Parshas Tazria deals primarily with the physio-spirtual plague that affects gossips and rumor mongers with the plague of tzora’as. Tzora’as appears as a white lesion on various parts of the body, and the status of the afflicted depends on its shade of white, its size, and its development. The afflicted does not go to a medical clinic nor does he enter a hospital. If afflicted he is quarantined and then reevaluated; if condemned he is sent out of the Jewish camp until he heals, a sign that he has repented his slanderous ways. A physician or medical expert does not evaluate him. In fact, the entire ordeal is evaluated, reevaluated, determined, and executed by non-other than the Kohen. Moreover, the Torah does not keep that detail a secret. In the 47 verses that discuss bodily affliction of tzora’as, the Kohen is mentioned no less than 45 times! “He shall be brought to the Kohen,” “The Kohen shall look”, “The Kohen shall declare him contaminated,” “The Kohen shall quarantine him,” “The Kohen shall declare him pure” (Leviticus 13:1-47).
Why must the Torah include the Kohen’s involvement in every aspect of the process? More so, why does the Torah mention the Kohen’s involvement in almost every verse? Would it not been well enough to have one encompassing edict: “The entire process is supervised and executed according to the advice of the Kohen.”
The parents of a retarded child entered the study of Rabbi Shlomo Auerbach. They decided to place their child in a special school in which he would live; the question was which one.
“Have you asked the boy where he would like to go?” asked the sage. The parents were dumbfounded.
“Our child cannot be involved in the process! He hasn’t the capacity to understand,” explained the father.
Reb Shlomo Zalman was not moved. “You are sinning against your child. You are removing him from his home, placing him in a foreign environment, and you don’t even consult with the child? He will feel helpless and betrayed – I’d like to talk to him.”
The couple quickly went home and brought the boy to the Torah sage.
“My name is Shlomo Zalman,” smiled the venerable scholar. “What’s yours?”
“Akiva,” exclaimed Rabbi Auerbach, “I am one of the leading Torah sages in the world and many people discuss their problems with me. Now, I need your help.
“You are about to enter a special school, and I need a representative to look after all the religious matters in the school. I would like to give you semicha, making you my official Rabbinical representative. You can freely discuss any issue with me whenever you want.”
Reb Shlomo Zalman gave the boy a warm handshake and hug. The boy entered the school and flourished. In fact, with the great feeling of responsibility, he rarely wanted to leave the school, even for a weekend; after all, who would take care of any questions that would arise?
Part of the metzorah’s (leper’s) healing process is dismissal from the Jewish camp. However, it is a delicate ordeal, one wrought with trauma, pain, and emotional distress. The Kohen, a man of peace, love, and compassion must be there for every part of the process. He must be there to guide him through the tense incubation period as well as his dismissal. Moreover, he is there again to ease him back into society.
The Torah teaches us, perhaps more than 50 times, that every traumatic decision needs spiritual guidance. It can turn a cold-hearted punishment into a process of spiritual redemption. It can turn a tough, seemingly dispassionate decision into a beautiful experience.
For when the Kohen holds your hand, even if it is a stricken one, even if you may be leaving for somewhere outside the camp, you are definitely not gone.
Adapted from: and from Jerusalem His Word, by Hanoch Teller ©1995 NYC Publishing
Text Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.