Struggling with Stigma

Parashat Tazria-Metzora

Modern readers often find the laws concerning Israelites affected by tzara’at, a scaly skin disease (usually—though erroneously—rendered as leprosy), deeply disturbing. For thousands of years, people afflicted with diseases of the skin have suffered from stigma and social exclusion. So far from lightening the burden of stigma that the ailing are frequently made to bear, in this instance the Torah seems only to intensify it. And yet if we read both the text and the history of its interpretation closely, a(n at least) somewhat more complex picture emerges. (5775)