The Torah commands a woman to bring a korban after the birth of a child. A son is to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. The Torah introduces the phenomenon of tzara'at (often mistranslated as leprosy) — a miraculous affliction that attacks people, clothing and buildings to awaken a person to spiritual failures. A kohen must be consulted to determine whether a particular mark is tzara'at or not. The kohen isolates the sufferer for a week. If the malady remains unchanged, confinement continues for a second week, after which the kohen decides the person's status. The Torah describes the different forms of tzara'at. One whose tzara'at is confirmed wears torn clothing, does not cut his hair, and must alert others that he is ritually impure. He may not have normal contact with people. The phenomenon of tzara'at on clothing is described in detail.
“…and it will become a tzara’at affliction on the skin of his flesh…” (13:2)
When G-d created the world, the light of G-dliness radiated from the entire universe like a beacon. Everyone could see clearly the Creator through His creation. As yet, evil had not dulled and masked His radiance in the world. After the sin of the first man, however, G-d hid His presence in the world behind the veil of nature. Thus, nature became more opaque, coarser, until it was well nigh impossible to perceive that it is G-d Who sustains the world.
In Bereishet it says, “And the L-rd, G-d, made for Adam and his wife garments of skin, and He clothed them.” (3:21)
The world was covered by a thick membrane — ‘a garment of skin’ — hiding the inside of nature, just as the skin conceals the inside of the human body.
It’s interesting to note that the word for skin in Hebrew, ohr, can be pronounced eeveir, which means a blind person. Just as the skin, as it were, ‘blinds’ us to the inner reality and workings of the body, so the opacity of nature ‘blinds’ us to the inner reality of G-d’s running the world.
Of course, the skin is no more than a surface covering, and just as skin has pores, microscopic openings that allow air to enter the body and sweat to be expelled, so too does the “skin” of the world have its ‘pores’ that allow us a view beyond the natural world. If we choose to look we can see the rays of Divine Providence filtering through the cracks of existence.
It’s not by coincidence that the words in Hebrew for both “skin” and “light” are pronounced the same way – ohr. For if we open up our eyes, the “skin” of the world that masks G-d’s Hand becomes a light that illuminates His Presence.
However, if those spiritual pores become clogged with the grime of this physical existence, then we lose that sensitivity to the transparence of the world’s “skin” and see nothing but happenstance in a random world.
This is “…the tzara’at affliction on the skin of his flesh…” From Above, the skin is afflicted when a person disconnects from the inner spiritual world and sees nothing but the outer world of nature.
It is the job of the kohen and the kohanim of all generations — those who teach Torah to the Jewish People — to turn that membrane of doubt and denial into a light which will light up the universe.
- Source: Based on the Sfat Emet