Parshas Tazria Metzora:
The Lessons of Leprosy

by Rabbi Yisroel Leichtman

    This week’s double parsha deals largely with the spiritual malady called tzaras. Since one of the sins which cause this affliction is loshon hara or slander, it is considered a paradigm on how to rectify this transgression.

    When a person speaks badly about his fellow Jew, he is in effect declaring himself the final arbiter in the matter and making the assumption that he knows how that person should have acted.

    Perhaps the laws involved in the process of identifying the tzaras and the required separation and purification of the individual can show us how these assumptions are faulty.

    The person afflicted with tzaras cannot make a self- determination. Rather, the Torah requires one to seek out a Kohen to examine the questionable negah. Furthermore, although the Torah specifically chooses a Kohen for this task, if a Kohen has a negah he must appeal to another Kohen to examine it. From this we deduce the rule, "A person can not see his own faults - Ain Adam ro'eh negah atzmo."

    The first lesson therefore to be learned is that one must question his own impartiality before speaking badly of another. Perhaps he stands to gain by pointing out another’s faults. Furthermore, perhaps on some level he has the very fault he wishes to blame on the other. HE JUST CAN’T SEE IT.

    After the purification process is complete the metzorah must offer a sacrifice commensurate with his economic level. A rich man can not be atoned with a sacrifice that would be sufficient for the poor. The Chofetz Chaim derives from this that those who are rich in Torah knowledge can not be satisfied with the lenience used by the less learned. Each person's sacrifices to serve Hashem must parallel his degree of knowledge.

    The metzorah has to learn that he can’t possibly judge others. Does he know the level of Torah knowledge or the level of sacrifice that his fellow has? With this viewpoint in mind, he will instead gain respect for those around him. As the Ramban writes in his Iggeres HaRamban, one should "consider that others sin by mistake while he sins intentionally, therefore, they are more righteous."

    Perhaps this is also why the metzorah is also sent out of the city. He needs to not only stop judging others but also to stop worrying about how others are evaluating him. He has to leave behind his biases and develop a level of service of Hashem that is corresponding to his Torah knowledge and strive to fulfill the mission on earth that is uniquely his.

Parsha Encounters is 1998 by the Chicago Community Kollel

Published May 2, 1998

Rabbi Leichtman is a Rebbe at Arie Crown Hebrew Day School and developer of the Chicago Community Kollel website.He is a member of the Zichron Ahron Kollel for Mechanchim, where he learns nightly. If you have any questions write him at



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