Tazria and Metzorah are two Torah portions that are often read together as a double-Parsha. The bulk of both these Torah portions speaks of “Tzaraat” some biblical form of a physically manifested spiritual affliction that could affect skin, clothing or homes. The Torah spends a lot of time on the various forms of this malady, and the inspection, diagnoses and purification process. It’s a difficult Torah portion to relate to, since all this only applied back in biblical times, and all of this is not relevant in our daily lives today. But Torah, all of Torah, is meant to be personally relevant and a lesson for our lives, so how do we connect with this stuff?
Here’s a few intertwined ideas on how to feel the relevance of Tazira-Metzorah today:
First a joke: Someone posted on Twitter that he went for a Tzaraat test and was asked if he want the rapid test or PCR? This joke is actually quite spot-on (pun intended, because spots are one of the forms of Tzaraat) because some Tzaraat diagnoses can be seen right away, but often has to be rechecked in a week’s time to see its status. Like the PCR tests, you have to let the culture develop, you can’t always be sure from the rapid initial inspection.
Then something Isaac shared during Torah-reading from his Chumash, the small-blue one by Chaim Miller that he likes with life relevant insights: It poses a question, how would you emerge from quarantine, how would it change you? This, of course, was written before Covid, but it really speaks to us today. How are we coming away from a year like this? The same as we entered? Hopefully, we grew from the experience, hopefully it was character-enriching and it made us better people.
Lastly, and this relates to and connects with the above-mentioned two points, there’s a lot to be learned from the Tzaraat diagnoses method. One of the primary indicators of the presence of Tzaraat was measuring its growth over that week’s time. How did it change? Did it stay the same or did it expand and grow? Growth in Tzaraat, as in heaven-forbid, cancer, is a positive sign of that ailment, which is a negative sign for the person. But it teaches us something about growth. If whatever it is stays the same, it isn’t much at all.
As the Rebbe repeatedly teaches (and beautifully depicted in this 25-minute video titled “Challenge”) “Every living thing must grow!” Our personal vitality is measured in part in how we grow and blossom and develop. If we stay the same, if we keep the status quo, if we’re just maintaining, then we’re not really alive.