It is a collective term for various skin diseases that might include eczema, psoriasis, and ringworm. Tzara’at can show up on clothing as green or red patches and even on walls, as perhaps mildew.
It causes spiritual defilement and requires purification and a time of isolation to prevent the spread of contamination.
If after a 7-day period of quarantine, the Cohen (Priest) sees that the disease is spreading, the “leper” was to be isolated from the community in order to prevent defiling and infecting others by contact.
“And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lip, and shall cry: ‘Unclean, unclean [tameh, tameh]. All the days wherein the plague is in him he shall be unclean; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his dwelling be.” (Leviticus 13:45–46)
Setting Time Aside for God
In the Torah, isolation or time alone is not restricted to physical or contagious conditions; it can also be seen as a necessary time for prayer, devotion, and communion with God.
In the words of a Chassidic Jewish saying, “A person who does not have an hour to him or herself every day is not a person.”
God invites each one of us to spend time alone with Him in order to deepen our relationship in ways we cannot do in a group setting. And there are plenty of Biblical examples to follow.
Moses met with God alone at the burning bush, as well as on Mount Sinai while receiving the Ten Commandments.
David also spent much time communing with God.
The Prophet Elijah experienced God’s presence pass by when he was alone in a cave. Elijah heard God’s voice in kol demamah dekhah (a still, small voice).
Even Yeshua made sure that despite all the people demanding his attention, He took time to isolate Himself from the crowds in order to pray and draw close to His Father.
“And early in the morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.” (Mark 1:35)
“But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)
Surely if Yeshua needed to slip away from everyone’s demands in order to have time alone, then we also have this crucial need.
Of course, all things must be in balance. The Word of God warns us against excessive isolation, which can cause us to focus on our own desires.
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1)
Although contagious diseases are definitely cause for concern, the Bible makes it plain that we have been infected by something that is far more lethal and contagious than any physical disease.
Since the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, we have all been infected with the venom of the serpent, and all are subject to sin that separates us from God. We are so defiled by sin that even our righteousness is like filthy rags.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Only the blood of the Messiah, Yeshua, can cleanse us from our defilement and uncleanness to come into true fellowship with the living God. Just as Yeshua made the lepers pure and whole once again, so too can He cleanse us and present us holy and without blemish to the Father.
“‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then He put out His hand and touched him [the leper], saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:12–13)