The entire parshah of Tazria, except for the first eight pesukim, deals with the laws of tzara’at. This is a dermatological problem that the Torah describes as a nega — “affliction.” [The use of the words dermatological is borrowed so that it is understood as an affliction of the skin but in reality it is in no way connected with the medical field of dermatology. Although tzara’at involves an alteration in the appearance of the physical skin, it actually has nothing to do with physiology.]

Tzara’at is not a bodily desease, but the physical manifestation of a spiritual malady. It is a punishment designed to show the person that Hashem sees something wrong with his behavior and is gently reminding him to mend his ways.

It is interesting to note that a proof that this is not a medical issue but a purely spiritual one is derived from a law pertaining to a Chatan. The Rambam (Tumat Tzara’at 9:8) says that if symptoms of tzara’at appear on a newlywed during the week following the wedding, the Kohen does not examine the Chatan because this is a Yom Tov period for him. And on Yom Tov the Kohen does not examine or declare one Tamei in order not to interfere and diminish the joy of the celebration. If tzara’at were a disease and perhaps a contagious one, it would have been absolutely imperative in these times more than any other time for the person to be examined and declared tamei if necessary. This is because of concern that during a Yom Tov or in the presence of a Chatan, people are especially likely to form crowds.

Regardless of how advanced medicine may be, the only one capable of dealing with this affliction is a Kohen and not a doctor regardless of his prominence in medicine.

Though this subject applied only when Kohanim functioned in the MishkanTabernacle — or in the Beit Hamikdash, important lessons can be derived from it for contemporary times.

Unfortunately, sometimes after the wedding or some period of time down the road, suddenly one of the “rayim ahuvim” notice a “nega” — an “affliction” or flaw in the other one. Analyzing the Torah’s approach may serve as a guide as to the proper and improper ways in dealing with such issues.

Let me cite a few examples.

When something appears that may be problematic the Torah rules that the person should be “brought to Aaron the Kohen or to one of his sons the Kohanim.” According to halachah it cannot be decided by a great scholar or a wise person. The only one who is authorized to diagnose and pronounce the affliction as tamei is Aron the Kohen or one of his sons. Aaron is qualified because by nature he loved people and pursued peace. Also, Kohanim in general are those who bless Jews and exemplify in the attribute of Chesed — kindness (see Likkutei Sichot, vol. 27, pg. 189). Thus, Torah knew that they will be slow to render a negative decision. Moreover, they will seek every possible avenue to give a positive opinion.

The moral is that the diagnosis may only be done by a person of certain caliber, not a spouse or relative even if they may be the wisest and smartest person in the world.

Regarding the examining Kohen the Torah says, “Vera’ah haKohen et hanega” — “The Kohen shall look at the plague.” Then it says in the same pasuk, “Vera’ahu haKohen vetima oto — the Kohen shall look at him and pronounce him unclean” (13:3). Why does it first say and the “Kohen shall look at the plague” and then repeat “and the Kohen shall look at him.”

The gaon Rabbi Meir Simchah of D’vinsk writes in Meshech Chachmah that this is not a redundancy. Rather the Kohen must do two things. Firstly, he must examine the plague in the skin. Secondly, “Veraahu haKohen” — “He shall look at him” i.e., he must take into consideration the status of the individual as well (e.g. if he is a Chatan). The message for us is that despite an imperfection, we are still human. If we look at the person as a whole, the person’s positive features may outweigh his minor shortcoming.

There is yet another halachah that a Kohen whose specialty is limited to one sort of nega and who is not fluent in all the afflictions that exist is not qualified to diagnose even in the area of his specialty (Torat KohanimMetzora 5:14).

In this halachah I see a beautiful message. In recent years medicine has become fragmented into a very specialized profession. One doctor specializes in heart and the other in issues of the hand. One is a foot expert and the other a neurologist.

Years ago, when I was growing up we had what we called the family doctor. He knew how to deal with all the parts of the body and knew closely all the members of the family.

The moral of this halachah is that problematic situations should not be evaluated and diagnosed by the highly-trained specialist in a limited field but by the “old style heimishe family doctor,” a person who knows all ailments and the entire family as well.

Finally, I will mention one additional halachah. The Mishnah (Ne’ga’im 2:2) says that a Kohen may not diagnose plagues on a “yom hame’unan” — “a cloudy day.” The simple reason for this is because without proper light it is easy to make an error.

The lesson for us is that when quarrelling begins and suddenly one sees faults in the other, before passing judgment, one should make sure that the couple is experiencing a “clear day” i.e. there are no extraneous issues that are “clouding up” their happiness. Verify if perhaps the underlying problem is really a “cloud” of a parnaso problem, maybe a problem regarding health or children or perhaps a living conditions issue. It is very likely that if the problems clouding up their lives will be solved, happiness will prevail between them and they will see only the good in each other.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, hopefully you will never complain of plagues and shortcomings in your spouse, but should it occur, study the Torah laws of how to diagnose. Following the instructions properly will afford yourselves a long-lasting, happy, successful and productive life biz 120.