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By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

He shall be brought to Aharon the kohen, or to one of his sons the kohanim.[1]

Meshech Chochmah: We have no easy, apparent explanation for why Aharon is singled out to pass judgment on what looks like a medical symptom. Furthermore, because the examination of the metzora takes place outside the precincts of the beis ha-mikdosh, it cannot be considered avodah in the usual sense. This makes it one of two examples (along with the preparation of the parah adumah) of procedures that are not part of the avodah yet nonetheless require a kohen.

We can suggest the reason for the Torah’s insistence on a kohen by noting that nega’im were held to be terribly contagious. A midrash[2] speaks of precautions that great people took to distance themselves from those stricken by nega’im. One refused to come closer than a hundred amos; another spurned food coming from the same alleyway; yet another would not walk into an alleyway shared by a nega-victim. Our parshah[3] instructs the metzora to call out, “Tameh! Tameh!” – apparently as a warning for others to give him a wide berth.

Having established the danger in any contact with the metzora– candidate, we can understand the Torah’s insistence on the kohen as the examiner. How are we to obligate public servants to expose themselves to considerable risk in ministering to the metzora?

Our best candidates will be those who enjoy a special kind of Divine providence and protection. Kohanim are quite often treated as members of a subgroup who stand apart from other Jews. They have special roles, for which they ready themselves through special restrictions and responsibilities. Their special status allows for a Divine oversight that is more focused and attentive, as it were, to their needs.

They are the ones who can best afford to take the risk of contagion from the metzora.

Of Unsound Mind[4]

If the hair of a man’s head falls out…he is a person with tzora’as…his affliction is upon his head.

Meshech Chochmah: When Hashem responds to various spiritual shortcomings through the nega’im of our parshah, He precisely matches the nega to the human failing. When a person refuses to share what is his with his neighbors, claiming that he does not own what they ask of him, Hashem used to visit upon him a nega in the walls of his house. This would force his dispossession from that house, and all that he had hidden would be displayed before the public gathered outside to watch.

We must understand our verse similarly. If a person’s nega strikes his head in particular, it must indicate that his thinking process, hi intellect has become warped, and he is plagued by opinions and positions that are foreign to Torah thought.

Certainly there is an intellectual component in many sins. The majority of them, however, are chiefly located in the arenas of bad character and bad activity. Some transgressions, however, are fueled and sustained chiefly by faulty thinking. Those are the ones that are dealt with by a nega localized in the head, the seat of rational thought.

Other sins are sustained by shortcomings in areas that are shared with the animal kingdom. Rational thought, however, is uniquely human; it lies exclusively within the human experience, and thus accentuates Man’s difference from other species. Therefore, a failure in Man’s thinking means a failure in that which makes him distinctly human. The Torah underscores “he is a person with tzora’as,” his essential personhood is diminished.

[1] Based on Meshech Chochmah, Vayikra 13:2

[2] Vayikra Rabbah 16:3

[3] Vayikra 13:45

[4] Based on Meshech Chochmah, Vayikra 13:41,44

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