Our Torah reading elaborates upon the laws of tzaraat (biblical leprosy). Why is this particular skin condition so central to Torah law? The Midrash teaches that sometimes man’s physical afflictions are consequences of his actions, and that leprosy is a consequence of slander.

Home, Garment and Skin

Leprosy can appear on one's skin, garments, or even on the walls of his home. The Midrash teaches that leprosy on the wall is the first sign of sin. If we ignore this sign and continue to sin, the leprosy spreads to our clothing. If we continue to ignore the sign, the leprosy will soon appear as a dermatological condition.

A Matter of Choice

Close scrutiny of the Parshah yields an interesting point. While discussing leprosy on walls the Torah says, "He will come to the Kohen." While discussing dermatological leprosy the Torah says, "He will be brought to the Kohen." The implication is that when spiritual malaise is neglected and allowed to fester we can accustom ourselves to it and become oblivious. These patients don't come to the Kohen of their own volition. They must be brought by caring friends.

When leprosy appears, a Jew seeks out the Kohen, not the dermatologist. Indeed, dermatologists are trained to access G‑d's healing powers and cure the skin condition. But while they may heal the symptoms, they are incapable of treating the cause. The Kohen will advise and guide in the ways of Torah. This treats the cause, which automatically heals the effect.

Point of Reflection

Today we don't practice the laws of leprosy due to the lack of a Temple and a practicing priesthood. But while the symptoms of leprosy are no longer common, its cause is all too prevalent. To encourage a friend to refrain from slanderous talk, or to accept such advice from our own friends, is a delicate task. Yet, the goal is worthy, the cause is crucial and we must not neglect it.