This week we read the Torah portion of Tazria-Metzora. It tells us that as a result of speaking ill of another Jew, one would become sick spiritually, suffering from a skin discoloration called Tzora’as. When “diagnosed” as having this illness, he is rendered spiritually impure. The level of his impurity is so severe that he is required to leave the “camp,” living in isolation.
Who could diagnose the Metzora, one stricken with this malady, and declare him impure? Not a dermatologist, but rather a Kohen. Our Parshah tells us that “if one has a lesion on his skin … he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen, or one of his sons the Kohanim.” Rashi cites the words “to Aharon etc.” and explains that “it is a Scriptural decree that the impurity of lesions and their purity do not come about except by the pronouncement of a Kohen.”
The Rambam clarifies this with the following words. “Even though everyone is acceptable to assess blemishes, the designation of a person as impure or pure is dependent on a Kohen. If there is a Kohen who does not know how to assess lesions, a sage should observe them and instruct him to say ‘you are impure.’ The Kohen then says, ‘you are impure.’ If the sage tells him to say ‘you are pure,’ the Kohen says, ‘you are pure.’ If the sage says ‘isolate him,’ he isolates him. The pronouncement must be made by a Kohen, as the Torah says, ‘their statements will determine every quarrel and every blemish.’ It makes no difference if the Kohen is a minor or intellectually or emotionally incapable. The sage instructs him, and he either releases him from the inspection process or isolates him.”
This ruling is difficult to understand. Why should the status of a Metzorah depend on a Kohen? This is true to the extent that it depends on a Kohen who cannot decide on his own?
One explanation is that this is because Hashem commanded Kohanim “to bless His nation Israel with love.” The fact that Hashem demands something of someone demonstrates that he is capable of fulfilling it. We, therefore, see that Kohanim have an innate love for their fellow Jews.
Who is capable of deciding that a Jew must be isolated from the entire community? Only one who truly loves his fellow Jew. Such a person will not rest until he exhausts every possible way, according to the Torah, to declare his fellow Jew pure.
The lesson for each of us is undeniable. Each of us must strive to be a Kohan, by dedicating our being to the service of Hashem. Then, we will indeed be able to love our fellow as ourselves and find the purity within them.
Have a good Shabbos and a healthy Summer!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 27, Page 88
מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש
חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל
וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס
. Our Parshah, Vayikroh 13:2.
. Rash’s source is Toras Kohanim 13, 43.
. See Rambam, Laws of the Impurity of a Metzorah Chapter 9, Paragraph 2.
. Devorim 21:5.