Parashas Tazria Metzora

This week’s double parashah deals with tzaraas, a skin disease that Hashem would bring upon a person for evil speech (loshon hara) and other social offenses (including murder, false swearing, haughtiness, theft, and stinginess – see Arachin 16a). A person afflicted with tzaraas is called a metzora. The Midrash, in Tanchuma, Metzora 2, interprets the word metzora as a contraction of the phrase motzi ra – one who brings forth evil. This Midrash focuses specifically on the slanderer (motzi shem ra), but it is possible to extend the idea to other evildoers. Thus, in Vayikra Rabbah 16:1, the Midrash connects our parashah with the following passage (Mishlei 6:16–19):
Hashem hates these six, while the seventh is an abomination to His soul: Haughty eyes, a false tongue, hands that spill innocent blood, a heart that cultivates iniquitous thoughts, feet that rush to do evil, a false witness who spouts lies, and one who stirs up strife among brothers.
The Midrash explains that the above tendencies are archetypes of a hateful stance toward others, and for behavior of this sort a person is stricken with tzaraas
In regard to a metzora, the Torah states (Vayikra 13:46): “He shall dwell in isolation; outside the camp is his [fitting] dwelling-place.” The Maggid expounds on this verse in the course of a discussion of envy in his commentary on Koheles 9:2. He notes that the end of the verse contains seemingly superfluous language – it would appear enough to say: “He shall dwell in isolation outside the camp.” The Maggid explains the added language as indicating the reason for sending the metzora into isolation. He brings out the point with a simple allegory. A child was sitting among other people, and he felt hostile toward them. He cried and pleaded with his father: “Get these people to go away, so I can sit here by myself. I hate them, and I cannot stand sitting with them.” The father replied: “If this is how you feel, it is better for you to go away and sit in an isolated spot than to make everyone else go away because of you.” Similarly, the Torah tells us to send a metzora outside the camp because that is the dwelling-place that befits him – for he hates other people and cannot stand to see them do well.
As a rule, the Maggid says, a person who envies and hates others spends his entire life in a state of agitation. Within his heart he harbors pain and evil thoughts; he is upset when Hashem grants blessing to others without casting upon them any affliction. In this way, he creates new troubles that did not previously exist. This is why a metzora is called a motzi ra – one who brings forth evil. The disease tzaraas itself mirrors the metzora’s behavior. The metzora, through his vexation over other peoples’ blessings, creates a curse from a blessing. Correspondingly, Hashem creates a lesion from the person’s healthy flesh. In the Torah’s words (Vayikra 13:2): “v’hayah b’or bisaro l’nega tzaraas.” Building on the prefix lamed in the word l’nega, the Maggid interprets the Torah as saying that a part of the skin of the flesh comes to be a lesion of tzoraas – on its own, without any external assault. Just as the metzora’s behavior transforms good into bad, Hashem transforms a part of his flesh into a mass of disease.  
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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