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Metzora: Disease and Healing

At the end of the Torah portion of Metzora we read of the various forms of impurity that issue forth from the body: Niddah and zavah, zav and ba’al keri. These impurities are connected to disease – either actual disease or a sort of ‘natural disease’ that has been with us ever since Eve was cursed, ‘you shall bear children with pain’.

Our Torah portion ends with two summarizing verses: This is the law of him that has an issue, and of him from whom the flow of seed goes out, so that he is unclean thereby; and of her that is sick with her impurity, and of them that have an issue, whether it be a man or a woman; and of him that lies with her that is unclean. The final verse has מח (48 letters. The preceding verse has לה (35) letters. Together, they have מחלה (illness) letters! The Talmud says that the numerical value of מחלה (illness) 83, alludes to the number of types of illness. But מחלה (Machlah) is also the name of a righteous woman, Machlah the daughter of Tzlafchad. Moreover, if we write the word מחלה (machalah) with its filling, מם חית למד הא, it equals ורפא ירפא (“and he shall be healed”). The remedy is hidden within the illness!

Illness is particularly connected to the sefirah of hod (splendor), as in the verse in the book of Daniel: “And no strength remained in me and my hod turned against me to be destructive, and I retained no strength”. When hod turns destructive, its letters,  הוד permute into דוה (feebleness), as in the verse in Lamentations about the exile, “all day long she is feeble”. How do we remedy the state of feebleness and turn it back into splendor? By activating the trait of hod, which also means ‘thanksgiving’ – and giving thanks to God all day long.




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