07 Apr 2016 Healing with Kindness
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Tazria, we meet the metzorah, the individual afflicted with the plague of tzaraas, which can be defined as a spiritual illness with a physical manifestation. The Torah delineates the illness, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of the metzorah over the two parshios of Tazria and Metzorah.
As a result of speaking lashon harah, slanderous speech, the individual becomes stricken with tzaraas and once he is declared impure by the Kohen, he is sent to dwell outside of city limits for the entire time that he is stricken. Not only is he banished from society, but he must sit alone, without the company of even those others who are also impure.
As the illness is spiritual, the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation are all done under the discretion and auspices of the kohen, the spiritual leader.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “When we explore this parsha we find a peculiar phenomenon: the kohen here assumes the role of diagnostician and nurse. Only the kohen has the right to pronounce the sick person clean or unclean. This is a task that a kohen would not normally be expected to perform, given the lengths that he must go to to avoid impurity. Why is this job assigned to the kohen?…
“What is the Jewish approach (to healing)? The first thing the Torah demands (regarding the metzorah) is to bring the kohen. The metzorah was thus instantly removed from the mob psychoses. The kohen diagnosed and pronounced the tumah as tzaraas, but the metzorah was not subsequently (entirely) cut off from society. He (remained) in communication with the kohen as one of the heads of the community. In fact, the metzorah could request being seen by the Kohen Gadol himself – a man who was not permitted to attend the funeral of his own closest relatives. Yet, if summoned, the Kohen Gadol had to go to the metzorah!
“The Torah legislated to prevent the loss of human dignity. The kohen went with the metzorah outside the camp to demonstrate that he was his friend. The metzorah was isolated from everyone except the leaders of the camp of Israel, who must do everything possible to heal him and bring him back to society. The kohen assures the man, ‘You are needed, you will get well, you will return to society.’
“The kohen acts for the needs of the people. The message is that even someone who holds the exalted office of kehunah must not abandon his fellow Jew. He must have compassion for everyone, even someone as dangerously (spiritually) ill as the metzorah… Compassion is the essential attribute of the spiritual leaders of Klal Yisrael.”
Though he has been banished, and though he is like dead, the metzorah is not dead. A Jew’s connection with the spiritual leader of the generation is never severed. For his spiritual malady can only be healed through spiritual rehabilitation: through awareness of sin, spiritual growth and repentance. The one who can bring him back, who has the capacity to teach and guide him with love, peace and acceptance – despite his sin – is the kohen. And therefore, he must go out of the camp to heal, with kindness, the afflicted soul.
And yet, the Sages teach that each and every one of us must emulate the ways of the Aharon Ha’Kohen. We too are to love peace, pursue peace, love fellow man, and bring others close to Torah (Avos 1:12). We too must often venture out to others who are “outside the camp” to bring them closer to Torah. We too must share kindness, warmth and the pursuit of peace to include all Jews, no matter how sinful and afflicted they may seem to be to us.
And so, we have three matzos at our Seder table, representing many different kinds of Jews. And we have four sons sitting around the Seder table with us, representing Jews of different backgrounds. And we declare, as we begin our Seder, that all those in need are invited to come join.
We must draw others close with compassion, warmth and kindness. We too must know and believe – for ourselves and for others – that each Jew is important, each one is necessary, each one contributes to the very fabric of our society and nation. And when we become spiritually ill, there is always hope for repair…
And when the metzorah sees that he is never forgotten entirely, and though he is like dead, he is not dead – when he sees there is hope for him yet! – when he sees the kohen comes out to heal him! – נֶגַע-הַצָּרַעַת, מִן-הַצָּרוּעַ וְיָצָא, הַכֹּהֵן, אֶל-מִחוּץ, לַמַּחֲנֶה; וְרָאָה, הַכֹּהֵן, וְהִנֵּה נִרְפָּא (Lev.14:3) – it is then that his healing begins.
As we enter the month of Nissan and the great Yom Tov of our freedom, let us be sure that our homes, our hearts and our selves are open to all, for only through kindness and love, all through the lens and beauty of Torah, is there healing.
בברכת שבת שלום וחודש טוב,