This week we read two Torah portions, Tazria and Metzora. Both of these Parshiyot discuss the Biblical disease of Tzara’at, often associated with leprosy. The Torah explains at great length how one purifies from this spiritual malady. The disease is not just a sickness, it is how G-d communicates with us and lets one know that they have sinned or erred in some way and need to rectify their wrongdoings. There is a complex and lengthy process to purify a person if they get this disease. The symptoms of the disease start to abate after they begin the purification process and are able to rejoin their community again. However, if in G-d’s eyes, one has not changed for the better from the purification, the afflicted individual will continue to face the consequences of his shortcomings.
If a person contracts Tzara’at, they will have to be shunned from society for a period of seven days. The Talmud tells us that that one particular sin brings about this disease, the sin of Lashon Hara: spreading evil gossip or slandering someone. This sin causes hurt and pain to the target of these vicious words and serve to destroy the very fabric of the community. G-d is known for giving second chances, and if their leprosy starts to subside after seven days, a Kohen, or Jewish priest, will come to see the afflicted individual. If the condition improves and even disappears after an additional seven days than that person may rejoin society after they have completed sacrifices and purification rituals. If the individual is not on the mend, that is a sign that they have not yet learnt the consequences of their ways and remain in exclusion. In that scenario, the person must continue to remain excluded from society until punishment ceases. Again, they will be considered eligible for reinstatement, as it may be determined that they have finally learnt their lesson.
From the laws of Tzara’at, we see the importance of community. Someone who talks bad about other must not appreciate the people around them. So, how does learn to appreciate their community? By not being able to have one. The quarantine that the sick person must spend without their community gives them time for reflection and allows them to realize just how important and beautiful their community is. Often, we only realize the importance of something when it is taken away from us. After seven days away from anyone else, this person will realize the significance of their actions, and hopefully choose to only talk nicely about those around them in the future and avoid spiritual punishment.
Rachel Rosin and Natalie Desmond
SJR D’var Torah Chairs
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