Hillary Clinton discusses in her book It takes a Village that an entire community is responsible for raising a child not just an individual family. The teachers, doctors, grocers etc.. everyone in the community plays an important role in raising a child. No person is an island, completely self sufficient, everyone owes a debt to the society that raised them.
One of the most severe punishments given in prison is solitary confinement. In this week’s parsha we learn about Tzarat, a spiritual affliction that is manifest through a skin disease. It is not leprosy. When someone is diagnosed with Tzarat they are secluded from the camp, a sort of solitary confinement. Vayikrah 13:46 states“he shall dwell isolated; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”
During the course of a sentence in solitary confinement the individual is forced to be alone with their thoughts. Once all connection to society is severed it is possible to cultivate a new appreciation for community. The only way to truly appreciate something is through it’s absence. As I mentioned last week, the greatest appreciation I have experienced for food is after I have fasted.
When the person with Tzarat is isolated he is forced to think about the connection and debt he has towards the community. A person maybe given Tzarat for speaking Lashon Harah, speech not used productively but destructively, against the very community that helped create you. Because you used your speech to harm the community, then your speech is cut off and you are isolated from speaking with anyone in the community.
So what is so bad about negative speech? It is indicative of a deeper problem. Just as the Tzarat lesions are symptomatic of a deeper spiritual problem and are not just a surface level, skin disease, so to negative destructive speech is symptomatic of a deeper problem, lack of Hakarat Hatov (Gratitude) to the community.
The time in solitary confinement is meant to cultivate a deeper sense of self awareness in the person with Tzarat. The awareness that we are all interconnected and interdependent, that no one is an island.
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.