"And the priest shall look on the afflicted area..."—Leviticus 13:3.

One of the subjects of this week's portion is the manner of diagnosing a certain malady called tzaraat (often inaccurately translated as leprosy) that used to afflict people in Biblical times. If one believed oneself to have contracted this condition, he or she would undergo examination by a priest who would pronounce the affliction either pure or impure. Whatever the priest's decision, it was binding.

The traditional interpretation of this law considers a case in which the afflicted person is himself a priest. It is asked: may he analyze his own condition? The unequivocal answer is that he may not. He must be examined by someone other than himself in order to know whether or not his affliction is a symptom of the suspected malady or something else.

Talking to another person is not just a way of venting; it's actually how we make the whole process realIn terms of our spiritual development, we can apply the above law to all types of spiritual sicknesses. We are not the ones to make the final diagnosis of our own faults and shortcomings. Our subjectivity makes it impossible to render a proper judgment and until we have allowed ourselves to be examined by a "priest" – a trusted spiritual guide or mentor – we have no reliable way of knowing the true nature of the problem. Furthermore, as a general rule, pride and self-love make it impossible for one to assess oneself realistically. For this reason as well, it is imperative that one show the signs of his spiritual illness to someone other than one's own self.

Our journey in recovery demands rigorous self-honesty. In Step Four, we force ourselves to face ourselves in a way that we have never done before. However, our personal inventory is not enough to keep us sober. We need to take Step Five and to admit to another person the exact nature of our wrongs.

Talking to another person, usually our sponsor, is not just a way of venting after completing our 4th Step. It's actually how we make the whole process real. If we never present ourselves to the scrutiny of someone other than our own selves, our personal stock-taking will not be enough to move us forward to actually healing our defects of character. The 5th Step is our way of verifying our findings and getting a fully objective picture of ourselves. Until we bare our souls – warts and all – to another human being, we have no real idea what it is we are dealing with. We may pronounce that which is impure as pure and, equally as damaging, that which is pure as impure.

Furthermore, it is entirely possible that in the course of our 5th step, our sponsor will help us discover some truths that had failed to make it into our 4th step inventory because we had been blinded by our own personal bias toward ourselves.

As in days of old when the pronouncement of the priest was then followed by treatment and purification, so too after our 5th Step, we are immediately set on the path – with G‑d's help – toward the removal of our defects of character.