week’s portion goes into the details concerning childbirth, leprosy and
marital /personal purity. There is a lot we could explore in this
portion even though these are probably the chapters most of us would
want to skip over. For this observation I want to get into the chapters
about leprosy and talk about how these ideas apply to our time. For
some, I believe these will be new ideas, for others, not so much. But I
hope to have something everyone can glean from in this observation.|
For starters, let’s read a few verses starting in Leviticus 13 about leprosy, “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes on the skin of his body like a leprous sore, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests…Then the priest shall examine him, and pronounce him unclean.” What is interesting here is that, according to these verses, someone with leprosy isn’t unclean until the priest says so. In a sense, this individual doesn’t have leprosy, until it is identified as leprosy. But is this really logical?
When someone goes to the Doctor, are they okay until the Doctor says they are sick? No, they are sick; therefore they go to the Doctor until he declares them okay. In this portion it is the exact opposite. What does this mean? If someone has leprosy isn’t he or she contagious as soon as they get it? Yes, they would be; if it were the leprosy that we understand today. But this is not the leprosy of today, though it is translated into English as “leprosy.” In Hebrew, the words used for leprosy in the above verse are the words “Nega Tzara’at—Afflicted Leprosy/Plague Mark.” This “leprosy” is talked of by Chazal (Acronym for “Our Sages, may their memory be blessed”) as connected to the sin of “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue.” In other words, this malady is connected to the sin of gossip, slander, and idle words.
In today’s world we don’t have “Tzara’at” anymore. Not because we’re better than those gone on before, rather, this “leprosy” was a blessing, because it would immediately come and plague someone with an evil tongue and convict them to repent. We don’t have “Tzara’at” in today’s world because current humanity is in a lower state of Godliness. God gave this plague to the children of Israel to immediately correct and reprove them. As it says in Proverbs 3, “For whom the LORD loves He corrects.”
Yeshua teaches us in Matthew 5, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” And in 1 John we read, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer…” If hatred in the heart against a person is equated with murder, then “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” can be likened to the murdering of three people. The Rambam writes in Hilchot Deot 7:3, “And, again, the wise men said: ‘The evil tongue kills three persons, the one who speaks it, the one of whom it is spoken, and the one who receives it.’” Later in the book of Levitcus God clearly instructs us, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” Even James, the brother of Yeshua, dedicates a whole chapter of his book to the dangers of the tongue. This sin is one which God takes very seriously.
|“Gossip” Painting by Eugene de Blaas (1903)|
Before we go on,
let’s look at a few Biblical examples of how “Lashon Hara—The Evil
Tongue” is connected to “Tzara’at—Leprosy.” In Exodus 4, we read about
Moses’ continuing encounter with God at the Burning Bush. God has just
told Moses how the Exodus from Egypt will take place and Moses’ response
is, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’”
Moses’ immediate response questions the character of the nation of
Israel. Moses’ doubt in the nation of Israel can be seen as a form of
“Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue.” God then gives Moses signs to perform, to
show Israel that he is sent from God. One of those signs was Moses’
hand becoming leprous. The Rabbis tell us that this sign was given
because of Moses’ doubting accusation against the children of Israel
before God. |
In Numbers 12, we read of Miriam and Aaron speaking against Moses. Here’s the story, “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married…they said, ‘has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’…So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them…suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.” Miriam and Aaron’s “Lashon Hara—Evil Tongue” against Moses, caused Miriam to become a “Metzora—one afflicted with tzara’at” She became a “leper.”
This brings me to an interesting note I was made aware of by FFOZ. They wrote, “…the sages taught that the word metzora (leper) is derived from a combination of the Hebrew words motzi (מוציא), which means ‘wellspring’ or ‘source,’ and the Hebrew word ra (רע), which means ‘evil.’ Put them together and it spells the word ‘leper’ (metzora, מצורע)— sort of. It’s not a real etymology. The word metzora actually comes from the Hebrew word for leprosy (tzara’at, צרעת).” The origin of the word “Metzora” comes from the word “Tzara’at—Leprosy” which means “one afflicted with tzara’at.” When you break the word “Metzora” into two parts you get the Hebrew words “Motzi Ra—Source of Evil.” Some of you may recognize the word “Motzi” from the traditional Hebrew blessing over bread. We say “Baruch Atah Hashem…Ha’motzi Lechem Min Ha’Aretz—Blessed are You, Lord…Who brings forth bread from the earth.”
