And the Kohen shall order that for the person undergoing purification (from Tzara’at) there be taken two live birds, a piece of cedar, some crimson wool and some hyssop. (VaYikra 14:4). Let’s compare the order in the above verse with the following verse describing the person undergoing purification from coming in contact with a dead body: "And the Kohen shall take a piece of cedar, some hyssop and some crimson wool …" (BeMidbar 19:6).

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky explains that the verse in BeMidbar is written in order of decreasing size: the cedar is the largest, next the hyssop and then the crimson wool (whose dye comes from a worm). So, what about our verse in VaYikra? Rambam famously writes (De’ot 2:2) that the remedy for any bad character trait is to initially conduct oneself in accordance with the opposite extreme and eventually one will return to the middle path. For instance, if a person has a strong tendency to get angry , he should endeavour to behave in an extremely calm manner. After a period of time, he will moderate back to the middle path, knowing when it is appropriate to display anger or extreme calmness. The Gemara (Arachin 16a) teaches that one of the causes of Tzara’at (a spiritual disease with physical symptoms) was Gasut HaRuach (arrogance). The cedar, a very tall tree and the largest item in the list of ingredients, symbolizes the arrogant person. He needs to move immediately to the opposite extreme, represented by the smallest item in the list, the crimson wool (whose dye comes from a worm). Only then, will the person return to the middle path. Therefore, the order for the person undergoing purification from Tzara’at is a piece of cedar, some crimson wool and some hyssop.

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