Parshat Metzora: Biography Become Biography

Miriam, Moshe’s sister, received leprosy for speaking ill of Moshe. From this the midrash derives that leprosy, is a punishment for the sin of lashon hara, speaking ill of others. The meaning of this punishment is that the evil in one’s soul is physically manifested. This punishment is therapeutic as it forces the sinner to come to grips with his misdoing and change himself from the inside.

By being made repulsive to others, one feels what their victims have experienced. The obligation that the Metzora must publicly declare that he is defiled makes him focus on his own shortcomings instead of that of others. Being banished from society until healed leads one to lack and thereby appreciate the company of those that previously one had denigrated.

Oscar Wildes’ novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” highlights the danger of a gap between body and soul. Dorian Gray has an innocent and handsome demeanor and thus there is no inhibition to the unfolding of his corrupt inner nature.

Caroline Myss’s work “The Anatomy of Spirit” argues that “biography becomes biology.” Who we are, our thoughts, feelings and the way we live our life, impact on our physiology. We participate in the creation of our diseases; we have the responsibility to take part of the process of healing. This approach gives insight on the Torah’s approach to Metzora, on the interplay between body and soul. From the spirit the physical problems emerge, from the spirit the physical problem will be overcome.