M’tzora (Leper)

Leviticus 14:1 to 15:33

The text talks about the analysis and rehabilitation process of the person with the symptoms of M’tzora (often considered to be leprosy). The process of rehabilitation acts to bring this person back into the community. In many case, we could use this type of rehabilitation today.

“The Eternal One spoke to Moses saying: This shall be the ritual for a leper at the time of being purified….” (Lev.14:1) The text goes on to detail the rehabilitation process for a person afflicted with the skin disease covered in great detail in last week’s pasha – Tazrai.

doctor examines patientThe white scaly skin affliction, referred to as Tazrai, is often considered to be leprosy. However, it should be noted that cause or cure are not mentioned in Torah. All the Torah text gives a description of the ailment’s symptoms and states that the person with this affliction is ritually unclean. The priest examines the skin disease and if it is judged to be Tazrai, the affected person would be sent away from the camp. This was deemed necessary because a “ritually unclean” person could not enter the sanctuary – the central part of the community – or participate in the offerings, rituals, or religious activities. Also, a person who made contact with a “ritually unclean” person would also become unclean. For this reason, the unclean person was often banished from the community … and any contact with God – until they returned to a state of “ritual purity.”

As stated in Torah, a person with Tazrai was banished from the community until they were deemed cured by the priest. This cure consisted of there stages:
Stage One – The priest verified that the skin ailment had disappeared or was improving … meaning that the area of infected skin is smaller.
Stage Two – On the seventh day after the priest judged the affliction no longer a problem, the afflicted person shaves all hair from his or her body, washes, and launders all his or her garments.
Stage Three – On the eighth day after being judged as cured by the priest, the afflicted person brings a combination of sacrifices named in the Torah text to the sanctuary.

After all three the person is proclaimed “ritually pure” and welcomed back into the community.

Because we no longer think that God is a direct cause of any diseases, this whole process seems archaic and rather senseless. However, it did serve a purpose that is missing in our contemporary life…. When the priest stated that a person was cured and that person completed the rituals, he or she was considered officially cured and welcomed back into the community.

Today, when some afflicted person are deemed “cured,” they may have deep emotional problems relating to their past condition (i.e. a person released from prison, a divorced person, a person with a recent job loss, or those who recovered or are recovering from some ailments like AIDS and cancer.) The problems may result from lowered self image or by the treatment of the community in which they live.

The three stage rehabilitation described above helps bring an individual back into the community with a feeling of real cure. To be successful, this feeling must be shared by both the individual and the community.

The idea of rehabilitation and acceptance sounds good. But, in order to accomplish this we need a process with results similar to the Biblical process. This could require added steps in the rehabilitation process or the creation of special rituals that could be included in the process.

Thi idea of changing the rehabilitation process could be difficult to implement, but its effects could produce a psychological solution that is lacking in today’s world.

Maybe, the Torah, written thousands of years ago, has some ideas that are ahead of their time… even when viewed by today’s world.

Earl Sabes

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