Commentary for Metzora

4 Apr

Like last week’s parshah, this week’s parshah also mostly deals with the disease Tzara’at. While this week’s parshah deals more with curing the disease (and its resulting ritual impurity) than diagnosing it, it does add a third form of the disease to the pre-existing two: Tzara’at that infects a house.

There are several differences between Tzara’at of a house and the other two forms (Tzara’at that infects clothing and Tzara’at that infects a person). One of the most interesting is in the way the subject is brought up in the Torah. For the first two types of Tzara’at, the section starts with phrases like “When a person has (Lev. 13:2)” or “when a garment has (Lev. 13:47),” making Tzara’at seem like any other infection that someone might contract, except that Tzara’at happens to cause ritual impurity. With Tzara’at of a house, on the other hand, God is very clear about why a house becomes infected: “and I put a plague of Tzara’at on a house (Lev. 14:34).”  The Gemara teaches that plagues come about because of various sinful behaviors (Arakhin 16a), and many stories in the Bible back this idea up, whether with a literal plague of sickness or a metaphorical plague of famine or foreign oppression, as often happens in the Prophets, (usually after warning to “cease sinning or else” were ignored).

Tzara’at is this same type of plague brought on by moral corruption, but on an individual level. First, the Tzara’at would only manifest itself in small are of the house. In preparation for the official diagnosis by the kohen (priest), everything was emptied out of the house. Then, for seven days, the house would be left empty and uninhabited. After that seven days was up, the kohen would return and see if the Tzara’at was still spreading. If it was, the kohen would proscribe that the infected areas be torn out and replaced and that entire inner surface of the house be scraped off and replaced, with the infected, impure materials dumped outside the city. If the plague did not return, then all was good, but if he plague broke out a second time, the entire house needed to be torn down and rebuilt with new materials.

Just like the prophet telling the people to repent, the first appearance of Tzara’at is a warning. If the person understands the warning and ceases his or her wrongdoing, then he or she only needs to suffer the loss of part of the house. If the warning is not heeded, though, the person will lose the entire house. And if her or she still refuses, the next house as well, and the even the next until the immoral action is ceased.

In our modern world, the idea of God speaking to us on an individual level like the stories in the Bible is often seen as somewhat silly. Most people assume that God has more important things to worry about than micromanaging every little decision they make. The truth, though, is that God does care about everyone, and sometimes God might send us a message in some form or another to help us make decisions. Our job is to make sure we can see it if it comes.

 

 

 

In memory of Mickee Lublang (Manya bat Yakov Leib haLevi v’Ester Feiga) z”l- a true eshet chayil, who set an amazing example of Yiddishkeit for  over 90 years.   Mickee’s passion and commitment to her family, her friends, and her synagogue were an inspiration to all who knew her and a standard that all should aspire to.  May her memory be a blessing.

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