“For whom the L-RD loveth He correcteth.”
– Proverbs 3:12, JPS 1917 Tanach
In parashas Tazria, certain types of negaim (plagues) are mentioned, that in and of themselves, are primarily meant to be a warning, for the sake of correction, to the one whose house, clothes or body are stricken with what in Hebrew is called tzaras, often mistranslated as “leprosy.” Chazal relates that tzaras, especially of the body, is related to the sin of slander, as well as other transgressions.
If H’Shem would like to call attention to a person’s sins, reminding him of the need to seek after a penitent heart, He begins with a sign, furthest removed from the person, yet, clearly something that should get his attention – mold in the walls of a house. If the person does not take it to heart as a cautionary statement, that would compel the individual to do teshuvah (repentance), then H’Shem will permit the clothing to be contaminated. And, if this does not move the person towards a sincere repentance, accompanied by a change of behavior, the person will become afflicted with a disease similar to what today is called “leprosy.”
The order of the early warning system, so to speak, proceeds from the house to the clothes to the person. H’Shem instills a measure of kindness in his guidance of the wayward soul, to bring that person into a right relationship with his own mind, body, and spirit, according to the values that H’Shem has made clear to us through Torah, as well as our own conscience, that should become finely tuned, over time, to discern between right and wrong, good and evil.
However, when we are not walking along the derech (path) of righteousness, H’Shem will give us a wake up call, even through chastisement in order to bring us back to Him. As the proverb makes clear, “for whom the L-RD loveth, He correcteth.” It is because of H’Shem’s love for us, that He will chastise us, perhaps, not through negaim (plagues); yet, by way of some means that would compel us to reflect on our character, behavior and speech. Even so, the current pandemic may be a wake up call for humanity; providing the perfect opportunity for prayer, reflection and teshuvah (repentance).