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In this week's Parsha, Tazria Metzora, we continue the discussion of the laws of ritual impurity and purity. A woman giving birth should undergo a process of purification, which includes immersing in a mikvah (a naturally gathered pool of water) and bringing offerings to the Holy Temple. We also learn that on the eighth day of life all male infants are to be circumcised. Additionally, we learn of Tzara’at, a supernatural plague that can afflict people as well as garments or homes.

Tzara’at is often translated as leprosy but it was not a physical disease at all (nor do its symptoms resemble true leprosy). The Talmud states that it was an affliction meted out directly from G-d as a result of sin. The Talmud lists a number of serious sins which might cause a person to contract Tzara’at, such as murder, theft and false oaths. The most well-known of these is gossiping (lashon hara), speaking about someone behind their back. This is a unique concept because it does not refer to a physical impurity but rather a spiritual one.

If white patches appear on a person’s skin (dark green in garments or homes), a Kohen is summoned. Judging by various signs after a seven-day quarantine period, the Kohen pronounces it tamei (impure) or tahor (pure). After the person heals he or she is purified by the Kohen with a special procedure involving two birds, spring water in an earthen vessel, a piece of cedar wood, a scarlet thread and a bundle of herbs. 

While we may not experience supernatural diseases that would make us spiritually impure, we are still faced with the challenge of helping someone re-integrate themselves into a society no matter their illness. Whether it's someone feeling down or depressed, ultimately, it's our jobs to be the cohanim by supporting and helping people to join back to society. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Joshua, Grade 11