Something like a plague

The laws of dealing with skin afflictions are lengthy and complicated. The rabbis have always agreed that the problems here lie way beyond the skin surface. The “plague” described in the Torah manifests the deeper issues and the punishment for the sins connected with speech, specifically for the gossip.

In our current Torah portion, we are presented with the case of the “eruptive plague” affecting the house. This situation is commonplace in many post-apocalyptic narratives. The deadly virus attacks not only humans but the natural and artificial structures. In the Torah, the Divine punishment is delivered indirectly, not striking the person himself but making him and his family homeless as the house confirmed to be affected by plague has to be razed to the ground.

The Torah is careful not to allow the house owner to jump to hasty conclusions. He must come to a priest first and declare his observation, using the formula “It seems to me that something like a plague appeared in my house.”Torat Kohanim explains here that “The words נראה לי, mean “appeared to me and not to my light,” i.e. I could see it with my own eyes unassisted by artificial light. It is the basis for the rule that one need not open the windows of a house to start searching for symptoms of a נגע.”

We do not even need to use this formula speaking of the situation in the world now. The plague has appeared in our house. We are sure of it, and there is no room for doubt. This plague has a name, and if we want to stop it from multiplying, we should act now.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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