For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"This shall be the law of the Tzara'at person afflicted with Tzara'at, on the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the kohen." (Lev. 14:2)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: "This shall be the law of the person afflicted with tzara'at, on the day"
This teaches [us] that one afflicted with tzara'at is not pronounced clean at night.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim:"This shall be the law [in Hebrew, "Torah"]"
...a person who speaks Lashon HaRa is considered as if he transgressed all the 5 Books of the Torah. The term Torah appears 5 times in these portions concerning tzara'at. The 5 times correspond to the 5 Books of the Torah, for a person who speaks Lashon HaRa [lit. evil talk, slander] is considered as if he transgressed all the 5 Books of the Torah.
There are also 10 passages that speak of tzara'at afflictions including body, garments and houses. This implies that if one keeps the 10 Commandments, he will be saved from these 10 afflictions.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ramban: "he shall be brought to the kohen"
He can never obtain purity, save by the priest’s word.

Ohr HaChayim: "this shall be"
These unnecessary words show that the metzora had been guilty of slander. Why did the Torah allude to this here just when the afflicted person undergoes the rites of purification. His first offerings are birds because they remind the person of his loose tongue—like a bird's twittering, the sin of Lashon HaRa. These words hint to the reason why the first offerings in the rehabilitation process are birds. (Based on Vayikra Raba 16:2)

Maggid Mesharim: The commandments concerning Tzara'at require precision of confinement, whether of house, clothes or skin, relating respectively to Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama. When one's Nefesh is infected the house becomes infected with tzara'at, for the house hints to Nefesh, the coarsest of all. When the Ruach becomes blemished the clothing becomes infected, for clothing is closer to the body than a house. When the Neshama becomes blemished, then tzara'at infects his skin. One must be precise because flesh and clothing require 2 confinements while the house requires 3.

R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi: Tzara'at comes from the abrupt departing of the light of chochma and its rectification comes about through the reintroduction of light into the vessels through the Kohen's supervision, the provider of light and blessing. (Likutei Torah)
...while Mashiach is totally pure and holy, he bears the suffering of the Jews in exile.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe: The Talmud describes Mashiach as he exists during exile as a tzara'at sufferer. (Sanhedrin 98b) For while Mashiach is totally pure and holy, he bears the suffering of the Jews in exile. The ritual purification of Tzara'at is through the laws of the Torah. Thus, one of the ways to speed up Mashiach's coming is to study the concept of Mashiach in the Written and Oral Torah (Likutei Sichot)

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Metzora 55:
This shall be the Torah of the leper." Rabbi Yitzhak opened [his discourse] with the verse: "the sun rises and the sun sets". (Eccl. 1:5) We have learned this verse and explained that it speaks of the soul of a man. When the soul exists within man, then "the sun rises" [i.e. the soul illuminates the body like the sun.] "the sun sets," refers to the time when he departs from the world in a state of repentance, then, "he hastens to shine in his place there" [in the world-to-come] if he is righteous, as it is written: "And when the sun sets [when the soul leaves this world] he shall be clean, and afterwards he shall eat of the holies" [i.e. enjoy supernal holiness in the world-to-come]. (Lev. 22:7)

Come and see: G‑d grants pardons for all the sins of the world [when one does teshuva] save the evil tongue, for this man speaks evil of another, as written: "This shall be the Torah of the metzora/leper." (Lev. 14:2) He speaks evil of his friend, [Metzora has the same letters as Motzi (shem) Ra/causing an evil (name/reputation)]. Rabbi Hiyya said: If someone spreads an evil name, all his limbs become defiled and he should be confined, for his evil speech rises aloft and arouses an impure spirit on him and he is defiled. He who intends to defile is defiled; by that below, another one is aroused Above.

He opened the discussion, saying: "How is the faithful city become a harlot?" (Isaiah 1:21) Can she, who was faithful to her husband, become a harlot? "She who was full of judgment/justice". Justice - the Holy One, blessed be He [formerly always resided in Jerusalem, along with] righteousness, the Congregation of Israel. Because another aspect [the Other Side] was awakened, the Holy One, blessed be He, called 'Justice', departs from her. A spirit of murderers abides in her, as it is written: "But now murderers".If that was the fate of Jerusalem, the Holy City, how much more so must that be the fate of ordinary men [who spread slander], as it is written: "This shall be the Torah of the leper."

Rabbi Yehuda opened saying: "This," shall confront him, the one who spread the evil speech, to punish the man who speaks evil. "In the day of his cleansing he shall be brought to the priest." (Lev. 14:2) We learn from this verse that the prayer of the man who has an evil tongue does not come before the Holy One, blessed be He, for the Evil Spirit abides with him. However, if he repents, then "in the day of his cleansing he shall be brought to the priest... and the priest shall look..." (Ibid. 14:2-3)

Oh, if we only knew the power of the tongue!

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
Oh, if we only knew the power of the tongue! It was by speech that all was created: "G‑d said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light." And too it is by speech that so much is destroyed! In fact we are taught by our sages of blessed memory that say that evil speech is worse than sexual immorality and idol worship and murder. That seems like nonsense. It is! It is not based on what we sense here below with our 5 senses. It is only when we employ our 6th psychic sense that we can then assimilate the above Zohar. Unfortunately, we have lost the Tzara'at/spiritual tzara'at as a gauge of Divine supervision. The leper would be able to know that his or her actions were not being met with favor and could thus do teshuvah down here. Whenever we speak poorly of others, we bring on to ourselves the penalties of the above Zohar. One possible cure: to spend 6 months with the Chofetz Chayim's masterwork concerning the laws of permitted and forbidden speech, featuring a lesson a day.

The Tzara'at of the Bible was a very different thing than tzara'at, also known as Hanson's Disease —it was a good thing, indeed! For at that time we were so close to G‑d that if we missed the mark in certain ways, a Divinely-inspired indication would be revealed on our bodies, our clothing, or on our homes. We would go to the priest who was an extremely spiritually sensitive man and he would tell us how to cure our souls. Much of this work is revealed in the word play of Metzorah/the spiritual leper and Motzi Shem Ra/the one who "brings forth a bad name" through either slander or bad speech of a fellow Jew. The Zohar above relates this to the serpent whose sly words caused our expulsion from Eden and all that has resulted from that disconnect.


Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org, a project of Ascent of Safed (//ascentofsafed.com). All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.