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For #MeToo transgressors, the only cure is banishment

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JTA — In the years following the reckonings with sexual harassment and assault prompted by the #MeToo movement, there has been debate over the correct communal response to those accused of sexual misconduct and whether perpetrators should be pushed to the edges of a community.

Questions of sin, quarantine and repentance are central to this week’s Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora, prompted by the rules surrounding the metzora, a person afflicted with tzaarat. Sometimes translated as “leprosy,” tzaraat is a skin disease that, per the description in this week’s portion, can also affect houses and clothing. After an inspection by a priest, a person who is found to have tzaraat must tear their clothes and leave the camp. They may not return until they are found to be pure by a second inspection, and must cry out “Impure! Impure!” as they walk.

The rabbis suggest that tzaraat, unlike menstruation and other genital emissions, is not simply a random occurrence of the body. Instead they cast it as a punishment. Most famously, the rabbinic tradition associates tzaraat with “lashon hara,” cruel speech, but the Talmud in Arakhin offers seven sins that would cause a person to be afflicted with tzaraat: “For malicious speech, for bloodshed, for an oath taken in vain, for forbidden sexual relations, for arrogance, for theft, and for stinginess.”

Today we know to avoid framing illness or bodily differences as signs of moral degradation; disability activists and fat acceptance activists have pushed against such pernicious and........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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