The Purpose of “Dis-ease”March 27, 2014 - 5:00 am
“As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” — Leviticus 13:46
The Torah portion for this week is Tazria, which means “to conceive,” from Leviticus 12:1–13:59, and the Haftorah is from 2 Kings 4:42–5:19.
In this week’s Torah portion we learn about the plight of the person who had contracted a “defiling skin disease.” What a horrible experience! The afflicted person would find a sore or a rash on his or her body. Then, if the priest determined that the rash was indeed a defiling skin disease, the afflicted person would be isolated and live outside the camp until he or she was completely healed. Isn’t this a cruel way to treat someone who has a disease that is not only physical, but spiritual as well? We would think that what this person needed most was human support and care – not isolation.
Actually, God, the master doctor, had ordered just what the patient needed. Most Sages agree that the spiritual sin that led to the defiling skin disease was the sin of speaking gossip and slander. By isolating the afflicted individual, that person learned to adjust his or her perspective about other people.
When we gossip about someone or inflict any harm with our words, it’s because we do not value and respect others properly. When we speak about a person’s faults, it’s because we have forgotten to focus on that person’s virtues. By placing the diseased person in isolation, he or she would heal – not only physically, but spiritually. As that person’s skin became whole and healthy, so did his or her relationship with society. The afflicted person would emerge healthier, more at peace, and far more likely to build the type of meaningful relationships that so enrich our lives and give us meaning.
So in the end, the punishment of the sinner became an invaluable gift.
Now, as you’ve most likely realized, this biblical skin disease no longer exists today. However, “dis–ease” is still very much a part of our lives. The lesson of the skin disease still applies to our lives now, and that is every problem has a purpose and every hardship can make us stronger. It’s all in how we see it.
The Sages teach that each person needs to say every day, “The Lord created the world just for me!” That doesn’t mean that we are to assume a self-centred attitude that belittles the importance of everyone around us. What is means is that we have to see everything that happens in our lives as a tailor-made situation that addresses our exact spiritual and physical needs. Too often we assume a victim mentality that keeps us depressed and stuck in life. Instead we need to understand that nothing happens to us; rather everything happens for us.
Think of all the “dis-ease” that you have experienced in your life. How has it made you the person that you are today? How can this knowledge help you through any “dis–ease” you are experiencing right now?