This week we read a double portion, Tazria and Metzora (Leviticus 12:1 - 15:33). Colloquially known as “the leprosy portions”, these two Torah portions primarily concern themselves with how a person acquires impurity, the correct method for removing the impurity, and the person’s return to the community.
The disease characterized as “tzara’at” by the text does not resemble the affliction called leprosy in modern times. The mystery of what sort of ailment the Torah is describing is deepened by the fact that tzara’at can also be found in leather, in cloth and in the interior walls of a house. What can this mean?
The medieval Torah commentator Nachmanides insists that tzara’at is not a physical condition at all. He claims that it is the outward manifestation of an inner spiritual affliction. If so, the Israelite community understood, very early on, that there is a relationship between the inner and outer self, and had a way to deal with it.