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Parshot Festivals

Try to be sensitive to the pain of others

  • ParshaRabbiPink
In this week’s double parshah, Tazria and Metzora, we read about “tzaarat”. Tzaarat was a spiritual punishment for slanderous talk – not leprosy, but leprosy is the closest known disease that mirrors it – that would afflict the house, clothes or the body in biblical times. Having tzaarat would render a person “tamei”, or biblically impure.
by Rabbi Pini Pink, Chabad Greenstone | Apr 19, 2018

Pronouncing someone a “metzora” – inflicted with the tzaarat disease – was the responsibility of the Kohen. “He should be brought to Aaron the Priest or to one of his sons,” the Torah teaches.

The Talmud explains that even if the Kohen was ignorant of the laws of tzaarat, only he could rule if the sufferer was pure or impure. A sage would be appointed to instruct the Kohen on the status of the “leper”, but the pronouncement had to come from the Kohen himself.

What was so special about the Kohanim that even an infant Kohen could change the metzora’s status, while a great sage could not?

The punishment for the metzora was to be sent outside the camp, to live in solitude and ponder their transgressions. This is not a pleasant or easy task. Removing someone from the community could have untold effects on their mental and physical well-being. Occasionally it is unavoidable, but this must be the exception, not the norm.

Aaron, the High Priest, was known for his love of his fellow humans. As we read last Shabbat in Ethics of our Fathers – “ohev shalom, v’rodef shalom” – he loved peace and pursued peace. To this day, on the Yom Tov, when the Kohanim bless the community with the Birchat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing, the blessing they begin with has this conclusion: “To bless the Jewish people with love.”

When it comes to excluding or rebuking a person, it must be done with warmth. If we wish to chastise another, we must first examine our own motives and be sure that our desire to rebuke the other is being done with love, and with the goal of ultimately improving their relationship with G-d and their fellow human beings.

This was the role of the Kohen. Loving their fellow humans was inherent in the spiritual DNA. Therefore, only they – no matter how many other, more knowledgeable people there were – could take on the burden of pronouncing a fellow Jew impure.

With so much going on in the world around us, there’s an important lesson we can take from this. We must try to be more sensitive to the pain of others and to appreciate that there are others suffering, even in our community. We must ensure that we are sensitive in our thoughts, words and actions in order to truly be pursuers of peace.

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