The Leper Scholar

Apr 8, 2011 at 2:41 PM

Parashat Metzora

Our Torah portion this week is a continuation on the theme of tzara’at. Last week I discussed how tzara’at is not what we often think it is. Although it is commonly to understand these passages as dealing with an actual skin disease, Jewish tradition teaches that tzara’at is not leprosy at all, but a serious spiritual caused by Sinat Chinam – hatred without a reason.

Interestingly, there is a wealth of Jewish tradition that makes a connection between tzara’at and the Messiah. After all, the rabbis teach us that everything in the Torah concerns Mashiach. Therefore, the rabbis recognized that even within the spiritual malady of tzara’at were hidden signs of Mashiach:

This tradition of connecting tzara’at and Mashiach begins with a particular verse from last week’s parasha, in Leviticus 13:12-13:

יב וְאִם-פָּרוֹחַ תִּפְרַח הַצָּרַעַת בָּעוֹר וְכִסְּתָה הַצָּרַעַת אֵת כָּל-עוֹר הַנֶּגַע מֵרֹאשׁוֹ וְעַד-רַגְלָיו--לְכָל-מַרְאֵה עֵינֵי הַכֹּהֵן.

12 If the tzara’at breaks out all over the skin, so that, as far as the cohen can see, the person with tzara’at has sores everywhere on his body, from his head to his feet;

יג וְרָאָה הַכֹּהֵן וְהִנֵּה כִסְּתָה הַצָּרַעַת אֶת-כָּל-בְּשָׂרוֹ--וְטִהַר אֶת-הַנָּגַע: כֻּלּוֹ הָפַךְ לָבָן טָהוֹר הוּא.

13 then the cohen is to examine him, and if he sees that the tzara’at has covered his entire body, he is to pronounce the person with the sores as ritually pure - it has all turned white and he is clean.

Referring particularly to verse 13, the Talmud States (b. Sanhedrin 97a):

“The Son of David (Mashiach) will only come when every government becomes heretical. Rabah said, ‘Where do we see this in Scripture? From the verse “He has turned completely white, he is ritually pure.’”

Rashi further expands on this verse and notes, “Just as when the affliction has spread throughout the entire skin and the person is ritually pure, so too, when all the governments have become heretical, the redemption will come.”

Recognizing that the Messiah must be afflicted, and familiar with suffering, the rabbis went even further - and one of the ways they identified Mashiach in the Talmud is with the title, The Leper Scholar:

“The Rabbanan (rabbis) say that Mashiach’s name is The Leper Scholar of the House of Rabbi, for it is written, ‘Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten and afflicted by G-d (b. Sanhedrin 98b).’”

The rabbis obviously recognized that this does not mean that Mashiach would literally be afflicted with tzara’at but that this was a memtaphor. This connection between tzara’at and Mashiach is not unique to rabbinic literature. Rather, Yeshua himself is described in the Besorah as having compassion for the metzora (the person with tzara’at), and healing them:

“And it happened when he was in a certain city, a man covered with tzara’at saw Yeshua, and he fell on his face and implored him, saying, ‘L-rd, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Then Yeshua put out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing, be healed.’ And he commanded him to tell no one, ‘But go to the cohen and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moshe commanded (Luke 5:12-14).”

Those with tzara’at were healed, and their healings were part of the sign of his being the Mashiach. Yeshua taught that we must forgive, and not let Sinat Chinam eat away within us:

"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:25).

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37).

According to the sages, tzara’at is the physical effect of sin. It is a spiritual disease that must be kept in check. To specifically avoid tzara’at, we must avoid slander and baseless hatred. All of us have spiritual sores and wounds, which if left untreated, can fester into something much worse. That is why we must learn to forgive and let go of any kind of judgment and hatred we might have against another person. Sinat Chinam – baseless hatred will destroy us, but forgiveness and healing can set us free!

We must learn how to go before our great great High Priest, Yeshua our Messiah (Hebrews 5), and let him inspect us. For through him, not only will we find healing and wholeness, but redemption as well.


  1. James Says:

    I think everyone's teaching on this topic right now. I recently read it on the FFOZ blogs and I just (ahem) happened to blog on a similar theme recently (I updated the article with a link back here).

    Good Shabbos.

  2. Rabbi Joshua Says:


    LOL ... that is funny. This was actually from the second part of my sermon last week.

    I guess it is just another example that great minds think alike!

    Shabbat Shalom!

  3. The most perplexing, inspiring and outrageously revealing is the story of Joseph and his eleven brothers that rejected him, dipped his multi colored coat in goat blood, and lied to their father that hi favorite son was killed. At the end of the story, Joseph at facing them after thoroughly trialling and testing them, reveals himself to them saying, "Don't worry so much, it is G-d who sent me here. There is a reason for all of this. If you didnt reject me, I wouldn't be able to come into Egypt and save some righteous gentiles here. So we can all celebrate in the Glory of our one Holy Father who is art in the HIghest unimaginable Realms. The brothers had to reject him. So they can continue amongst them the living Torah. And Joseph, (and his descendent the Messiah - through Judah the forefather of David), bring the nations closer to the the One G-d. Until the one last day he will be utterly revealed, and the world be brought higher through Torah and Mitzvos together....And be a complete Light for the whole world to bask in...