Kli Yakar Leviticus: Tazria
Psychosomatic: adjective: Psychological cause of physical symptoms or disorder.
Science has demonstrated that one’s mental state can have a direct and negative effect on one’s physical wellbeing. The Kli Yakar states that a person’s health may be a reflection of their spiritual condition.
The biblical disease known as ‘tzaraat’ and commonly mistranslated as leprosy (the only common denominator is both are skin conditions) is rabbinically attributed to the act of gossiping. The Kli Yakar adds two more character faults: haughtiness and avarice.
He explains that a function of disease is to bring to the surface various spiritual and character maladies. The Kli Yakar might have called it “Spirituosomatic”. He connects the three defects to the three types of ‘tzaraat’:
‘se’et’ = elevated. Whoever is arrogant, whoever aims to raise himself above his fellow; this inner demon is brought to light.
‘sapachat’ = secondary. The Kli Yakar quotes Maimonides (‘The Eight Chapters’) that of all ones acquisitions (wisdom, bravery, and positive traits) money is secondary and does not penetrate one’s persona as other acquisitions. Whoever is money-hungry – eventually his body will show it.
‘baheret’ = whiten. When one gossips, he eventually shames his fellow, ‘whitening’ his face. The gossiper too will suffer the same fate.
Hence the disease is called ‘metzora’ from the Hebrew ‘motze’ and ‘ra’, meaning to bring out the bad.
May we clean up our acts before it shows on our bodies.
To our son, Elchanan, on his Bar-Mitzvah. He’s just starting his act now. May he keep it a good one.