Dvar for Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)
A person afflicted with tzara’at (skin abnormality) resulting from speaking negatively of others must invite a kohen to inspect it, then quarantine remotely until the blemish reduces in size or goes away (13:46). This begs the question of why a person needs to isolate if the affliction is not contagious. Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky points out that in isolation, a person’s affliction cannot be monitored, and one can easily remove the afflicted skin or hair in order to produce a false negative. Wouldn’t isolation invite counter-productivity and defeat its intended purpose?
Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky (Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky’s grandfather) explains that the prescribed quarantine is not for the protection of the community, but rather for the benefit of the afflicted, affording him time and solitude for honest reflection. Time alone can be used to deceive the kohen and others or it can provide an opportunity for self-improvement. The hope is that one returns from isolation with the most contagious form of integrity born of introspection.