Tazria – Leprosy?

Nechama Leibowitz asked why the Torah should select this particular disease for attention. It does not usually give detailed technical instructions in daily secular matters. The exact methods used by a physician in healing are not the Torah’s concern. Then there is the matter of the leprosy of dwellings! The instructions here do not ensure isolation of the dwelling and its contents. If the intention was to safeguard public health, quarantine rules would have been appropriate.


Leibowitz quoted from Sforno who pointed out that the leprosy of garments and dwellings were not the natural phenomena of mould and rot. He taught that these were signs for people straying from the truth. The other types of leprosy were also meant as a warning for man to mend his ways.


Moshe was at one time afflicted with leprosy, when he spoke badly of the Israelites, saying “they will not believe me”.  Rashi commented that Moshe had “emulated the serpent”.


Nechama Leibowitz also quoted the story of King Uzziah who usurped the privilege of the sacrificing in the Temple, the preserve of the Cohanim. His action arose from pride, and he was stricken with leprosy.


She argued that all the measures ordained by the Torah in connection with leprosy, constitute a means of stirring the victim to repentance. “The physical irregularity and imbalance symbolised by the appearance of leprosy reflects the inner spiritual discord in the relations between the victim and G-d”.

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