Repenting From Evil by Jonathan Weinstein


This week’s Parshiot teach the laws concerning leprosy of the body, clothes, and houses.  There’s a question on these Parshiot as to whether they talk about leprosy from a medical angle (giving treatment for a disease) or from a spiritual perspective (fixing evil ways).  Many scholars have tried to answer this question.  The Abravanel explains that the Torah teaches how to prevent leprosy.  The Torah says that you should not wear wool and linen when you have leprosy because these materials can become impure.

Why does the Torah distinguish leprosy from all the other diseases that man is afflicted with?  The Torah wants man to use his abilities to improve the world and find cures for diseases.  Why did the Torah choose to talk about leprosy and how to treat it?  These are plagues that have to do with leprosy and after every symptom appears on a person, he must wait 7 days.  First the Torah says that the Kohen inspects the leper and the leper waits outside the camp.  Then the Torah talks about that the Kohen inspecting the clothes and the house of the leper and waiting for seven days until a subsequent inspection.  We see that the Torah is trying to motivate the leper to repent.  First the leprosy appears on the house, and if the owner repents, the leprosy won’t return.  If he does not repent, then the discolored stones must be removed.  This continues if the person does not want to repent; his house is destroyed and leprosy appears on his body.  If he continues not to repent then he is isolated outside the camp.  This shows that the Torah is trying to make the leper repent from his evil ways.  We see that Tzaraat is not a physical ailment.  Rather, it is a special phenomenon intended to motivate the leper to repent.

The Seforno states that God wanted to motivate the person repent.  Thus, God performed an obvious miracle, the plague, in order for that person to understand that he did something wrong and to repent.  The Seforno states that God did this for people with high morals who did something wrong.  God seeks to warn him of his wrongdoing in order for him to repent.  We conclude with Rambam (Hilchot Tumat Tzaraat 16:10) telling us about the significance of leprosy in the Torah.  He says that leprosy is when the skin turn white and your hair and beard fall out.  Also, the color of your house and your clothes change colors.  The house and clothes changing colors is something supernatural to warn the Jews not to talk evil.  If a person speaks evil, the walls of his house change colors, and if he repents, the walls become clean.  If he does not repent after his house is destroyed and his skin changes color then he is isolated from the camp.  A person who speaks evil once might start speaking evil often.  Then he might speak evil against the righteous and then against the Prophets.

This would lead him to speak evil against God.  The children of Israel speak the words of Torah and when they speak evil against someone then God will help them repent back to their good ways.

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