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A Loving Heart

One of the most severe forms of impurity described in the Torah is that of the Metzorah—the leper. One who is diagnosed with tzaraat must be isolated from all human contact and is banished to the outskirts of the community, until the tzaraat is healed.

The only one qualified, according to the Torah, to make a diagnosis of tzaraat is the kohen, the priest. The kohen inspects the wound or skin discoloration, and pronounces whether the person is pure or impure. Once the kohen declares the person impure, he is banished until the kohen inspects him again and declares him pure.

Even if the kohen is not learned and is not well-versed in the laws of tzaraat, he still has the authority to declare someone pure or impure. He may need to consult with a rabbinical authority to decide if the skin discoloration meets the criteria for tzaraat. However, it is the kohen who has the final say, not the scholar. Tzaraat is diagnosed by the declaration of the kohen, no one else.

Why is only the kohen fit to make this declaration? As mentioned, tzaraat is an extremely severe form of impurity, with harsh conditions of social isolation imposed on anyone meeting the conditions for a tzaraat diagnosis. Declaring someone a metzora is to banish them, albeit temporarily, from the community.

Such a harsh punishment can be imposed only by a kohen.

Kohanim, by nature, are blessed with the trait of loving kindness. Before they perform the priestly blessing, they proclaim, “Blessed are You... Who has commanded us to bless His nation with love.”

A kohen, due to his great kindness, will be very reluctant to declare a person impure due to tzaraat. He would not want to impose on him such a harsh sentence. Therefore, the kohen will put forth great effort to avoid having to make this declaration. He will be fully aware of the power of his words, and will leave no stone unturned to prevail upon the scholar to find some loophole, some escape hatch to avoid declaring another Jew impure.  And if, for all his pains, he is unable to avoid uttering the word “impure,” we can be assured that he will likewise spare no effort to facilitate the purification of the leper.

The kohen, man of kindness, guides us all in attaining this exalted level of sensitivity.  It is this form of unconditional love that will obliterate the primary cause of our long exile.  For exile is a state of conflict and disharmony, where we feel cut off emotionally from each other and even from our own inner selves.  When we consciously attempt to invoke in ourselves a feeling of true acceptance and love for all individuals, we free ourselves and society from the entrapment of isolation and disconnection.

 

So the next time you encounter a particularly perverse form of imperfection in another human being, don't turn away in disgust.  In the manner of the kohen, look beyond the external blemish, into the soul. Your kind eye and loving heart will accomplish far more than your most severe condemnations. These small acts of unity and acceptance will accumulate to change the landscape of society to a place where peace, serenity, and harmony will reign.
 

 


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