie, even in small and obvious matters. Regarding a house that was suspected of being ritually impure (that had to be validated by a Kohen-Priest to make it official), a Rabbi seeing the home would initially say, "It appears to have a ritual impurity," even though it was clear to that Rabbi that the home was impure. However, since it could not become officially ritually impure until the Kohen said so, the Rabbis added the extra letter Kaf signifying "it appears" in order not to tell even a mild untruth (this verse with Rashi and Gur Aryeh commentaries). Maimonides especially warns Torah scholars to be extremely careful in their words, and never even hint at an untruth (Maimonides, Hilchot De'ot 5:7,13). Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (known as the Chafetz Chaim), who became famous for the way he taught Jews how not to misuse their words, says that a Jew who lies is subject to lose all of his or her possessions as well as other harsh punishments, as the sin of lying encompasses many severe sins in Judaism (Sefat Tamim, chapter 2). A person who habitually lies, says the Talmud, will never be taken seriously or be believed, even when he or she tells the absolute truth (Sanhedrin 89b). The prophet Isaiah implies that once a person's lips are impurified by repeated lying, (Isaiah 6:5). On this verse, Chafetz Chaim points out that the impurity of lying stays with the Jew longer than any other type of impurity in Jewish law, especially regarding the impurity related to the head of a human being (Kavod Shamayim 2:6).

LEVITICUS — 14:36 empty

From this seemingly arid verse the Rabbis deduced that even the most trifling article belonging to another must be spared. Why should a man about to be pronounced unclean be deprived of his possessions? So strong was the conviction that inherent in every Biblical command is a moral purpose that even failure to discern it did not affect their attitude toward that law. They contended that the disciplinary value of implicit obedience is in itself a means to the acquisition of virtue. It Is not relevant whether the rabbis forced their ethical teachings into the Biblical commands. What we are concerned with is that the Rabbis approached the study of the Torah ethically.

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