Is there such a thing as a spiritual ailment? Parshat Tazria suggests that perhaps there is. Tzara’at was a disease which affected not only a person’s body, but also can appear on one’s clothing and one’s home. The interpretations of the biblical description of tzara’at resonate and provide hope after a difficult week in Israel.
While tzara’at of the skin has been interpreted by some as a physical ailment, the other 2 cases of tzara’at have no medical basis. Perhaps for this reason, Maimonides writes that they are not physical but rather supernatural. Rambam interprets the types of tzara’at as 3 levels of warning or distance from God: the lesion appears first on one’s house, then on one’s clothing and finally on the person him/herself. This view understands tzara’at as punishment or an indicator of a person’s spiritual state.
However, tzara’at is also connected with goodness and renewal. The Torah teaches that when the people enter the land of Israel they will have tzara’at on their houses. Surprisingly, Rashi teaches that this was a “besora,” good tidings! This is a blessing since the previous owners of the houses hid their jewels in the walls which would be uncovered by Bnei Yisrael. In anticipation of hardship, God provided hidden glimmers of hope and blessings. Additionally, the kohen oversaw a process of renovation and purification which “attones for” and renews the home.
The antidote to tzara’at provided the ability to emerge renewed and closer to Hashem. This highlights that there will be times of hardship and suffering, especially in the land of Israel, and there will also be renewal and blessings. This cycle – of darkness followed by light – is also reflected in the phases of the moon in parshat HaChodesh, read this Shabbat as well. As we mourn the recent immeasurable loss of life in Israel, we pray that it will be followed by good tidings, blessings and spiritual renewal. Shabbat Shalom – Karen Miller Jackson