Tzara’at: The Price of Prominence by Shmuel Bak


VeHaTzaru’a Asher Bo HaNega--Begadav Yiheyu Ferumim, VeRosho Yiheye Faru’a, VeAl Safam Yateh, Ve’Tamei, Tamei’ Yikra. Col Yemei Asher HaNega Bo Yitma--Tamei Hu; Badad Yeisheiv; MiChutz LaMachaneh Moshavo,” “The person with the Tzara’at affliction--his garments shall be rent, the head of his hair shall be shaved, he should cloak himself up to his lips and he is to call out ‘Contaminated, contaminated!’ All the days of his affliction, he shall remain contaminated--he is contaminated; he shall dwell in isolation; his dwelling shall be outside the camp” (VaYikra 13:45-46).

This week’s Parashah, highlighted by the Pesukim quoted above, reads somewhat like a medical journal, outlining the symptoms and cure involved with the Tzara’at sickness. Chazal teach that the main reason one might contract this disease is because he spoke Lashon HaRa and was not careful with his speech. However, one might wonder: why does Tzara’at seem to interrupt between seemingly related topics, between the inauguration of the Mishkan with the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, and the laws of the Kohein Gadol on Yom Kippur?

There is a simple story of a stone that can help explain the reason that Tzara’at is mentioned here. This stone was buried far underground for hundreds of years until, all of a sudden, it rose to the surface. A miner, who saw potential in the rock, decided to take it and bring it back to the city. It sat in this miner's bag for years, unappreciated, until one day, the miner decided to give it to a merchant for examination. The merchant looked at this stone and he too saw the potential, tested it, hammered it, and tried its strength until he decided that it was time for a master craftsman to take a look. This master craftsman started to cut through its coarse exterior and, with time, a new polished stone began to emerge. Beautiful, symmetrical facets were made one after another until this once-worthless rock became a beautiful diamond. This rock was given to the king, who wanted this diamond to be placed in the crown of his beautiful queen. The king, ever so careful, called in his top jewelers to shine a light through the diamond, examine it, and make sure it was as flawless as advertised. Unfortunately, a small bubble was found deep beneath the surface, and further treatment of the diamond was recommended. So the stone was put back down under the earth. After some time, though, the pressure from the layers of earth above the diamond ironed out the small defect, and it was worthy to sit inside the crown of the queen.

If the stone had feelings, one could only imagine its anguish, having passed so many tests and coming so close to royalty, only to be rejected in an instant by the king. This diamond was put in a position of great importance and therefore only perfection was acceptable. Similarly, after being led out of Egypt, great expectations were thrust upon Bnei Yisrael; creating a holy residence for Hashem in the Sinai Desert was a drastic leap from being slaves in Egypt. This put an enormous amount of pressure on Bnei Yisrael to become “Mamlechet Kohanim VeGoy Kadosh,” “a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation,” (Shemot 19:6) under the scrutiny of the whole world. The price to pay for the construction of the majestic Mishkan was being watched carefully and judged strictly by the other nations. This can help us understand Tzara’at. Sometimes, Bnei Yisrael had the urge to speak Lashon HaRa and the elevated level of scrutiny warranted the punishment of Tzara’at for doing the tempting sin. But, unlike the diamond, perpetual perfection is not expected from us, and Hashem gave us a way to cure the Tzara’at. The key is to thrive and learn from the pressure and our mistakes and become better individuals and a better nation as a whole.


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