The Tsaraat: a solution to our personal exile


In the weekly portion of Tazria-Metsora, The Bible deals with different ways of becoming impure and the rules to follow to return to the state of purity. One of the cases causing impurity is Tsaraat: Often translated as leprosy, Tsaraat is actually a very particular divine illness that affects a person who reportedly said lashon hara (evil speech). Tsaraat first appears on the walls of the house, as white stains, then on the clothes of its owner and eventually reaches his body.

In this regard, it is written in the Bible: "And G.od spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, If a person has on his skin a « Seet », or « Sappa’hate » or « Baheret », and it becomes like a spot of "Tsaraat", it will be brought to Aaron the Cohen or to one of his sons, the Cohanim. » (Leviticus, 13).

This verse names the types of stains that make a person impure. The Midrash Rabba, a commentary, compares these four types of stains to the four royalties that the people of Israel must meet in its history. The Séète therefore refers to Babel, the Sappa'hate refers to Persia, Bahérète refers to Greece, while the Tsaraat reflects Rome.

What is the link between the phenomenon of Tsaraat and exile?

The Sfat Emet, a famous commentator, explains that when G.od created the world, his presence was visible. When Man appeared, he altered nature as originally conceived. It became more obscure to the point of covering the divine reality, to make it almost imperceptible. The obstacle was none other than the skin as the Torah testifies to the day after Adam's fault: "And G.od made to Adam and his wife tunics of skin and clothed them" (Bereichit, 3; 21).

Initially, the man was clothed only with light, from now on the skin hid this light. We can also note that the word "עוֹר ('Or) skin" is extremely close to the word "אוֹר (Or)" which means light. Because the skin is what covered the light that the man shone at his creation. These two words are distinguished only by the first letter that composes them. Now, the "א", the first letter of the word "אוֹר light", has the numerical value of the number one. The "א" reflects the forces of good, from the unity of the people of Israel, which refers to the uniqueness of G.od. On the other hand, the "ע" first letter of the word "עוֹר skin" is worth seventy. This refers to the seventy nations who oppose the people of Israel. These are the forces that try to keep the Jewish people away from their creator, just as the skin is what separates us from the light.

So whoever chooses to sink into ignorance and who moves further away from G.od, buries more and more impurity in him. This impurity ends up manifesting itself on his skin by "נֶגַע צָרָעַת: spots of Tsaraat ».

However, the Sfat Emet raises a crucial point. These spots that appear on the skin, do not come to make the person suffer but on the contrary, to cure her! By their intervention, the impurity hidden in the person escapes from his body. Hence the appearance of spots! Especially since a sick person from Tsaraat is called "מצורע (metsora)"; which can be decomposed into "מוציא רע (motsi r'a) who expels evil". There lies the whole purpose of the maneuver. A person who would reach too much impurity would be "helped" by G.od. He will make her expel the evil inside of her.

Let’s take a closer look to the connection between the four exiles and the types of Tsaraat. The Jewish people have been subjected to various oppressions during its history. G.od does not wish to make us suffer. Each of his actions is motivated by holy reasons. The purpose of our suffering throughout the various exile we have known is to purge ourselves of the evil caused by our sins.

Especially since the correlation is luminous: the person struck by Tsaraat is pushed back outside the camp, she is herself in exile regarding her own people! The only way to reintegrate the Jewish people is to heal, that is to say, to repent and to succeed in eradicating the impurity. In the same way, our sages testify that the People of Israel will be released only by Repentance! The sufferings of exile are only the means of leading us there. G.od imposes suffering, of course, but his only objective is to separate us from impurity and bring the light that once constituted us.

The interest that Hashem gives to his people is huge. Everything leads to Hashem's goal of bringing us closer to him and erasing our faults. But, it only depends on us to make the effort to achieve this goal. The first step is to understand that everything is for our good. Like a boxing coach who kicks the boxer, not to bring him down, but to make him better. The sufferings that we experience in our lives are to be taken with love. Even the metsora who is humiliated, excluded from his people, understands that the source of his evil comes from the faults he commits. But above all, he understands that Teshuvah, repentance, is the cure for his illness. That is what will allow him to return to his place among the Hebrew camp, and what will allow us to return to the sanctity of Hashem. May we quickly see him return to the Beth Hamikdash, Amen ken Yeh Ratsone.