The ‘Spiritual Disease’

“When a man is afflicted with a leprous disease, he shall be brought to the priest.” (Leviticus 13:9)

The word ‘afflicted’ appears in the original Hebrew as ‘Nega’ {נגע} which comes from the Hebrew root N-G-A {נ-ג-ע} that means ‘touch.’

One can find this word (‘Nega’) very frequently when in the biblical segments related to leprosy. When the Hebrew Bible uses this word, it is emphasizes that the ‘hand of God’ (‘touch of God’) is involved in the matter, as we can find in the story of Jacob and the angel in Genesis:

“Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he TOUCHED the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.” (Genesis 32: 32)

In the Book of Exodus, there the word ‘plague’ actually appears in the original Hebrew as ‘Nega’ – the same as the biblical reference to ‘Tzara’at’ {צרעת} (‘the biblical leprosy’):

“The LORD said to Moses, “Yet one PLAGUE more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely.” (Exodus 11:1)

This concept goes hand in hand with the common perception that the biblical leprosy was in fact a ‘spiritual disease’ that affected the body and can only be cured in a ‘spiritual way.’

An interesting old Jewish legend says that the people who had this ‘spiritual disease’ were not sick on Shabbat and on holidays. And why is that?

Because if the Hebrew letters of the biblical phrase ‘Nega Tzara’at’ {נגע צרעת} (‘afflicted with a leprous disease’ in the English translation) are ‘turned’ meaning organized in a different order, the result is ‘Oneg Atze’ret.’  {ענג צרעת} This is another Hebrew name for Shabbat (appears in the Hebrew Bible also as ‘Oneg’ {ענג} ) and holidays (appears in the Hebrew Bible also as ‘Atze’ret’ {עצרת}).