We could say, a “Metzora—one afflicted with tzara’at” is someone “Ha’motzi Ra—Who brings forth evil.” I wrote earlier that this “Tzara’at—Leprosy” used to come upon people who spread/spoke slander and gossip. But gossip is not an “outward defect.” The mouth reveals what is truly in the heart. As Yeshua told us in Matthew 12, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” From these verses we understand that “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” is a heart condition that must be dealt with. Gossip and slander are not just a “skin-deep” issue…when we speak these things, it is coming straight from the heart.
A few weeks ago I wrote “Normally, anytime God speaks of someone…[He] uses the terms, ‘Eesh—Man’ or ‘Nefesh—Soul.’ In this verse however it uses the word ‘Adam—Man.’ The word ‘Adam’ can be used to refer to humanity as a whole…But the term ‘Adam’ is also the name of a particular character in the Bible. ‘Adam HaRishon—The First Man.’” When I wrote this, I was writing about the sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus 1, however, in this chapter here (Leviticus 13) we are again confronted with the word “Adam—Man.” Leviticus 13:2 says, “Adam Ki Yiyeh V’ohr-B’saro…—When a man has on the skin of his body…” Remember, the name Adam not only means “man” but also points us back to “Adam HaRishon—The First Man.” What does this chapter in Leviticus have to do with Adam from the Creation story?
Let’s go back to Genesis 3 and read about the “Sin of the Serpent” which led to mankind’s downfall. “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” What is the sin here? “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue.” The serpent puts doubt about what God had said, into the woman’s mind. 2 verses later the serpent says to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Again, the serpent speaks “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” against the Holy One, Blessed be He. It was the sin of “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” that has brought all the malady and calamity into the world we live in today.
But if “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” was the sin in the garden, where is the punishment of “Tzara’at—Leprosy?”
Let’s go back to our story in Genesis 3. In between the verses I used above concerning the serpent’s words, is the woman’s reply to the serpent’s first statement. “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” The word “touch” is underlined in the verse above. The Hebrew word used here is “Teegu.” And this is where it gets interesting. The Hebrew root word is “Nega.” This word can mean, “touch, strike, plague, afflict.”
If you remember from earlier, I wrote about the “Leprosy” found in Leviticus 13 as “Nega Tzara’at—Afflicted Leprosy/Plague Mark.” Throughout these chapters in Leviticus concerning leprosy, we come across these two words. Sometimes together, as in, “Nega Tzara’at—Afflicted Leprosy/Plague Mark.” However, more often, they are used separately, as in just, “Nega—Afflict/Plague” or “Tzara’at—Leprosy/ Mark.” The word “Nega—Afflict/Plague” is often used throughout the Bible as a synonym referring to leprosy. Here is what “Chava/Eve” was really saying in her reply to the serpent. “…Of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you afflict/plague it, lest you die.’”
What happens in the story though? Adam and Chava/Eve “Neegu—Afflict/Plague” the tree on account of the “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” of the serpent and death transpires. The “Plague” that was on the tree was passed to humanity because they listened to the serpent. As the Rambam wrote in Hilchot Deot 7:3, “…the greatest harm comes to the one who receives the evil report.” Adam and Chava/Eve literally “ate”/received the evil report, hook, line, sinker and all.
53 is a fairly well known chapter among Christian circles. I have even
heard some Christians claim that Jewish Rabbis hide this passage from
their own people because it so obviously points to Yeshua. This may be
the case in some instances, but every Jew I have ever met, usually knew
Isaiah 53 better than I did. I’ve heard it said, “If the Jews need to read Isaiah 53, the Christians need to read the other 65 chapters.”|
It’s true, Isaiah 53 does point to Yeshua in an amazing way, but if we read the Hebrew, it points to Him even better. We always talk about how Yeshua came to redeem us from sin. In 2 Corinthians 5 it tells us, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Do we really understand what this verse means though? Jewish tradition speaks of a messiah known as “HaMetzora—The Leper.” In Isaiah 53:4 & 8 it says, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” Notice the two words underlined in these verses. The word “stricken.” Both of these words come from the root word “Nega—Afflict/Plague.” What did Yeshua do? He took mankind’s plague upon Himself so that humanity could be free. Why do you think the Gospels talk so much about Yeshua healing “lepers?” Because Yeshua loved mankind so much that He took the plague upon Himself that we might be free! We were all “lepers,” from the sin of Adam and Chava/Eve. We all should have been cast out of the camp, but because of Yeshua, we are instead invited to where He stands as High priest, to the place where He pronounces us “Clean!”
Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,