Tazria: The Seven Sins

Torah Observations
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Parashat Tazria discusses the laws regarding tzora’as, leprosy, that are widely viewed as incomprehensible! Not to mention that we have never seen green and red spots on clothes or on the walls of houses—unless, of course, they were applied with paint! The Torah never explains why these spots, whether on a person’s skin, clothing or dwelling, appear or why they disappear.

However, the Talmud in Tracate Arachin 16a says, “Rabbi Shmuel ben Nachmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonason: ‘For seven reasons, spots may appear on the body: because of gossip, bloodshed, a false oath, debauchery, pride, robbery, and greed.'”

In other words, leprosy is a disease of punishment. What is the reasoning behind this conclusion?  Let us examine each of the aveirot, sins, listed by Rabbi Shmuel:


In Tehilim 101:5 it is said, “He who secretly slanders his neighbor, I will cut him off.” In other words, I will separate him from the community, just as the Kohain quarantines the one affected by the lesions. The subject must dwell in isolation, separated from everyone, until he is cured.

The Maggid of Dubno, Rabbi Yaakov Krantz, tells a wonderful parable to explain the laws of tzora’as that prohibit a person punished with that disease from remaining in the camp—not even among other people who are ritually unclean for different reasons:

A certain naughty boy hated guests. As soon as someone entered the house, the boy would throw a tantrum, fall on the floor, kick his feet, scream and shout, crying, “I don’t want that person to be here! Make him go away!” What to do? The boy’s father thought for a while until he found a solution. Before the guests arrived, he would take his son to the woodshed and lock him up for as long as the guests were in the house. And this is what the father told his son, “You are one, but there are several people in the house. We cannot allow one person to keep our guests from entering our house…”

The same is done with a person who, through lashon horah, interferes with the lives of others.  The gossiper becomes the reason why acquaintances stop greeting each other, husbands and wives get divorced, innocent workers lose their jobs, and so on. It is obvious that it is better both for society—as well as for the gossiper himself, if he is kept away from other people.

Each one of us needs to be aware of this. We all like to make others laugh or to bring attention to ourselves at someone else’s expense; those who work in the press, radio or television are especially well practiced in this. It costs them nothing to bring someone’s personal or private problems before the widest audience. I know of more than one case when conscientious employees were fired because of an article or broadcast on radio or television, where lives were ruined owing to someone taking it into his head to publicize things that happened in someone else’s house. Newspaper gossip has long been a nuisance.


When King David cursed the commander of the Jewish army, Yoav, for killing Avner, the former commander of King Shaul, said, “And may the leper not disappear from the house of Yoav!” (Shmuel II 3:29).

False Oath

Elisha’s servant, Gaychazi, disappointed that his master had refused Na’aman’s gift, devised a plan. Running after Na’aman, he explained that the prophet had changed his mind and was now requesting that Naaman give Gaychazi a portion of his gift as tzedakah, charity, for two of Elisha’s disciples who had just arrived from Israel. Gaychazi sealed his words with an oath, and hid the tzedakah.

Naturally, Elisha saw with “clairvoyance” what Gaychazi had done and cursed him and his descendants with the very tzora’as that he had removed from Na’man’s flesh. Gaychazi instantly turned “white as snow.”


When Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, took Sarah, the wife of Avraham, into his palace, “the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues… ” (Bereishit 12:17).


At the time of the First Beit HaMikdash, King Uziyahu ruled Israel. He did a lot of useful things for the country including, erecting buildings, developing agriculture, and increasing the production of weapons. But, suddenly he concocted a yearning to fulfill one of the Beit HaMikdash functions reserved for Kohanim. The king was warned that it was impossible to grant his wish and that only the descendants of Aharon could serve in the Beit HaMikdash. Unfortunately, the king stood his ground, entered the Temple, offered incense, and immediately thereafter a spot appeared on his forehead. The king spent the rest of his life outside Jerusalem, in isolation as described in II Chronicles 26:16 where it is related, “But when he became strong, his heart became proud… and he betrayed G-d.”


If a stain appears on the inner wall of a house, the Kohain will order the house vacated (Vayikra 14:36).  The Sages say about the owner of such a house, "He who collected other people’s things in his house, let him now take them out, lest the impurity of this stain contaminate them."


“And the one to whom the house belongs comes and tells the Kohain, ‘Something like a lesion has appeared to me in the house’” (Vayikra 14:35).  The words “master of the house” refer to a person who believes that the house is his and only his. As such, tzora’as comes to the house of the greedy.


Copyright© 2023 by The LaMaalot Foundation. Talks on the Torah, by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber is catalogued at The Library of Congress. All rights reserved. Printed in China by Best Win Printing, Shenzhen, China.

By Rabbi Yitzchok Zilber zkt"l
Founder, Toldot Yeshurun