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Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

Even sinners deserve compassion – a shoulder to lean on and a hand to hold. No one is perfect.

This week we have a double Torah portion: the portions of Tazria and Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33).

These two portions deal heavily with a very mysterious type of plague that existed in biblical times known as tzara’at. Tzara’at was a type of boil, or lesion, which appeared all over the body of the one who was afflicted. Make no mistake, this wasn’t a medical condition: it was a Divinely imposed punishment for the transgression of certain sins. In some cases, these boils would render the victim impure and in some cases they wouldn’t.

In order to determine which of these types of boils they were, the victim was required to go to…….not the doctor……to the Kohen (priest)! Indeed, the Kohen’s role in this procedure is emphasized over 40 times in the course of the verses that delineate the procedure that must be followed when someone is afflicted with tzaraat.

Why is the role of the Kohen so repeatedly emphasized? Over 40 times? It seems a bit much. The Torah could have simply stated something like “and the victim will consult with the Kohen who will determine whether the tzara’at are impure or not.” That would have made things much simpler and perhaps saved the Torah about 50 verses of space that are filled to describe the Kohen’s role!

Perhaps the Torah is teaching us that even sinners need compassion. Even sinners need a shoulder to lean on, and a hand to hold. The Kohen was one of the most compassionate people around. Can you imagine how it must feel for a person to show his tzara’at to a Kohen? To confess that he has sinned? To now be potentially banned from the Jewish community until he is healed? (There was an area outside the camp where those who were afflicted with tzara’at would have to live in until they were healed.) This was no doubt an embarrassing and traumatic experience for the victim/transgressor.

As such, the Torah emphasizes that the procedure from A-Z was overseen by the Kohen: a compassionate individual who realizes that no one is perfect, a person who cares for every Jew and wants to help them through their difficult ordeal; a person of love and peace who will ease and assist the victim in his process back to purity.

We definitely need more Kohanim-type people in society: Non judgmental, unconditional love, caring, and helping. Although we no longer have this tzara’at condition in our day anymore, we still have the need for Kohen-type personalities! Do your part in trying to become one.

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!


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