Rabbi Goldschmidt

Parshat Tazria

Tzara’s is a skin ailment discussed in our Parsha, it is sometimes
incorrectly referred to as a leprosy, the ailment was spiritual
although it expressed itself in a physical sense:

If a person would speak Lashon Hora or in some instances other
problematic behaviour they would have a lesion that would appear upon
their skin and need to be observed and declared by the Cohanim.

In our time we lack this experience – it is not until we are caught or
the damage we do to another person is observed that we suffer from
Lashon Hora that we even register its effect:

Our society is one of accusations, cancel culture and legal
proceedings, in cyberspace we are prepared to write whatever we like
about others in a form that is semi-permanent and can do long lasting
damage to careers, reputations, marriages and in extreme cases even
lead to terrible consequences.

Imagine that if one would damage someone using the facility of Lashon
Hora that the sign of such an act would be written upon our skin,
visible to all:

This idea of sins being written upon us in a way that others can
perceive is more than daunting: all of us have made horrific mistakes
in our lives and many of us live with the guilt of things that have
happened that few know about.

Even though the outward signs of such actions may not be visible to
the naked eye, it is observed that such actions affect us deeply and
can take many years to undo the damage we may have done to ourselves –
so great is the guilt and shame that our entire outlook and experience
of dealing with others can be profoundly changed, altered and we can
carry bitterness and anger around in our hearts and cause untold
suffering to others.

Once my wife and I were living in Delhi and undertaking Kashrut and
community work for the Star-K around the north of India, we came to
the end of our time there and we decided to undertake a road trip to
Agra to see the Taj Mahal:
Ahava was around 4 years old, and Asher was barely a year old.

We climbed into an Innova car and undertook the drive of 214km with
the kids and cool bag of food – because of the way our time was
structured we ended up keeping Shabbat in Agra in a hotel that looked
like it was stuck in the 70’s:

On the Sunday we headed to the Taj and took a tour of the historic and
iconic site which is composed of a mausoleum and mosque as well as the

As we approached the heat of the day, we had two very grumpy, tired
children and we knew it was time to call it a day – as we wandered
back I realised that the parking area was actually now some distance
away and that it was going to take a considerable amount of time to
get back there.

At this moment a long electric golf cart pulled up and offered us a
ride, I debated the price with the driver (who was wearing a suit and
drivers hat with gloves) and noticing my wife growing rather impatient
at my favourite Indian pastime of arguing and bartering with Indian
taxi drivers, we settled on the atrocious fee of $3 (the kids were
free) and we set off to the electric whirring of our white chariot.

What I did not know is that the first stop would be the bus stop, the
second the tourist information kiosk and that our 3rd stop would be
the Jalma Institute for Leprosy & Other Mycobacterial Diseases:
The hospital houses 8,000-10,000 patients with confirmed and suspected
leprosy – as the cart reached the main gate we were greeted by beggars
and patients trying to sell us Taj Mahal fridge magnets and post

As you can imagine we did not handle the experience as well as one
might like to pretend one would in such a situation:

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a terrible condition, and
it is impossible not to have profound sympathy and pity for those
affected by it.

Not so many years ago, the disease meant dreadful pain, total social
ostracization, profound public fear and terrible isolation.
Today thankfully we have new medical technologies that can do much to
alleviate the suffering and if diagnosed early even cure it – however
the social stigma in many countries remains strong where it is
associated with curse and considered (somewhat incorrectly) very

Imagine if we had a world where sins and misdeeds caused such
isolation, such profound separation – the Torah is actually coming to
teach us that it is so:

In many sources both in the Midrash and deeper Mystical Torah we learn
that sins separate us from the Divine much like a cloth from the sun,
subsequent layers of incorrect action can lead to feelings of
separation and despair as we realise that we have damaged the
relationship between us and our Creator.

The deeper secret is that as much Hashem has created a Yetzer Hora to
test us and attempt to draw us away from good, he has created the
Torah as its remedy:

As we approach Pesach and our attention turns to Kashering our
kitchens and cleaning out our Chametz, let us also turn to our inner
world where we cook our experiences and distil the lessons of life,
may our internal chopping boards be cleaned with the blessing of
Teshuvah and Peace.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jonathan Goldschmidt 2024 ©