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And behold the tzara’as affliction had been healed from the metzora (Vayikra 14:3).
The commentators note the posuk seemingly should have been written in reverse, i.e., “And behold the metzora had been healed from his tzara’as.” By reversing the order the Torah attributes major importance to the affliction rather than the afflicted. Generally it is the individual with whom the Torah is concerned. We may thus ask, what is the Torah attempting to convey by reversing the order?
Chazal teach us that the spiritual affliction of tzara’as befalls a person primarily in punishment for the sin of slander. Indeed, the word metzora is an acronym for motzei shem rah which is translated as “one who speaks evil.” We may suggest that by reversing the order the Torah is highlighting the severe nature of the sin of slander. Generally, when one commits a sin, his transgression is confined to himself and is confined to the moment of his sin. In contrast, the sin of slander has life of its own. Slander sets into motion a sequence of events that intensify in hatred and animosity. Perhaps this is why the atonement for tzara’as is unique with regard to the Torah’s requirement that the metzora leave his community. Surely as a result of this public humiliation the community will reflect on the sin and reverse the ill effects that have been set into motion.
The Torah is teaching that with regard to the healing process of tzara’as, the primary healing is not for the sinner but for the affliction. The affliction is the ill feelings that have been generated by the slander. It is only when this has been rectified does Hashem allows the tzara’as to leave the individual who was its source.
Chazal teach us that a groom is forgiven for all his sins on the day of his wedding. Chazal also teach us that in the event the groom has what appears to be an outbreak of tzara’as, his examination is postponed until after the seven days of his wedding celebration. As mentioned above, tzara’as is purely a spiritual disease and unrelated to bodily illness. We may thus ask, if a groom is forgiven for all his sins, how is it ever possible for him to need to be examined?
We may answer that the rule that a groom is forgiven on the day of his wedding is only true for sins that are self-contained. However, the sin of tzara’as has a life of its own. It is not confined to the individual. Its ramifications are widespread in the community and as such cannot be forgiven, even during his wedding celebration. We therefore need a special teaching to permit the postponement of his examination after the wedding celebration.
It is noteworthy that after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash we no longer have the spiritual sickness of tzara’as. We may ask, what is special about tzara’as that the Torah has removed it from us?
The major difference between galus and the time of the Beis Hamikdash is the concept of community. In galus we live as individuals. We lack the unity, leadership and sanctity that the Jewish people enjoyed in the time of the Beis Hamikdash.
The true sickness of tzara’as is the affliction, which is symbolic of the ill feelings that result from slander. This affliction can only be rectified within the community and by the community. Today when we live as individuals, if one would contract tzara’as, it is unlikely that he would ever heal. This is because it is not specifically the individual who needs healing but rather the affliction, and without the power of a community, there can be no cure. Therefore, Hashem removed the potential for us to contract a visible form of what tzara’as represents.
May we merit to see the time of “And behold the tzara’as
affliction had been healed.”
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001