Skin Deep

April 25, 2017 at 11:46 PM , , ,

“…This shall be the law of the Metzora, on the day of his purification…” – Vayikra 14:2

זֹאת תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת הַמְּצֹרָע בְּיוֹם טָהֳרָתוֹ – ויקרא יד, ב

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) records a conversation between Eliyahu Hanavi and R’ Yehoshua ben Levi regarding the whereabouts of Moshiach. Eliyahu tells R’ Yehoshua that Moshiach can be found at the entrance to the city—Rome, according to some variants of the text—sitting among the poor and sickly. According to Rashi, and as is implied elsewhere in the Talmud (see Sanhedrin 98b), “the sickly” refers to people suffering from tzora’as, and Moshiach himself is also a metzora—a person afflicted with tzora’as.

Why is Moshiach said to be a metzora?

The Torah calls tzora’as an affliction “in the skin of his flesh’’ (Vayikra 13:2), not a disease of the flesh itself. This indicates, says the Alter Rebbe (Likutei Torah, Vayikra 22b), that a person can only develop tzora’as when he has eradicated his deep, internal character flaws, and his spiritual blemishes are solely skin-deep. Since the person has already refined himself entirely “from within,” and his shortcomings are only superficial, G-d afflicts him with a supernatural skin condition to prompt him to perfect even these slight and uncharacteristic imperfections. (The Alter Rebbe thereby explains why tzora’as is virtually non-existent nowadays, because people with no internal imperfections are difficult to find.)

Accordingly, we can understand why the Talmud identifies Moshiach as someone suffering from tzora’as.

Moshiach’s condition reflects the collective state of the Jewish people in the final days of our exile. Over the generations, the Jewish nation has been effectively refined, both in body and in soul; any remaining imperfections are largely only external. Therefore, in the final days before the redemption, Moshiach, the collective soul of the Jewish people, is comparable to a metzora, whose deficiencies are only slight and superficial. It is only a matter of moments until we perfect even these final details and merit our complete and final redemption.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 22, pp. 75-79


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