The Beauty of Tzara’at by Daniel Zolty


In this week’s Parashah, we learn about the punishment of Tzara’at. The Pasuk states, “Nega Tzara’at Ki Tihyeh BeAdam VeHuva El HaKohein,” “If a Tzara’at affliction will be on a person, he shall be brought to the Kohein” (VaYikra 13:9).

The Gemara (Sotah 14a) teaches that the Torah begins with kindness (Hashem clothing Adam) and ends with kindness (Hashem burying Moshe). What is this Gemara supposed to teach us?

Rav Avigdor Miller ZT”L taught that when a person buys a book, he should look at its first and last pages to determine the book’s content. The pages in between, he explained, could be evaluated based on its beginning and end. Thus, the middle of the Torah, too, can be seen by examining its beginning and end. If this is true, then the middle of the Torah should presumably deal with kindness. Obviously Tzara’at is mentioned in the middle of the Torah; however, where is the kindness within Tzara’at?

The Sefer HaChinuch writes that the purpose of Tzara’at is, “to affix on our souls that the Divine inspection of Hashem is upon each and every one of us… therefore the Torah cautions the person to whom this terrible sickness reached. He should not take it lightly; rather, he should arrest the negative actions that caused it.” However, what if a person does not know what negative actions caused the affliction? Is it not our nature to overlook things that we do wrong? The Gemara teaches that a person does not see his own faults. How, then, can one pinpoint the transgression he committed to be deserving of Tzara’at?

Rabbi Label Lam answers with an analogy. Imagine if you were driving comfortably down the freeway when the check engine light blinks. Only a fool would disengage the light and drive freely. The owner of the car can understand its inner workings because he sees the light blinking. And it is the same thing with Torah. The Torah teaches us that we should first go see a Kohein, who can evaluate our status and guide us back on the right path. Tzara’at acts as a warning light, an indicator that we are straying from the Torah. The Chafetz Chaim would bemoan how vulnerable we are now, without the benefit of an early warning system like Tzara’at.

When something goes wrong in our lives, we tend to turn the other cheek. All too often our natural reaction is to blame it on someone else instead of thinking what we could do better. We don’t like being the cause of a problem. But the episode of Tzara’at teaches us that we have to take the blame. We cannot pin it on anyone but ourselves. That is the beauty of Tzara’at; it is the piece of evidence that convict us of doing the crime - and that is true kindness.

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