This week's Torah portion deals mainly with the laws regarding the metzorah, one who is inflicted with the ethereal disease of tzaraat.
This week's Torah portion deals mainly with the laws regarding the metzorah, one who is inflicted with the ethereal disease of tzaraat. As was discussed in last week's edition of Torah from Dixie, the chief cause of tzaraat was the evil act of slander and malicious gossip. Those who contracted the coarse lesions covering part of the skin were sent out of the camp for an extended period of time. Just as the disease was of a spiritual nature, so too was the cure. When Hashem saw that the individual had truly repented, the disease vanished and he could once again return to society.
Let us take a closer look at this disease. An individual has just been inflicted with a terrible illness. He has been forced to leave his family and live outside the camp in a state of embarrassment and shame. What is the purpose of this punishment? Wouldn't a public apology in the local Jewish paper have been more appropriate?
We must realize that Divine punishment comes not out of revenge, but is rather a form of therapy. The metzorah is banished from the camp because he spoke evil about other people. In his current state, outside the confines of the campground and away from human contact, the inflicted individual cries out for companionship. He is in a type of solitary confinement. He will come to appreciate the sound of a human voice and how fortunate we are to share this world with other people. Once he comprehends the importance of brotherhood and unity, the metzorah will understand the true power of words and the catastrophic effects they can wield on others if used improperly. He will experience a moral awakening.
As you've probably already figured out, this disease is not around today. Perhaps Hashem knew that most of us would always be inflicted with it. However the lesson still remains. How careful must we be within our daily contact with other people. Unfortunately, we have come accustomed to hearing slander and listening to gossip. The next time someone says, "Did you hear what happened to Susan?", we should try to change the subject or walk away, for as the Sages teach, one who listens to gossip is just as guilty as the one who says it. Let us take the lesson of the metzorah and realize the veritable meaning of human companionship.
Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan, is currently a sophomore at Georgia State University.
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