This week we read the Torah portion of Tazria-Metzora. It discusses at great length a skin disease which was called Tzora’as. This illness is commonly mistranslated as leprosy. In reality the one thing that Tzora’as and leprosy had in common was that both affected human skin. Tzora’as would cause white blotches to appear on one’s skin.
Tzora’as was purely a spiritual illness; it was caused by the sin of slander rather than a germ. It could only be diagnosed by a Kohen. It rendered one ritually impure. As a result of gossiping about a fellow Jew one would become defiled, and hence would be separated from the community Likewise it could only be cured by a Kohen. This Kohen would need to perform a sacrificial ritual as described in this Parshah. It would heal the Tzora’as and allow him to return to the community. The Kohanim could accomplish this because they were the disciples of Aharon, who was the first Kohen. eHe had the unique quality that he was (Pirkei Avos 1, 12) “a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.”
Aside from a body, the affliction of Tzora’as could also affect a garment, as it is written in our Torah portion (Vayikroh 13:47) “the garment that has the lesion of Tzora’as upon it, on a woolen garment, or on a linen garment …”
It would also affect the homes within which the Jewish people would settle in the Land of Israel. The Torah tells us (Vayikroh 14:34) that “When you come to the land of Canaan which I am giving you as a possession, and I place a lesion of Tzora’as upon a house in the land of your possession ..” Rashi explains that “This is good news for them that lesions of Tzora’as will come upon them. The Emorites had hidden away treasures of gold inside the walls of their houses during the entire forty years that the Jews were in the desert, and through the lesion, he will demolish the house (see verses 43-45) and find them.”
The verse specifically says that it is discussing the time that the Jews enter the land of Canaan. Why does Rashi make reference only to the Emorites, who were only one of the seven Canaanite nations? This is because the Hebrew name Emorite (אמורי) is related to the Hebrew verb Emor (אמור) which means “to say.” Rashi is letting us know the cause of the lesions. He is telling us that they come from inappropriate speech. However, he is also telling us that they contain treasures. If we transform the negative speech about others to speech of Torah, Mitzvos and prayer, we will be able to access the real treasures which they contain.
Wishing one and all a wonderful Shabbos and a happy and healthy summer!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn