Tzaraat   צרעת




The Ailment of

Part 1:  What is Tzaraat?

Tzaraat – Quick Facts

  • A skin disease.

  • Skin turns bright white.

  • Unnatural. Physicians wouldn’t have a clue. 

  • Very impure. Person with Tzaraat is expelled from the community. 

  • Seen in Biblical times. Not after.


  • “Tzaraat”  =  the disease

  • “Metzora” = a person who has Tzaraat

  • “Nega” = an instance of Tzaraat 

  • Tzaraat is often translated as “Leprosy”

  • But it’s for lack of a better term.

  • The English dictionary has Leprosy as something different.

Tzaraat in the Torah

  • The Torah deals with Tzaraat extensively.
  • 117 verses in total: (Leviticus 13–14)
    • Tzaraat on the person  (13:1–46)
    • On his clothes  (13:47–58)
    • On his house  (14:33–48)
    • Purification process  (14:1-32, 49–53)

A Thing of the Present

  • Tzaraat is an ancient ailment.
  • But the Torah is not a history book.
  • It contains teachings for all times.
  • There’s something big for us here. 
  • Today.

The Sins of the Metzora

Tzaraat is a punishment for negative speech.


  • Negative speech has been a wide-spread problem…
  • Throughout the ages…
  • Why haven’t we seen any Tzaraat cases?

Hefty Criteria

To be susceptible to Tzaraat you need to have:

  1. Self perfection 
  2. Not a trace of bad inside your heart  

Top Notch People

  • Can’t find them today.
  • Like Moses, Miriam and King David. 
  • They all had Tzaraat.
  • Indeed such people are intrinsically separate from the community – 
  • In a positive sense:  
  • Much higher than the rest of the community.

That's where the problem is...

There are two types of religious challenges:

To Escape the Material

  • That’s the basic challenge in life:  
  • To be spiritual in this material world.
  • On many levels: 
  • From just managing to remain within Jewish fold 
  • To maintaining an unscratched soul.
  • Although an uphill battle, you’re moving in one direction (up).
  • That’s the challenge for most people, to overcome their material impulses. 
  • But not for someone like the Metzora.  
  • It’s no sweat for him.

No. 1

No. 2

To Impact the Material

  • Escaping physicality is only good preparation for impacting it. 

  • We’re here to spiritualize this lowly world, not to abandon it.


  • That’s a harder challenge as you need to maintain balance between two polar themes:

  • Removed from worldly matters (up) while dealing with them (down).

Starting to Keep Kosher

  • Before he used to eat everything (except pork)

  • Then he’s come closer to his roots 

  • Now he takes great issue with non-Kosher food.

  • Beautiful!  But wait – 

  • Friction emerges with his family/ friends. 

  • They haven’t tapped into what he’s discovered yet. 

  • So he’s giving them a hard time about it…

  • And you can guess what their reaction is  :(

  • That didn't paint a pretty picture.


A Good Prayer

  • Reaching excitement in prayer… 

  • Positive energy.  Keep it up! 

  • Well, the world out there has a different take on life…

  • Descending from the heights of prayer into the world is dangerous.

  • With hard landing, patience could be easily lost.

  • Getting upset after prayers when things are not the way they should (negative energy).

Another Example:

The Ultimate Gap

  • People who have mastered the first challenge:

  • Nothing bad left in their heart, 

  • Nor love for any physical leisure,

  • They’re in a higher, incomparable league,

  • “Outside” the community – 

  • They struggle with the second challenge (to impact the world).

  • The gap between them and the rest is too great…

Turning people OFF is another.

Failure to turn people ON is one problem.

Elite Energy

  • Those elite people have powerful (wow) stuff

  • But because it’s so intense –  

  • How can they relate it to the regular folk?

  • It can be too much for them to handle.

  • Can easily wow them the wrong way.

  • Turn them off.

  • Moses, Miriam, King David – all had issues with expressing themselves to others.

  • Their greatness was misunderstood…

Speech is "Ill"

  • Speech is where the problem lies.

  • The Metzora is missing the right communication tools. 

  • So instead of the pleasure (ענג = Oneg) he’s supposed to bring out – 

  • We see an undesirable Tzaraat (נגע / Nega)

  • Same letters. 

  • It’s just the order that’s stuffed up.

Skin Only

  • Tzaraat shows up on the person’s skin. 

  • His outmost part. 

  • As inside he’s all good.

  • Skin is what people see. How he appears to others.

  • That’s where the problem is.

Bright White

  • Tzaraat appears as bright white spots.

  • The phenomenon itself is good (white), 

  • And even super (bright).

  • But because it’s SO bright – 

  • It dazzles others, 

  • Destructing them from appreciating its real beauty.

The Metzora's Purification

  • The introduction verse to the purification process:

  • “זאת תהיה תורת המצורע ביום טהורתו” (Leviticus 34)

  • Literally:  “This will be the law (Torah) of the Metzora on the day of his purification”

  • Herein lies the solution:

  • The Torah (תורת) will enable the Metzora’s purification (טהרתו) 

Why the Torah

  • Torah = Divine reason. 

  • Able to bridge the gap between Heavenly stuff (Divine) and physical reality (reason).

  • Torah is the critical medium that contains the high levels of the Metzora 

  • And expresses them in a way that the lowly person can understand.

  • The Metzora should invest his energies in “Torah teaching”, 

  • As opposed to reproach, argument, or no interaction at all.


Essential Ingredient

  • The expulsion of the Metzora from the community – 

  • It’s humiliating.

  • Mmmm, there’s a message here…

  • That’s what he’s missing!

  • His Torah teaching has to be with humility,

  • To be relative even to the lowly simpletons (hyssop).

It’s not easy for a tall cedar tree to feel small like a hyssop.


The Metzora is right up there.

Are we asking him to fool himself that he’s not?

It depends where you're looking from.

  • The inner dimensions of the Torah describe the greatness of G-d.

  • That’s the real height.

  • Compared to which the Metzora isn't really more significant than any other person on the street…

  • This realization is also “humiliating”, but with a positive spin.

How Does it Look Now?

  • Once healed,

  • The Tzaraat does not go away!

  • We want his high levels to stay.

  • But not the negativity and misconception associated with their initial expression.

  • So the Tzaraat itself remains,

  • Albeit in pure form. 

  • (The verses describe which form is pure/impure)

  • The Nega transforms into Oneg (pleasure).


Literal Sense Deeper Sense
Not since Biblical Times Because very high levels required
Negative speech is the cause Because he is too high - problems with expression
On the skin Only external (inside - all good). What people see.
Bright white spots White is good but too bright - problematic (dazzles)
Very impure He has immense energy - can do a lot of damage if not conveyed appropriately
Expelled from the Community Because too high - doesn't belong in amongst others
The Torah (process) of purification Torah will enable the purification
Purification through cedar-wood and hyssop Metzora to remain a cedar but adopt the humility of hyssop
Not all Tzaraat instances are impure Tzaraat is really a good thing. Just needs to be in a pure form.

What's Tzaraat got to do with Moshiach?

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