A Metzora who has healed from his tzaraas must be examined by a Kohen before he is permitted to return to the encampment. The Chasam Sofer tells us that the particular Kohen who was selected for this task was chosen to receive a lesson from the Metzora. The body of a religious person cannot tolerate any sin, and this can be expressed by the skin becoming afflicted with tzaraas. The first sin that was committed in the world by Adam Harishon created the need for clothing. This clothing, when taken to the highest level, can be expressed as the clothing worn by the Kohen in the holy Temple – the bigdei kahuna. Nevertheless, the Kohen who walks with those vestments of holiness must take a lesson from the baal teshuva. This Metzora ruined his skin by sinning but now he has worked on himself to the point that his skin has become clear. This is, in a sense, a higher level than the Kohen, who never had to ‘clean his clothes’. (See Melachim II 5:14).
Rav Samson Rafael Hirsh (13:2) tells us that the word “tzaraas” is derived from something on the inside that became spoiled, which in turn has an external derogatory manifestation. The word “nega” refers to something external which is causing something else to become affected in a negative way. When a nega of tzaraas is a representation of something spiritually decayed internally, then Hashem will allow it to express itself externally and it will be tamei. Therefore, we understand that the physical ailment of leprosy can actually exist and not be tied to the expression of the spiritual sin which tzaraas has.
When I was a student in yeshiva, I had a teacher who was very particular to eat only “healthy” foods. However, this same teacher was sick quite often! I asked him innocently – “Don’t you realize that all of your health issues are brought about by your over-consciousness to eating and acting physically proper?” To this he responded “If you have a machine like a tractor or a bulldozer, it can become full of dirt and mud and still work properly. Whereas a machine whose purpose is for finely tuned work, sometimes the smallest piece of lint can cause the machine to malfunction.” He was insinuating that he was a fine-tuned machine. To that I countered “Bottom line, which machine is in the fix-it shop more often?”
That conversation led me to much contemplation as to whether I had the correct approach or not. I would just mention the following: A bulldozer cannot accomplish the finer things in life.
Many times, we ask ourselves “Why is the Jewish nation afflicted and persecuted far more than any of the other nations of the world?” The answer to the question is that we are made out of finer machinery that is more sensitive than the mechanisms of others. I recall as a child learning that the “better” cars need a more expensive high-octane fuel, unlike the regular cars. The fuel of the Jewish people must be kosher, whereas the nations of the world can fuel their bodies with any food of their choosing without any decrease in performance.
This past week I was asked “Why is it so difficult for Jews to travel? Gentiles can take their wallet and go wherever their heart takes them. Look inside the airport and you will see the religious Jews travelling with seemingly four times the luggage (and food) as the gentile jet-setter!”
While it is true that a Jew cannot travel lightly, the same can also be said of a King, who will never travel alone. So too, if the hotel mattress has even a single pea underneath, the princess will be unable to get a good night’s rest. The sensitivity of the Jewish people is an expression of their specialness.