Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Tazria-Metzora - 5772
FIXING A WRONGDOING
This week's parsha 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 a person is infected with tzara'at he 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 he offers a sacrifice. This term is often translated as "leprosy," though the Rabbis note that it is a spiritual disease that leaves one tameh (spiritually impure) and not a medical ailment.
Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch demonstrated that tzara'at was not to be interpreted as a medical malady, but rather as a spiritual affliction. The verse itself indicates this, as it directs those who find themselves afflicted to seek out a Kohen and not a doctor. In addition, the Talmud teaches that if the symptoms of tzara'at appear on a newlywed or during a festival season, the Kohen does not examine the affliction or declare it to be tameh, in order not to interfere with the celebration. If the purpose of these laws were to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, then they especially would be enforced during a holiday, a time when multitudes get together. Thus, Tzara’at is viewed in the Talmud as a sign from Hashem to fix a wrongdoing.
A person suffering from tzara’at cannot be cured through a medical treatment. Instead, a process of seclusion, as proscribed by the Torah, is required. This process is supervised by the Kohen. During the period of seclusion, the afflicted individual is required to meditate and examine his or her behaviour. Only through repentance can the individual be cured from the tzara’at. The Kohen periodically examines the afflicted person and determines the status of the affliction. Upon the pronouncement of the Kohen, the afflicted individual is regarded as cured. At this point the individual can begin a process of reentering the community. Although we no longer have Tzara’at and its routine in place, the message of utilizing all circumstances for self improvement remains.