Parshat Tazria - Metzora
The Torah commands a woman to bring a korban after the birth of a child. A son is to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. The Torah introduces the phenomenon of tzara'at (often mistranslated as leprosy) — a miraculous affliction that attacks people, clothing and buildings to awaken a person to spiritual failures. A kohen must be consulted to determine whether a particular mark is tzara'at or not. The kohen isolates the sufferer for a week. If the malady remains unchanged, confinement continues for a second week, after which the kohen decides the person's status. The Torah describes the different forms of tzara'at. One whose tzara'at is confirmed wears torn clothing, does not cut his hair, and must alert others that he is ritually impure. He may not have normal contact with people. The phenomenon of tzara'at on clothing is described in detail.
The Torah describes the procedure for a metzora (a person afflicted with tzara'at) upon conclusion of his isolation. This process extends for a week and involves korbanot and immersions in the mikveh. Then, a kohen must pronounce the metzora pure. A metzora of limited financial means may substitute lesser offerings for the more expensive animals. Before a kohen diagnoses that a house has tzara'at, household possessions are removed to prevent them from also being declared ritually impure. The tzara'at is removed by smashing and rebuilding that section of the house. If it reappears, the entire building must be razed. The Torah details those bodily secretions that render a person spiritually impure, thereby preventing his contact with holy items, and the Torah defines how one regains a state of ritual purity.
“This is the law of the Metzora… (14:2)
One of the causes of the spiritual affliction called Tzara’at was gossip and slander. The Torah considers these sins very grave. Habitual gossip and slander is equivalent to all three cardinal sins of idol worship, murder and adultery. Someone who habituates himself to this kind of speech forfeits his place in the future world. (Erchin 15b)
Primarily, we are physical creatures; at best our soul is a lodger in the house of the body. We find spiritual concepts abstruse and difficult to grasp. A blood-strewn battlefield makes more of an impression on us than the silent holocaust of character assassination.
For this reason the metzora is brought to the kohen. This person who was so cavalier with his words, who did not understand the power of speech, stands in front of the kohen, and with one word the kohen decides his fate, “Tahor “or “Tamei”. “Pure” or “Impure.” Just one word can return him to the society of man, and just one word can banish him to solitude and ostracism.
“For behold, He forms mountains and creates winds; He recounts to a person his conversation.” (Amos 4:13)
Ostensibly the first half of this verse has little to do with the second. However, the prophet is answering the question, “Of what importance is a word? Words have no substance.”
“…behold, He forms mountains…”
G-d created lofty mountains, vast expanses of impervious rock. “…And creates winds…” — and yet the wind, which has no substance whatsoever, wears them down to an anthill. “He recounts to a person his conversation.” This fact should remind us that even though our words are as formless as the wind, they have the power to reduce great worlds to nothing.
- Sources: Dubner Magid and Mayana shel Torah in Iturei Torah