Rabbi YY Jacobson
How the Torah's Names for “Leprosy” Capture Their Psychology
One of the fascinating ideas in the work of the 13th century sage known as the Baal Haturim is that whenever the Tanach uses a similar word, be it in four distinct places, they are interconnected in some way. And to appreciate the full depth of the present idea one must delve into the other places in Tanach where this same word is used. We have nothing even close to this in English literature. Let us study one of his insights on the story of the leper. Remarkably, this insight reveals to us the psychology behind gossip.
There are three kinds of tzaraat wounds mentioned in the opening of Tazria: s'eit, sapachat and baheret, representing three shades of white that may afflict the skin of the gossiper. Yet if we analyze the translation of these three words we discover the three motivations for gossip.
This, indeed, is one of the remarkable things about Torah study. The very names of the malady capture their psychology—the inner motif behind them. We thus discover the inner subconscious drives behind our behaviors and how to mend them.