Parshat Acharey Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30)
The traditional English translation for the disease tzora'at that is eponymous with this week's Torah portion, Metzora, is "leprosy." However, as our commentators explain, biblical leprosy was something very different from the bacterial leprosy of modern times that is attributed to the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae. Biblical leprosy traces to a different kind of disease, an infection permeating the spirit and the soul, the disease of lashon hara (or its Ashkenazic variant spelling, lashon hara): evil talk, tale bearing and gossip.
Parshat Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59)
There comes a time, for each of us, when we stand face to face with our demons; it is in our response to this challenge that we often see some of the more beautiful moments in human life. In this week's parsha, Tazria, we find one of those opportunities.
Here's a riddle: What do leprosy and the State of Israel have in common? Hopefully, nothing leaps to your mind right away. I, however, needed to solve this riddle before I could begin to write this week's parasha column: For the week that we celebrate Israel's founding also happens to be the week that we read the Torah portion concerning lepers.