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 This week's Torah portion deals with a mysterious, enigmatic, and unknown physical disease. Somehow this disease brings uncleanliness and defilement to the human body and is manifested in blotches of color which appear on the skin of the person. It can also affect inanimate objects such as bricks and wood in the house and the fabric of clothing and textiles. All of this is mysterious, and we have no rational way to explain this nor do we understand its cause.


We see in our current situation with the coronavirus that there are things in the world that are not seen by us and not understood, but that can have a great effect upon our health, our wellbeing and even upon our lives. We also see that the Torah prescribed a type of quarantine when this disease struck. This was to prevent the sick person from communicating the disease to others. He had to announce the fact that he was afflicted and had to go into a sort of self-isolation until it passed. This is all too familiar to us today because we see it in front of our very own eyes.
Nevertheless, the Torah is not speaking about the coronavirus, but the message is clear. Again, there are things in the world that we do not see, that we cannot forecast, and that we do not understand. But these things have a strong influence upon our lives and upon society. The defilement, which physically is undetectable, nevertheless is present, is active and can be very injurious.
 The Torah prescribed a process of purification for this situation which also, on the surface, is not very rational, but since the disease is not rational, so the cure for it may very well also be in the realm of something that we do not understand nor appreciate.
There were many ideas advanced as to the cause of this disease that the Torah describes. The most accepted idea is that it was caused by slanderous speech. We find that this disease affected kings, noblemen, scholars, and in the books of the prophets, it describes many great people who were afflicted. It was a non-discriminatory type of sickness, and again, we are witness to the fact that there are such viruses, so to speak, in the world that attack the great, the weak, the small and the strong, all at the same time.
Whatever the cause was, this specific affliction apparently no longer exists amongst us. But the Torah, which is eternal, continues to teach us about it, and we find an entire section in the Mishna which deals with it and details the Jewish law which applies to such situations. This affliction may have morphed into different types of diseases, it may be that one particular cure is no longer applicable, but it certainly represents the fact that there must be a cure and that there must be a cause, and that these things do not happen randomly. We should not think that these afflictions descend upon us per chance without having some sort of cause.
Because of this, I am certain that after our current scourge passes, God willing in the very near future, we will be able to take a harder look at ourselves and our society, at our speech, our behavior and at our attitudes, one with another. If we do so and improve, then perhaps we will have discovered something about the disease itself and the cure that helped us escape with our lives.
Shabbat shalom.
Rabbi Berel Wein.

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