The Metzorah has to undergo purification, cleansing – tahara and atonement so that he can rejoin the nation and rededicate himself to the service of God. He attains kappara- atonement by removing part of his negative personality and rejecting it – his self-pride, arrogance and haughtiness which is responsible for his contempt for other people and the underlying cause of his slander, gossip and la'shon ha'rah. The purification ritual is a process where the metzorah repents and changes from an arrogant person to become a humble human being. The ritual includes the bringing of ושני תולעת ואזוב - scarlet thread which was dyed with a pigment made from a lowly creature and a low bush – the hyssop symbolizing the idea of humility. He also brings of cedar wood which grows tall and is imposing as a symbol of haughtiness. The question is asked - if our concern is to help a person become more humble, let him just bring the hyssop and the scarlet thread, why also bring the cedar wood. ?
Being a humble ' nobody ' is not what the Torah wants of people. People are supposed to become leaders in their lives , strive for greatness, virtue and righteous and like the cedar in Lebanon grow tall - כארז בלבנון ישגה, but at the same time be humble. Humility is not taking credit for any achievements or success but acknowledging that without God's divine help and providence and the merit of the community he serves, he could not achieve in the world. But it goes further than this – humility is a precondition for great leadership. It gives one the courage to expose one's vulnerability and admit mistakes, learn from other people and listen to the concerns and perspectives of others. Being humble makes more space for others to come into his circle. A sign of Moses growth in stature was his going out and including his brothers in his circle of empathy – ויגדל משה ויצא. The arrogant person is concerned with protecting the image of his ' self', does not have the courage to expose his vulnerability, admit mistakes and listen to others. There is only place for himself in his circle and a fear of exposing himself makes him not willing to cooperate or support others and just be competitive . This breeds distrust and suspicion. People just don't connect with the person who is aloof and acts as if he is perfect. Leadership attracts people with traits of humility and humanness – the courage to expose vulnerability.
The exodus from Egypt also required a purification process from the impurity of Egypt. A bundle of hyssop – אגודת אזוב, a symbol of humility was dipped in the blood of the Pesach sacrifice. It was an acknowledgment that only God's intervention would redeem them from Egypt and they had to demonstrate a unity which included as many people in their circle.
The ritual designed to cleanse and purify the metzorah focuses on humility. The question is asked – let the Kohen give a lecture to the metzorah on humility and tell him that he should become a humble person instead of him going through the ritual using symbols – 2 birds, spring water, cedar wood, scarlet thread and hyssop etc.? We cannot tell people to be humble. Becoming humble is an autonomous, self-directed internal process that comes from being reflective and making meaning of one's life. It means giving expression to values rooted in in his soul and inner-being. The symbols stimulate questions, making meaning and internalizing values. The Kohen as a leader and teacher has to create a learning environment and help with the process where the metzorah can make meaning and internalize values. It goes beyond the old Chinese proverb - Tell me, I forget. Teach me, I remember, Involve me, I understand. We want internalization of values and in the case of the metzorah – it is becoming a person of stature who is also a humble person. The ritual process helps him repent and be reflective. He sends away the bird a symbol of the person who talks badly about others, and the hyssop, cedar wood, scarlet thread and blood of the slaughtered bird are mixed with the spring water and then sprinkled – hazayah on him seven times.
The Pesach – Seider experience is about creating an environment which stimulates the curiosity of children to ask questions. It is questions, their questions and we challenging their thinking that drives the acquisition of knowledge that touches the heart and promotes the internalization of the underlying values. True freedom is becoming a humble leader who supports the needs and autonomy of others around him. As parents and teachers we should support kid's autonomy so that they become humble leaders who internalize the lessons of the Torah.