Parshas Metzorah – Transforming the Leper

By Shalom Olensky


This week in the Torah:

The instructions regarding how to purify a leper from his spiritual ailment incurred by speaking negatively; this, introduced by the verse, “This shall be the law of the leper on the day of his purification…He shall be brought to the Kohein….” Since this is the opening verse this week, this week’s section was formerly called (by early Rabbis) “This Shall Be.” In later years, the Jewish name of this week’s section was changed to “Leper.”


Why? And why this use of a negative term (denoting a base spiritual level) instead of keeping the name used by the early Rabbis, “This Shall Be,” an innocuous name and perfectly sensible??


What is the meaning of the aforementioned verse, “He [the leper] shall be brought to the Kohein…”? The leper was not allowed to enter the Jewish encampment! Indeed, a later verse reads, “The Kohein shall go outside the encampment [to purify the leper there]”! And what is the meaning of “He shall be brought…” which implies that this is done forcibly?

Explanation from a Mystical perspective:

This leper was declared impure and expelled from the Jewish encampment, because his derogatory language represented disparity, where there is meant to be unity. Holiness is by nature unified. The leper wrought the opposite.

Yet, (Samuel II, 14:14) “No one shall be cast away from G-d”, for which, a Jew is certain to repent, sooner or later. It is just a matter of time. Nevertheless, although G-d promises to bring every one of His People back to Him, He wants that a Jew’s return be with inner passion and self-commitment.

Hence, initially “the leper” “shall be brought…” i.e. forcibly. But that is only in order that he subsequently return willfully, on his own accord; in the verse’s aforementioned later language, the Kohein shall go to him, i.e. to affect him on his own level, in his own terrain.

The true and complete return of the Jews and transformation of their misdeeds into merits shall take place with the coming of Moshiach. Hence…


In earlier times when Moshiach was still far off, this week’s Torah portion was called, “This Shall Be,” which a) only hints to the following words, “the law of the leper on the day of his purification,” and b) it refers to it as something in the future – “This Shall [eventually] Be.”

In later times, when Moshiach’s approaching footsteps are heard, Jews sense the imminence of the full return to G-d from a point of self-commitment. We therefore make “The Leper” too, into [the name of] a section of Torah.

(Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 7, Metzorah)


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