This week’s readings:
- Vayikra/Leviticus 14:1-15:33
- 2 Kings 7:3-20
- Matthew 23:16-24:2, 30-31
To most people, the book of Vayikra/Leviticus is an onslaught of laws, rules, rituals, and outdated information. But for those willing to look deeper, there are all sorts of treasures to be found. Such is the case with this week’s Torah Portion.
Parsha Metzora can be seen as a continuation of the latter half of last week’s reading. We read in Parasha Tazria about the process the Kohanim followed to identify a physical manifestation of a spiritual malady known as tzara’at. There isn’t really an adequate English equivalent for this word but you will see it most commonly translated as leprosy in your Scriptures. One of the most well known instances is found in Numbers 12:10 where Miriam, Moses’ sister, speaks negatively about him marrying a Cushite woman. Immediately after the rebuke from Elohim, it says “Miryam metzorat kashaleg.” Or literally: “Miriam became afflicted with white.”
So we begin this week in chapter 14 by reading about the treatment of the metzora, the one who is afflicted with tzara’at.
“HaShem spoke to Moses, saying: This shall be the law of the metzora on the day of his purification: He shall be brought to the Kohen. The Kohen shall go forth to the outside of the camp; The Kohen shall look, and behold! – the tzara’at affliction has been healed from the metzora.”Leviticus 14:1-3
Note the emphasis that I put in the citation. The Priest must go outside of the camp to examine the person afflicted with the tzara’at . Why does he go outside of the camp? It is because the condition manifests while the individual is within the camp. When the symptoms appear, the Kohen inspects it and rules if it is tzara’at or if it is not. If the person is found to be a metzora they must leave the boundaries of the city and dwell away from everyone for seven days. This is where Leviticus 14:1-3 picks up. Now they can begin the process to become readmitted into the population.
So to most readers it sounds like they just quarantined off a sick person until they were better. But upon closer examination Tzara’at was an affliction that was caused by speaking ill or evil of another individual. Remember what brought on Miriam’s affliction; she had called into question the authority that Elohim placed upon Moshe by attempting to elevate herself and Aaron to the same status. Yes, she began by complaining about Moses’ choice for a wife, but it quickly turned into her and Aaron reminding themselves that HaShem had spoken through not just him, but them also. Here we see the danger of words. It wasn’t so much the skin condition or the tzara’at that was contagious. It was the metzora, the person themselves. The words have to be not only spoken, but also heard.
How often do we get caught up in something and not realize what we’re saying or doing until we are removed from the situation? That little bit of news might be enticing to hear, but even by actively listening we are encouraging lashon hara, the evil tongue. We become a guilty party in the equation. This entire Parsha deals with the “time out” process that we need to go through after we’ve said something damaging. Emotions are fragile, sparks are flying, and flames are blazing and we need to be removed in order for repairs to be made. Thankfully, Elohim has made a way for us to come back into the camp and be around our peers again. The tzara’at has faded, you’ve repented, and now it’s time to rebuild the framework of your friendships. Remember that our words can isolate us. It’s true that words are just sounds and syllables, but when we put them together their results are visible. Just as Elohim created the world with words, we can destroy one another other with them.