Parshas Tazria

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By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum

אדם כי יהיה בעור בשרו שאת וכו’ (פרק יג פסוק ב)

Our Parsha details extensively the laws of one who becomes impure with צרעת. The Medrash offers a parable to the wife of a king who enters his palace and sees various tools of torture hanging on the wall. She becomes visibly frightened, prompting the king to calm her, “This is to punish the servants, but you can just enjoy living in the palace”. So too, when the Jews heard about צרעת they were afraid, so Moshe told them, “These are for the nations of the world, but you are here to receive reward and pleasure”. R’ Shimon Schwab asks, we know that there are no laws of צרעת for non-Jews, the impurity is limited to Jews, how are we to understand this Medrash? R’ Schwab explains that ever since we received the Torah, the non-Jews naturally abhor our sanctity and elevated status. It is therefore natural for them to try and break down our connection to Hashem and קדושה. The Gemara tells us that a person is afflicted with צרעת as a punishment for causing strife and disagreements between friends and spouses. This comes from the person’s bad מידות and poor appreciation for their fellow Jew. If someone would truly appreciate the holiness and specialness that exists in every Jew, they would never speak badly or cause dispute amongst their people. One who looks down on others and ignores their holiness is acting like the non-Jews who aver our exalted status. This is what the Medrash means when it says that צרעת is reserved for the nations of the world, that is, those who act in the ways of other nations by ignoring the holiness of our nation and instead hate one another.

בדד ישב מחוץ למחנה מושבו (פרק יג פסוק מו)

As part of the punishment for a decided מצורע they must sit alone outside of society. R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky explains how this plays a role in his punishment by giving us an overall perspective of צרעת. It is certainly not a contagious malady, which would require separation so as not to contaminate others, because until he is declared impure by a כהן he does not have to leave society. The decision of the כהן would not affect how contagious the disease is. Additionally, we find that when he is only impure because of a white hair, if he uproots the white hair then he becomes pure. That is almost like imprisoning someone by telling them to hold a rope tied to a pole. They can just drop the rope and leave! Why wouldn’t he pull out the white hair and move on with his life? R’ Yaakov explains that צרעת must be a spiritual sign from Hashem that this person is rejected.  The purpose of sending him out of society is just to give him the opportunity for silent introspection which will hopefully bring him to return to Hashem in full תשובה. True, he can easily escape the “prison sentence”, but it is for his own good to utilize the opportunity to return to the Torah way.

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