Tazria: Healing Alone

“All the days that the affliction is on him he will be impure, he is impure, solitary he will sit, outside the camp of his dwelling place”[1] (כָּל יְמֵי אֲשֶׁר הַנֶּגַע בּוֹ יִטְמָא טָמֵא הוּא בָּדָד יֵשֵׁב מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה מוֹשָׁבוֹ)

On this verse, Rashi writes, “Why is he treated differently from other impure people that he should abide solitary? Because by his slanderous statements, he separated a man from his wife and one person from the other, so he too will be separated.”

Being alone in this case is a punishment, measure for measure. This person had a serious problem. Instead of making contact in a gentle and agreeable way, his touch was forceful and destroyed relationships. For this reason, the affliction surfaced. The Hebrew word for “affliction” (נֶגַע) stems from the same root as “touch” (נְגִיעָה). As a result, he must remove himself from making any kind of contact with others. He sits alone.

Being alone can also be positive. For example, the Jewish people are described as, “a nation that dwells alone.”[2] The man of faith seeks opportunities to be alone with God. In truth, the solitary state of the leper also turns into a positive experience of being alone. How so?

First, the unrectified contact the leper with had with other people made him emotionally blocked toward himself. The word for “impurity” (טֻמְאָה) is cognate to the word meaning “impenetrable” (אָטוּם) as well as the word meaning “dumb” (מְטֻמְטָם). Constant evil speech and gossip-mongering deflects the soul from one’s true, inner life leaving it with an external, noisy experience (similar to a person who is totally immersed in his cellphone and forgets to live his real life). To heal, he must disconnect from any external contact, immerse himself in his solitary loneliness in all its glaring starkness. After he has uncovered his true self, he will ultimately achieve purity of soul. At that point, the priest will go out of the camp to the leper and will see that the affliction has healed.

 

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

 

[1]. Leviticus 13:46.

[2]. Numbers 23:9.

 

 

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