Innocent Until Proven Guilty by Avi Hirt


Parashat Metzora continues the theme of Parashat Tazriya in its discussion of the laws concerning Tzaraat.  In its description of reporting potential Tzaraat afflicting one’s house, the Torah states, “UVa Asher Lo HaBayit VeHigid LaKohen Leimor KeNega Nirah Li BaBayit,” “The one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen, saying: Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house” (VaYikra 14:35).  An obvious question arises from this Pasuk: why does the person who reports his potential Tzaraat use the strange formulation of “Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house” rather than simply conveying to the Kohen that he believes that his house has contracted Tzaraat?

Rav Yeruchem Levovitz suggests an answer: the Torah is teaching us that we must always judge people favorably, even ourselves.  The potential Metzora could have said definitively that he had developed Tzaarat, but the Torah teaches him to view himself as “innocent until proven guilty.”

This lesson is still applicable to us today.  We should not jump to conclusions as soon as we hear or see something.  For example, after seeing a Jew driving on Shabbat, one must give that Jew the benefit of the doubt and conclude that an emergency forced him to violate Shabbat.  Similarly, we must distance ourselves from the practice of publishing slanderous conjecture, as the media often does, about people whom we only suspect to be acting wrongly based on the places in which we see them.  As Bnei Torah, we should not jump to such conclusions, but rather follow the Pasuk by giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Like an Affliction on the Wall By Chaim Metzger

The Power of Speech by Yakir Forman