Parashat Metzora // “A Leper”

- נ ת ה -

Why does God smite a person?

Fighting evil in this world 

“And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession” Leviticus 14:33 – 34

  • Leprosy is a symbol of a person’s inner evil. The external signs of leprosy are visible on a person’s clothes, body, and house – making the sinner’s inner wickedness easily identifiable on the outside and enabling the Israelites to find, address, and uproot all forms of evil in Canaan. We can only treat a blemish after we have found it. Similarly, the only way to fight evil is to identify it within us. Light can enter and purify us only after we have gone through a process of reflection and identification.
  • Leprosy is a form of divine reprimand. It attacks sinners gradually – beginning with their homes, then their clothes, and finally their bodies. We can change our ways at any time throughout our life – but if we don’t, our personal “plagues” will grow stronger. God punishes us out of love so that we will willingly correct our ways. “The Holy One, Blessed be He, does not strike unless He has already created a remedy beforehand” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate of Megillah 13b). Leprosy is meant to drive a person to repent with sincerity. 

Good words left unsaid leave room for evil to thrive

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest: And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper; Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive andclean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop” Leviticus 14:1 – 4

  • “Rabbi Joshua, son of Levi, said: ‘This is the Torah of leprosy [hametzora is an acronym for hamotzi shem ra, or “one who spreads a false report”)] – to teach you that the gossiper transgresses the five books of Torah” (Vayikra Rabbah 16:6). Leprosy serves as an alert to remind people of their ability to choose good over evil.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “A Leper”

  • Leprosy symbolizes a person’s inner evil. Evil must be marked in a way that is clearly discernible. This is what enables us to identify, address, and ultimately correct it. The gash of leprosy can be treated only after it is revealed; only then can the light come in and purify the sufferer’s inner negativity.
  • Leprosy is a divine punishment. We can change our ways at any period throughout our lifetime – but if we don’t, our personal “plagues” will grow stronger. Leprosy is an illness designed to bring a person to sincere repentance. 
  • Leprosy is a warning sign intended to gradually remind people of their ability to choose good over evil, as well as the need to correct their ways.
  • Apart from hurtful speech and negative criticism, there is an even worse sin – failing to encourage or thank others, as well as caving to negativity. 
  • The fact that God reveals Himself through words emphasizes the sanctity of the word. Speech has the power to bring people closer – but if used improperly, it can also drive them apart, with devastating effects. Constructive speech adds vitality to God’s creations.

Cleanliness is the result of avoiding evil stemming from both internal and external impulses.