Knowing the Right People

The Parshiyot of Tazria and Metzora focus almost exclusively on the contraction and cleansing of Tzara’at- colloquially referred to as “leprosy”. While there are many possible causes for the affliction, the Torah is very clear on how to go about the process- you must go through the Kohen, the priest. But why? Why can there not be an expert, scientist, or even Talmudic scholar that could determine the status of a person’s tzara’at? Why must the “leper” go to Aharon for his or her predicament (13:2)?


Some commentaries point to the character of Aharon, and by extension -hopefully- his children. The mishnah in Avot (1:12) tells us that we should be “students of Aharon- love peace and chase after peace; love all people and bring them to the Torah”. The most traditional understanding of why someone contracts tzara’at is because they spoke poorly of another person. The reason, therefore, that we bring that person to Aharon is not simply for his expertise, but instead for his character; for him to serve as a model of kindness, care and sensitivity towards others. When we provide the afflicted person with a positive example to counter their behavior, that becomes part of the cleansing process, not simply a matter of protocol.


Books are a great tool to learn how to improve ourselves, but oftentimes they fall short of actually changing our behavior. A better way to change is to observe others who act in the way you hope to act yourself. If one finds a quality within themselves that needs improvement, one should look for someone who thrives in that area, befriend them, observe them, and eventually you’ll become that. Instead of maintaining the wrong behavior, connect yourself to the person who does it right.