This week’s and next week’s Torah portions deal with a skin disease called tzara’at. Our parsha speaks about diagnosing the ailment. The healing process begins with the kohen, the priest, coming and assessing the situation, and deeming the suffering individual’s status that of a metzorah (a leper). What always stands out to me when I read these verses is the repeating verb ראה, which means “see.” The Torah says many times over that the kohen must come and see (ראה, ראהו, וראהו, מראה) the person and their ailment.
I love this idea because it hints at a first stage of healing for people who may be going through difficult times, similar to the metzorah. To begin helping our loved ones heal, we, like the kohen, must first see them. When someone is in pain, it’s upon us to make sure they feel seen—to sit with them, to really listen, to let them know we see them and accept them where they are.
One of my rabbis modeled this for me when I first became religious at the age of 18. I had just arrived at an Israeli yeshiva and I felt afraid and confused. I didn’t know the language, nor was I very familiar with the religion for that matter. Everything was new! I had many rabbis at that yeshiva, learned many texts, and graced many Shabbos tables. It wasn’t, however, until my rabbi arrived at my yeshiva and “saw” me that I really began to flourish. He took me and my friends out to eat baguettes at the corner kiosk (which seemed like such a cool thing at the time!), he listened intently to my problems, and he just made me feel appreciated, supported, and seen. Without this initial support, I honestly am not sure I would be a rabbi today.
The metzorah is in a tough position in our parsha, but our Torah portion reminds us that there is hope! The metzorah can be healed and reintegrated into society. Similarly, we can draw others close who are struggling and enable them to grow and feel supported. Healing begins with a caring heart and loving eyes!
Rabbi Dr. Eli Yoggev
Associate Rabbi of Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation