Looked at on the straightforward level it reminds us that leprosy was such a contagious disease that harsh public health measures were required to handle it.
On the metaphorical level, the word m’tzora (leper) was viewed as a contraction of motzi ra, “one who speaks maliciously”.
Rabbi Yisra’el Salanter linked this week’s sidra with last week’s by saying that last week we read about the food laws and this week about the laws of evil talk, which teaches us to be careful of two things at once – what goes into our mouth and what comes out of it.
As the Yom Kippur confessions remind us, most of the sins we commit involve the tongue – but of course when we confess these sins on Yom Kippur we realise we confessed the same sins last year too, and the year before that.
It all shows how hard it is to control our speech – and when we think of the fact that we sinned in the same way last year and our confession apparently did not help, we can take a lesson from something Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said to himself, “Levi Yitzchak, you confessed this sin last year… but Levi Yitzchak, this year you really mean it!”