Tzaraat of the Body

Apr 12, 2015

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל־אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר׃

Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying:

Leviticus 13:1

כָּל־יְמֵי אֲשֶׁר הַנֶּגַע בּוֹ יִטְמָא טָמֵא הוּא בָּדָד יֵשֵׁב מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה מוֹשָׁבוֹ׃

He shall be unclean as long as the disease is on him. Being unclean, he shall dwell apart; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

Leviticus 13:46

The Torah next tackles the topic of tzaraat, a spiritual affliction typically translated as leprosy. It lists various lesions that need to be examined by a priest to determine whether one is infected. A leprous lesion, according to the Torah, is one which extends beyond the surface of the skin and contains white, or on certain parts of the body, golden, hairs. Its appearance is white or white with red streaks. However, if the individual’s entire body turns white, he is considered pure. If the appearance of the lesion is not decisive, the afflicted individual is quarantined for up to two week-long periods to see if it changes.


If the lesion is determined to be leprous, the afflicted individual must separate himself from the community during the period of his contamination. He tears his clothes, stops cutting his hair or shaving, and covers himself entirely with his cloak. He must also warn everyone he encounters that he is contaminated and dwell outside the communal camp.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Tzaraat is a fascinating disease. Some of the details provided suggest a medical element to it, but most point to a purely spiritual affliction. What evidence suggests a medical problem? What evidence suggests a spiritual disorder?


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