Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Shabbos Hagodol - 5779
TZARA'AT & SELF IMPROVEMENT
This week's Paresha identifies three manifestations of the affliction of tzara’at: The first pertains to the human skin, the second to garments and the third is the tzara'at of the house. When infected with tzara'at, the person must leave the camp and remove all of his or her infected clothing. The afflicted individual must remain outside of the camp until the infection is healed, at which point a sacrifice is offered.
This condition is often translated as "leprosy.” However, the rabbis note that it should be viewed as a spiritual disease and not a medical ailment. Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch notes that tzara'at cannot be interpreted as a medical malady, since the verse itself indicates that a person who finds himself afflicted should seek out a Kohen, and not a doctor.
Thus, tzara’at is considered in the Talmud as a sign from Hashem to fix a wrongdoing that needs to be cured through a process of seclusion and supervised by the Kohen. During this period, the afflicted individual is required to meditate and examine his or her behavior. Only through repentance can the individual be cured from the tzara’at.
Although we no longer have tzara’at, and its routine in place, the message of utilizing all circumstances for self-improvement remains.