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Why must a Kohen pronounce the Tzaraat -- “leprosy” -- impure?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus


Library » Miscellaneous » Health Issues » Tzaraas ("Leprosy") | Subscribe | What is RSS?


There is actually a very important lesson that we learn from this.

Often when we see an imperfection in our fellow man or woman, we are tempted to rebuke them for it—to pronounce them impure.

But we have to reflect on where that impulse is coming from. Are we trying to help that other person heal or are we just using them as punching bags to let out our own frustrations? Are we trying to raise them up or are we trying to raise ourselves up by stepping on them?

What the Torah is teaching us here is that before you pronounce someone impure you have to be a kohen. What is a kohen?

The ancestor of all the kohanim was Aaron the high priest. Our sages say of him that he loved peace and pursued it. He loved people and brought them close to the Torah.
A kohen is the one who blesses the nation. In the blessing that he recites before blessing the people, he says, “Blessed is G-d…who has commanded us to bless His people Israel with love.” An integral part of the kohen’s blessing is the fact that it is imbued with love. If a kohen is not on good terms with someone in the congregation he cannot perform the blessing. He is disqualified.

The ancestor of all the Kohanim was Aaron the high priest. Our sages say of him that he loved peace and pursued it. He loved people and brought them close to the Torah. If two people were quarreling, Aaron would go to each one separately and say, “You know, the other guy really wants to make peace with you but he’s just embarrassed.” Then he would go and say the same thing to other person. And so the two parties would make peace.

So the kohen embodies the characteristic of love. (Kabbalistically, kohanim stem from the supernal attribute of love and kindness.) That’s why it is him and only him that can pronounce an individual as impure.

For it is only with love—not just knowledge—that healing can take place.

Source: Likutei Sichot 27:88.

TAGS: leprosy, tzaraas


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.