Parshat Tazria deals at great length with the laws of a Tzarua. The Torah teaches us how to identify certain types of Negaim, the laws of proclaiming one a Metzora, and the procedure that a Metzora must follow. The Torah tells us: “Kol Yemei Asher Hanega Alav Tamei Hu Badad Yeshev Michutz Lamachane Moshavo, Vehatzarua Asher Bo Hanega Begadav Yehiyu Ferumim Verosho Yehiyeh Parua Veal Safam Yeateh Vetamei Tamei Yikra.” The Tzarua must leave the comforts of his home and dwell at the edge of the camp for the duration of his Tzarua status. There he must grow his hair wild and sit alone wearing tattered clothing up to his lips and shouting to any passersby “Tamei! Tamei!”
This seems to be a strange activity that the Torah mandates. Why would the Torah obligate the Metzora to proclaim his Tumah to any passersby? And if the Metzora were proclaiming his contamination, why would he have to declare his Tumah twice? It would seem gratuitous.
Rav Zalman Sorotzkin offers the following insights in his Sefer, Oznayim Letorah. The reason why the Tzarua proclaims that he is Tamei is simply to warn others not to approach him while he is in his state of Tumah. It also serves as repentance for his sin. However, we are still left with the second question of why the Metzora proclaims his Tumah twice?
Rav Sorotzkin explains that the reason for the second declaration is so that people would Daven for him and his quick Refua Sheleima. According to Chazal, if one prays for a sick person, Hashem is quicker to heal based on the merits of Yisrael. Therefore, the Tzarua is greeting the passersby at the edge of the camp with a plea that says “I have sinned and am Tamei so do not approach me, but please Daven for my speedy recovery!”
By asking all of Am Yisrael to help him recover, perhaps Hashem’s goal was to try to reverse what was wrong with the Tzarua in the first place- namely mistrust in others and the failure to respect every member of Am Yisrael. His initial sin came because he took others lightly and did not properly realize their value. If he did, he would not possibly say something bad about them. According to the Maharal, as explained by Reb Shlomo Carlebach, one who cannot refrain from speaking Lashon Hara cuts himself off from Hashem, Hashem’s world, and all of the people within it. Perhaps by asking others to Daven on his behalf, the Metzora begins his process of Teshuva and begins to reconnect himself with other people.
Another lesson we can learn from this is the important lesson of standing up for our fellow Jew. If Hashem wants us to Daven for a Metzora, one who is obviously being punished directly by Hashem himself, we can surely learn the importance of standing up for all Jews during tough times. We can learn from this unique punishment of the Tzarua the concept of Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Lazeh, that all Jews are responsible for one another. By making this punishment for Tzaraat, Hashem is telling us that if our friend has Tzaraat, He wants us to go Daven for him, and if our friend needs our help, we should not hesitate to assist, and if our friend needs someone to lean on, we should be there.
During these most difficult times in Eretz Yisrael, we should know that the Midah that Hashem wants in all of us is to stand up for our fellow Jews. If a Jew in trouble needs our support, do we dare not give it? We must each ask ourselves, “What can I do to help other Jews?” and then we must act, for if we do not, we are exemplifying the very Midah for which the Metzora was punished for in the first place.