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D’var Torah: Tazria Metzora

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Where in the Torah do you find an example of purposeful isolation?

Where in the Torah do you find an example of purposeful isolation? It is in Parshat Tazriah which appears alongside Parshat Metzorah this Shabbat.

The Torah presents us with the laws of the Metzorah – a ‘leper’, someone who is guilty of slandering others. Chazal explain that the term ‘metzorah’ is derived from the words ‘Motzei Sheim Ra’. ‘He has created a bad name for others’. So what is the punishment for the Metzorah? The Torah tells us “badad yesheiv michutz lamachane” – “He must dwell alone, his place of habitation will be outside the camp”.

Rashi brings the gemara in Mesechet Arachit Daf 16B. There Chazal tell us that the Metzorah has been guilty of causing husbands to separate from wives and people to separate from their friends therefore he now should be separated from society. This is one of the outstanding examples of corrective punishment in the Torah. The hope is that as a result of tasting isolation himself, the Metzorah, at the end of his period of being impure, will re-emerge into society now to be a responsible person. It is clear that the Torah views isolation as being an unhealthy state of existence. That is why in Sefer Bereshit we are told “Lo tov lehiyot adam levado” “it is not good for a person to be by themselves”. And I wonder, is the English word ‘bad’ derived from the word ‘badad’ because it is not good to be alone?

During this period of the coronavirus, so many of us are isolated. And we’re getting through this, knowing that it is for a good purpose: to look after our own health and the lives of those around us.

Unlike in biblical times, when isolation meant absolute isolation. Today, those who are isolated can and should be in touch with others. And it is a mitzvah to get in touch with those around you – particularly those living by themselves  – on the phone, by email and through whichever way possible. Those of us able to get out of our homes, can stand outside the homes of others and speak to them through the window or be in touch, be connected. Because it is tough to be alone right now.

May Hashem bless us and all of our society that when we eventually emerge from isolation we will come back into a society which will be responsible, which will be happy and most importantly of all be healthy.

Shabbat Shalom