The Parasha for this week is called Metzorah. The word "metzora," is traditionally translated as "leper" although contemporary scholars dismiss this translation. They describe the affliction is less like Hanson's Disease and more like Psoriasis or Impetigo, which would have been common in the desert; whereas leprosy is not a desert affliction. But the issue is not to define a disease as much as it is to seek the cure and to understand the significance of the Torah's meaning for us today.
A Metzorah is one infected with "Tzaraas," a disease of the skin, but its source was, in Biblical times, considered to be of a spiritual nature. The offerings proscribed in the text are connected to the sacrifices for lashon ha'ra, which means "evil tongue;" it refers to gossip and to slander. When one performs such a sin, it is taught that three lives are ruined. First, the one spoken of is harmed; but the one listening is drawn into a concern not if his choosing, and he too is hurt. Finally, the one speaking brings judgment upon himself and may in fact be afflicted with "Tzaraas" or "leprosy."
The one found with such a disease was considered impure until the infected area was clean and "normal" and was shown to be so to the Priest. During the time of impurity, he was put outside the camp. But after the Priest pronounced the one clean, he still was require to bring a sacrifice. Then, he was to shave his entire body and wash in purifying water before being allowed to return to the camp. But, he still could not sleep in his own house or tent for seven days. While being outside the camp, he was able to ponder his sin and his atonement. Only after he was acceptable to G-d could he rejoin his family and his community.
So are we today. All have sinned and come short of the purposes of G-d. Our sin not only separates us from G-d, but it separates us from the Family of Faith. When we repent, G-d forgives us, but there is still a time of coming back into the camp required. There are still matters to resolve among our brothers and sisters before things can be "normal." Too often we say we are sorry and think that is that. But, G-d requires a sacrifice and the community requires a sign of change. No, we don't have to shave our entire bodies, but we should live in a noticeably different way if we are to return to our comfortable home.