Similar to last week’s portion of Tazria, Metzora is also focused on Tzara’as, a skin blemish that infects people, clothing and houses. However, the first verse describes the laws of purity around conception and pregnancy. Since the name of the portion and first verse encapsulates the energy of the entire portion, how can we reconcile pregnancy and creation with a portion of Torah primarily focused on blemishes, imperfection and decay? We can learn from this that just as a new born baby enters the world in a pure form, a person that becomes sick, or in this case afflicted with a skin disease, has the opportunity through the healing process to similarly create a new life with a brighter future through spiritual growth and change. Tzara’as, and oftentimes other dis-ease of the body, is not meant as a form of punishment, but rather a wake-up call to make a change and create a new life with a higher level of consciousness.
According to the Talmud and the preeminent Torah scholar the Rambam, Tzara’as is a skin affliction or blemish on one’s body, clothes or house as a result of L’ashon hara – idle speech. Often mistaken as leprosy, Tzara’as is a supernatural condition that affected people in order to strongly caution against gossip. The potential negative effects that gossip has on both the person spreading the gossip, as well as the listener, are so great that the Torah has almost two full portions dedicated to the subject. The portions describe the process to check for Tzara’as, how to quarantine an affected person and how to purify the person, their garments or home. Our inability to see the entire picture and know all of the facts often leads to false conclusions. When we gossip or share information without knowing all of the facts, we create tremendous damage to ourselves and others. Reading this portion alerts us to the potential consequences of L’shon hara and provides us with the needed energy to avoid spreading or listening to gossip.
We learn from this week’s double portion that Tzara’as, or any dis-ease of the body is really a blessing in disguise. The physical issue helps us to recognize a change we need to make and helps us to transform on a spiritual level in order to rectify a problem that has become physically manifest. It is interesting to note that these Torah portions are read during the Counting of the Omer, a period of self reflection and cleansing that takes place during the 49-day period from Pesach to Shavuot. During this time we can connect to the energy of cleansing by using the same process used to purify ourselves from Tzara’as – self examination, separation from all forms of negativity and starting over anew.