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Isolation, touch, and the Suffering of the Righteous

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Our Sages posit at least 7 suggestions (Talmud, Arakhin 16a) to help us make sense of the cause of the mysterious disease, tzaraas. Presumably, if we understand the disease and its spread, then we can control it, thereby protecting ourselves. However, when multiple reasons are given for a phenomenon it’s a good indicator that no single reason is satisfactory. See for example the many Midrashic sources on last week’s Torah portion (Shemini) that attempt to understand/explain the tragic deaths of Nadav and Avihu when they came “lifnei Hashem” – before God.

The verses that talk about Shabbat occupy a fraction of space in the Torah compared to the lengthy description of tzaraas (a death-like manifestation characterized by skin decay, that is commonly understood as the archetype of all God-given disease). Yet nowhere in the Torah is any reason given for tzaraas. Neither is any judgment imposed on the metzora – the person afflicted with tzaraas. I’m no etymologist, but it seems significant that the Torah doesn’t use machalah – disease in describing tzaraas. Instead nega is used, connoting touch. This would help explain why Moshe and Miriam are the only Torah personalities explicitly “touched” by God in this way; perhaps you need to be on a tremendously high spiritual level to experience tzaraas. .

Moshe is raised away from his community, “michutz lamachaneh” – outside the camp – a term we encounter in reference to the metzora. Later, he is forced to flee........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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