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   by Jacob Solomon

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The main topic of the parashiot is tzaraat - loosely translated as leprosy. One the sufferer has been declared by the kohen as having tzaraat:

He is a man with tzaraat, he is unclean; the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean... his clothes shall be torn, and his head bare, and he shall put a cover upon his upper lip, and shall cry out, Unclean, unclean. All the days when the disease shall be in him… He is unclean; he shall dwell in isolation; outside the camp... (13:44-46)

R. Samson Raphael Hirsch writes that tzaraat is not 'leprosy' as we understand it - but a Divinely imposed sign of moral deficiency. The Kli Yakar (on 13:2) divides the spiritual causes of tzaraat into three groups:

1. Lashon Hara - as with Miriam's report about Moses' domestic life (Num. 12:10).
2. Gasut Ruach - haughtiness of spirit - as with Naaman. "Naaman, the chief officer of the King of Aram was a great man before his master," (Kings II 5:1) is understood by the Kli Yakar as to mean that he conducted himself in an arrogant manner.
3. Chemdat Mammon - jealous desire for money: Elisha had cured Naaman from tzaraat. Naaman offered Elisha payment, but he refused to accept. Gechazi, Elisha's student chased after Naaman and took the payment for himself. He was punished with tzaraat (Kings II 5:27).

Once the sufferer's condition was declared by the kohen to have passed, he was required to bring the prescribed offerings to the Temple: "The priest shall offer the burnt offering and the meal offering upon the altar; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and he shall be pure" (14:20).

However, the text just states "the priest shall make an atonement for him". It does not include the ending so frequently used elsewhere in the Book of Leviticus: "and he shall be forgiven".

The reason for this might be the following. I remember one rabbi saying that if he would be able to punish those who responsible for Holocaust, he would make them personally go through every instance of suffering they inflicted on their victims. The best lesson would be for the perpetrator to be in the victim's place.

The same might be applied here. The sufferer from leprosy is going through just that. His sins were social - haughtiness, greed, and gossip. All anti-social behaviour. So by being forced to go through the shame and humiliation of being excluded from society: with the appearance, clothing, and position of a public outcast from society, he is indeed experiencing at first hand the suffering and embarrassment he inflicted on other people.

Perhaps therefore, he does not need any further forgiveness. The particular kind of suffering he went through had already effected that forgiveness. The offering - the final act of atonement - sealed the forgiveness which effectively was already there…

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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