Show and Tell

by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – April 17, 2012

In the beginning of the Torah section of Metzora, we read (Vayikra 14:1-4): “And G-d spoke to Moses, saying:  This shall be the law of the metzora on the day of his purification; and he shall be brought to the kohen.  The kohen shall go forth to the outside of the camp, and the kohen shall look and behold the tzara’at affliction had been healed from the metzora.  And the kohen shall command, and, for the person being purified, there shall be taken two live, pure birds, cedarwood, a crimson wool and hyssop.”

In the process of purifying the metzora, who is afflicted with tzara’at as a result of engaging in lashon hara (evil gossip) and other reprehensible anti-social behavior (see Babylonian Talmud, Arakhin 16a), the kohen is instructed to oversee personally the process.

In reference to this verse, R. Moshe Feinstein notes in his Darash Moshe the anomaly that most precepts are worded to describe just the obligation while its performance is left to those they are directed at, whereas this precept not only describes the obligation but emphasizes that the kohen is to oversee the actual performance of the precept.

In explanation of this anomaly, R. Feinstein points out that this is to teach us that in cases of special importance due to the gravity of the nature of the matter, as with this precept and as with regard to all matters requiring education and edification in the paths of G-d, it is not enough to simply tell one what to do.  One must show one exactly what to do and how to do it and see that the other understands by supervising the performance.

Only when one is prepared to both show and tell what needs to be done, when giving over critical and lofty matters of great gravity, can one hope to produce the sought after result.  Both show and tell.  That is the way.