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    Ten against ten – M’tzora

    Tzara’at (leprosy), the theme of this week’s reading, was once such a universally feared disease that the mere name sent shivers down a person’s spine.

    The leper, m’tzora, was identified by Jewish commentary with the motzi ra, one who spoke evil of others. Some commentators found that there were ten kinds of leprosy, each a different expression of the sin of evil talk.

    The Baal HaTurim, writing on the final verse of last week’s sidra, notes the symmetry between leprosy and the Decalogue – ten kinds of disease, ten commandments – and he says simply, “If people keep these ten (the commandments) they will be delivered from these ten (the types of disease)”.

    The person who lives by the Decalogue ls careful. There is a sense of humility in the presence of God, of respect for other people. It is when you become careless that you let your tongue run away with you.

    You harm others with words, and there is no longer harmony in society. You make promises but do not intend to keep them, and the community is at sixes and sevens. You gamble with the truth, and words mean nothing any more.

    The Baal HaTurim notes that nega, plague, has the same letters as oneg, enjoyment. They are opposites. The moral plagues that beset our society threaten the quality and enjoyment of life; the Ten Commandments are the antidote to the nega and help to create oneg for all humanity.

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