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II Kings 4:42-5:19.
his week's Torah portion is
Tazria. The spiritual malaise
of tzaraas — not to be con-
fused with tsores, Yiddish for trouble
— was meted out for non-compli-
ance of good character traits.
Greed, idle chatter, slander, bear-
ing a grudge and arrogance were all
causes for a person to break out in
Tzaraas has been incor-
rectly translated as lep-
rosy. It is not, as leprosy is
contagious. Tzaraas is not.
Leprosy could be fatal;
tzaraas was not. If some-
one's entire body was cov-
ered with what looked like
tzaraas, it was not tsores.
The Torah introduces
the concept of tzaraas
with the verse, "When a
person, odom in Hebrew,
will have a plague on
his flesh." There are four
Hebrew words for person, odom, ish,
gever and enosh.
Odom refers to the intellectual
prowess of the individual and their
superiority over all of creation. Ish
refers to emotional development
beyond animal instinct and plea-
sure. Geyer refers to strength, and
enosh refers to weakness.
If tzaraas were an affliction for
poor character traits, the verse
should have used another name, cer-
tainly not odom, the highest term.
This complexity can be explained
by first discussing why people are
not afflicted with tzaraas today. The
Talmud relates that tzaraas stopped
when gossips increased. The pur-
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pose of the affliction was to force
the sufferers to analyze their deeds
and correct any character flaws.
Were we to be quarantined or forced
out of a city every time we gossiped,
we would all be out of town.
When people stopped being spiri-
tually sensitive, tzaraas no longer
worked. Such spiritual sensitivity is
indicative of an odom, a person who
has reached the status
of "Let us make man —
odom in our image."
When a person emu-
lates the Almighty, a small
skin eruption is enough to
set them back on the right
path. Our generation,
the heels of Moshiach,
does not merit, thank
God, to be reminded in
such a clear and appar-
ent manner. (We're the
so-called "heel" because
the Jewish people are
one large body. The Patriarchs and
Moses comprised the head. Our
lowly generation comprise the heel.
The next step after our generation is
Moshiach — the Messiah.)
We can only pray that Moshiach
will soon come and cause the
Almighty to wipe away impurity
from the world. Then we will merit
to never have to be reminded of
our character flaws, as we will have
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• The Talmud states that slander kills three: the teller, the listener and
the one being spoken about. How can we be active in curtailing gossip?
• What can we do to make ourselves more spiritually sensitive?
• Would you feel more in tune to God if tzaraas were still an affliction?
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April 26 • 2012