PATIENT: Mr. Levite
MEDICATION TO BE COLLECTED BY: Moses (Levite family friend)
CONDITION: Patient claims to be suffering from leprosy. Closer examination reveals merely patches of dry skin around the elbows and knees, and some flakiness around the nose. Probably caused by excessive time recently spent wandering around the wilderness without adequate moisturization. However, patient was insistent on full course of treatment, lest the condition develop into full-blown lesions.
TREATMENT: When the symptoms appear to be improving, gather two clean birds (living), cedar wood, something crimson, and a sprig of hyssop. Slaughter one bird, and dip the other bird in the blood, cedar, crimson, and hyssop. Sprinkle the blood on the affected areas seven times and set the living bird free. Wash all clothes, shave off hair, take a long bath, and sleep away from home for seven days. On the seventh day, bathe, and shave off all hair (again), including eyebrows and beard.The following day, sacrifice a lamb and put blood and oil on the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe. If insurance policy does not cover cost of the lamb, Medicare turtledoves or pigeons can be used instead. (All lambs free of charge in Europe, Canada, and other socialist enclaves.)
NOT TO BE TAKEN WITH: The following may exacerbate the condition: idol worship, unchastity, bodily violence, profaning God, blasphemy, robbery, usurping a dignity, overweening pride, evil speech, and casting an evil eye. Haughtiness and general immorality are best avoided, too.
LONG-TERM SIDE EFFECTS: Prolonged obsession with obscure cleansing rituals from 1440 B.C. onward could lead to endemic hypochondria among future generations and an absurd though comforting overrepresentation among medical professionals.
Tim Samuels, Unscrolled, p. 214
(ח) ... אמר רבי חנינא: אין הנגעים באין אלא על לשון הרע. ורבנן אמרי: תדע לך שהנגעים באין על לשון הרע. הרי מרים הצדקת ע"י שדברה לשון הרע במשה אחיה, קרבו בה הנגעים. מנין? שנאמר (דברים כה): זכור את אשר עשה ה' אלהיך למרים:
Rabbi Chanina said: Plagues of tzaraat come only on account of lashon ha'ra (speaking slander). For, as the sages said, you can see for yourself that such plagues come on account of lashon ha'ra. Even the righteous Miriam, who spoke lashon ha'ra of her brother Moses- plagues clung to her. How do we know this? As it says in Deuteronomy 25: "Remember what the Lord your God did unto Miriam."
Where is the essential self? What are we, when everything is stripped away? If we took off all of our coverings, what would we find? It would not be hidden gold, that much is certain - not our money or our success. Nor our intelligence, our charisma, or our beauty. Forget about where you live, what you wear, or what you look like - none of that matters. When you are finally and completely exposed, what is waiting inside, at the core of your being? Who are you, really?
This was someone who kept his house only for himself. He refused to lend his belongings out, and he never welcomed guests inside. And so the plagues came to attack his stinginess.
Rabbeinu Bachya, 14:35
Bible scholar Tikva Frymer-Kensky explains that “if the disease was at all similar to modern leprosy, its affect in an advanced state was similar to the decomposition of a corpse… The afflicted individual, like one who has been in contact with a corpse, might have been considered to be in a no-man’s land between two realms which must be kept rigidly apart.” When Miriam is afflicted with leprosy after speaking ill of her brother Moses, Aaron asks Moses to pray on her behalf, tellingly pleading that their sister “not be as one dead, who emerges from his mother’s womb with half his flesh eaten away” (Numbers 12:12). For Leviticus, then, the metzora quite literally looks like death; the living dead conflate categories and blur boundaries—and are thus considered impure.