This week we read the Torah portion of Metzora. Metzora deals with the various types of afflications known as tzaraat (similar to but not the same as leprosy) and the purification procedure one had to undergo after suffering that affliction. The portion details how the recovered person is purified by the kohen (priest) through a special procedure.
A home can also be afflicted with tzaraat and the kohen determines if the house can be purified or whether it must be demolished.
Yet on another level, tzaraat signifies something deeper than just a skin condition or disorder.
Surprisingly enough, Moshiach is often referred to as a leper. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) calls Moshiach a “leper,” for “he suffers our burdens, and our maladies are his. He is therefore afflicted, stricken by G-d and tortured.”
But Moshiach is considered a “leper” only during the exile, before the Final Redemption takes place. For, although Moshiach exists in every generation, he is not yet in a revealed state even though his essence is whole and unchanged. He must therefore suffer the pain of the Jewish nation and bear the burdens of exile together with them.
But what is the nature of Moshiach’s suffering? Tzaraat, as pointed out by Chasidic philosophy, is a disease affecting only the “skin of his flesh.” It is an illness which disfigures only the external layer, and does not involve internal organs or even the flesh itself. Leprosy therefore symbolizes a state in which a person’s inner being remains unaffected, despite the outward manifestation of disease.
The leper represents a person whose inner self has already been purified and refined. All that remains is for the outermost shell, the husk, to be cleansed. In Moshiach’s case, this outer layer consists of the Jewish people’s collective infirmities.
This, then, is the condition in which we find ourselves today, on the threshold of the Messianic era. On the one hand, it appears as if we are still afflicted with many plagues, but in truth our afflictions are only external, for the essence of the Jewish people has been refined and cleansed by the long years of exile.
The laws of purification delineated in this week’s portion also parallel the process of Moshiach’s revelation and the purification the Jewish people must go through when he is revealed. Moshiach, too, impatiently awaits the day he will no longer suffer and G-d will bring the final Redemption, speedily in our day. Moshiach NOW!!!