The Torah reading of Tazria- Metzorah(Leviticus 12:1–15:33) enters into a world that is clearly beyond the realm of logic and the natural order of things . The ailment described in the Torah reading called Tzaraat has been translated as Leprosy . Yet clearly the physical ailment we know of today known as Hansen’s disease or Leprosy has very little in common with the disease described in our text;
“Hashem said to Moshe and Aaron, “When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin that may become an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. When the priest examines him, he shall pronounce him Tameh (ceremonially unclean).” (Leviticus 13:1)
It was not the physician or the wise elders that made the determination of the “disease” but rather the Kohen ( the priest). Furthermore it was the declaration that actually brought about that state of Tumah or ritual impurity. We can see this clearly when we read the description of the contamination of a house;
“and the one to whom the house belongs comes and tells the Kohen, saying, “Something like a lesion has appeared to me in the house,” the Kohen shall order that they clear out the house, before the Kohen comes to look at the lesion, so that everything in the house should not become unclean. After this, the Kohen shall come to look at the house.(Leviticus 14: 35-36).
Why would the Kohen tell the people to take the items out of the house if it may be determined that the house was in fact “Tameh”. That is so because the house or the tent only becomes Tameh after the Priestly declaration. The disease and its implications only manifest themselves upon the declaration of the Kohen who is representing Divine justice. The disease was a function of inner spiritual faults that needed to be remedied or as a spiritual warning or sign pointing towards the source of all Healings.
The Tzaraat phenomenon existed, though, in a time when G-d, in an act of mercy, allowed the physical reality to mirror and reveal impediments in the inner workings of our soul. The Kuzari writes that this phenomenon existed only when the people of Israel were living their lives on a higher spiritual realm. They were living in a time when G-d’s hand was clearly more visible in their day to day existence. The phenomenon highlighted and enabled the individual or the people to begin the work of repentance and change.
As part of that change the “metzora” is made to live alone outside the camp (Leviticus 13:46). This enforced solitude symbolizes on the one hand the metzora’s faults and failings, while at the same time prodding him towards that teshuva or repentance. It is in that exile that one begins to more deeply search and yearn for inner connections to G-d and to one’s peers and people.
It is nor happenstance ( it never is ) that it is this Torah portion that precedes the Festival of Israel’s independence day ( Yom Haatzmaut) this year.
We have entered into a period in mankind’s history where this tiny state has become the focus of much passion , energy and hatred throughout the world. The Jewish people and many of its friends amongst the nations find themselves being pushed deeper and deeper into seclusion in the eyes of most of the world. The BDS movement, the J Street Jews, and the biased UN security council are all pieces of that seclusion and exclusion. As Israel continues to prosper and flourish there are many of our enemies as well as many of those who claim to be our friends who are growing in their anger and accusatory attitude towards Israel and its supporters. They are attempting to abandon and exclude the state of Israel like a leper.
This isolation though achieves an important service. It almost seems as if Hashem wants to ensure that we do not become intoxicated with our successes and our growth. Being treated as a leper by some in the world’s community will continue to remind us that we must on the one hand constantly turn towards our Father in Heaven while at the same time turn inward to find greater strength.
My personal family experience in this land which spans almost 100 years , has deep relationships and connections with the Modzitz Hassidic tradition. The first Modzitzer Rebbe , Reb Shaul Yedidya Elazar had a deep love for the land of Israel and foresaw its re-establishment . In his teachings he offers an insight into a verse that will help clarify what it is the people of Israel are undergoing in our days. In truth he offered this insight on a verse in another torah portion yet it applies to similar wording in our torah reading as well. In the torah portion of Behar we read “When you come to the land that I am giving you, / Asher Ani Noten Lachem (Leviticus 25:2).
He explained that the words imply a deeper meaning. In his reading the verses says the following;
“ when you come into the land .. then G-d will give you your “Ani”, your “personhood”, your “ I ”. It is only in the land of Israel that you will discover your inner purpose and destiny. It is only there that you will be able to truly fulfill the “Ani”, the “I “that you were commanded to be at Mount Sinai.
We find a similar verse in our torah portion;
When you come to the land of Canaan, which I am giving you (Asher Ani Noten Lachem )as a possession, and I place a lesion of tzara’ath upon a house in the land of your possession, (Leviticus 14:34)
It is in this land that the people of Israel will find their purpose and their destiny. They will find it through the blessings of this land and/or through the difficulties that this land also affords.
When we celebrate on Yom Haatzmaut this year we will first focus on the losses of loved ones that helped bring about this miracle. Following that we will celebrate with overflowing hearts and joyful singing the rebirth of this ancient land. The ability to fully experience both those seemingly contradictory feelings because in this land we rediscover who we really are. Being in touch with that allows to understand the complex journey of destiny we have embarked on almost three thousand years ago.
Chag Atzmaut sameach
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved