“If [a person’s] flesh has an inflammation on its skin, and it heals,and on the place of the inflammation there is a white se’eith, or a reddish white bahereth, it shall be shown to the kohen.The kohen shall look [at it]. And, behold! its appearance is lower than the skin, and its hair has turned white; so the kohen shall pronounce him unclean. It is a lesion of tzara’ath that has erupted on the inflammation.But if the kohen looks at it, and behold! it does not contain white hair, nor does it appear to be lower than the skin, and it is dim, the kohen shall quarantine him for seven days.And if it spreads on the skin, the kohen shall pronounce him unclean. It is a lesion.”(Leviticus 13:8-22)
What I’m beginning to see here is that the examination has to do with determining the cause of the injury. It is not that all inflammations are caused by god. Some are caused by burning, some by whipping, some by injury, and some by God.
The main concern here is not with the individual, but with the community and the temple. The priest wants to be sure that neither will be tainted by the “eruption.” There is an acknowledgment that some injuries come from carelessness, some from accidents, some from punishment, and some from the anger of God. This almost obsessive examination by the priest is an effort to determine the source of the affliction.
The Holocaust has led some Jews to question their faith. Could a God who is able to cause a succession of plagues actually allow such atrocities to occur? In fact, in the old Torah, published in 1917, the word “plague” is used for the afflictions of the skin.
This morning my walking partner complained about his heal hurting. Perhaps in ancient times he’d go to a priest to determine the cause of the pain. Was it an accident? Had he angered God? Had he been tortured for some evil deed? Was it a burn?
Perhaps we could avoid afflictions if we examined the cause. 90% of afflictions will get better on their own. Still, we want to reduce their numbers and we want to preserve the community and the temple while we are recovering. Perhaps when one is afflicted they aren’t able to give what is due to others.