The Gemara states (San 98b): What is his [the Messiah's] name? — 1 The Rabbis said: His name is 'the leper scholar,' (The Metzora of Beit Rebbi -Rashi) as it is written: Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isa. 53:4)
One must understand – Why is the concept of “he bore our illnesses, and carried our pains” specifically expressed in a manner of “plagued” (Metzora) ,so much so that his name is Chivrah (Metzora), and not another plain name that signifies oppression and illness.
We can seemingly explain this according to the Alter Rebbe’s explanation ( in Likkutei Torah) on the verse: “If a man has a se'eith, a sappachath, or a bahereth on the skin of his flesh” – that the reason the term man (Adam), is specifically used, which represents the loftiest description of a Jew, is because the concept of plagues, which are “on the skin of his flesh”, depict a “low level”.. (that has) not had the evil and waste (Psolet) refined from it”.
In other words “spiritually, in Avodat HaShem, he has corrected his deeds and refined the evil from the good in every aspect, but the waste at the end of his garments have not yet been refined”.
We thus see that the concept of plagues is applicable only with someone who is complete, who has finished the Avodah of “refining the evil from the pnimiyut (inner aspects) of his body and soul” and is only lacking the refining of his outwardly aspects [and as explained there, this is the reason that the “Mitzvah of Negaim (plagues) is not practiced in our times after the destruction (of the Temple) … it is not found among us, for even a Tzaddik and a goodly (person) still has a bit of evil inwardly ( b’Pnimiyut)]
Accordingly, one can say, that this is the reason that Moshiach is specifically called a “Metzora” (Leper), to show that he is a completely whole person (as it is written: “Behold My servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and he shall be very high”. Isa 52:13) And that is why he is called “plagued” (Metzora) for the illness and pains that he comes to refine are only at the “end of his garments”
On a deeper level one can say: The lengthiness of this last Golut is in order to refine and purify the Jewish people (like the “kur habarzel -- the iron crucible of the Egyptian Golut) and the time of the “Ikvata De'Meshichah” (footsteps of Moshiach), the end of Golut , is the time of the very last refining, the refining of the outwardly evil and waste which are at the “ends (edges) of the garment) (of the Jewish people), for this refining will be conducted by Moshiach.
And this is why Moshiach is called Leper (Metzora) because “he bore our illnesses, and carried our pains etc.” for this corresponds to the effect of Moshiach on the Jewish people, to refine this waste at the “ends (edges) of his garment” (of the Jewish people), (and not that he is plagued himself, G-d forbid).
2. However this is not a sufficient explanation. For the concept of a “Name” is to depict the essence and main aspects of the object of this name.
In our case, even though Moshiach is “pained because of our transgressions Isa 53:5“ So much so that Moshiach himself “is plagued” (and not that just we consider him plagued), nevertheless, this is seemingly not the main aspect of Moshiach, for this is a negative aspect (refining the evil and sins of the Jewish People).
However the main aspect of Moshiach is the Redemption (Geulah) of the Jewish People – the building of the Beit HaMikdash and the ingathering of the exiles (Rambam Hil. Kings 12:1).
Why, then, is he named according to his negative activity (Metzora) and not according to the Geulah itself?
We must therefore say that in the concept of plague (nega) a hint of the main aspect of Moshiach - the Geulah that comes through him.
And one can say that that this concept is specifically hinted the words of the Midrash on the verse: “And the person with tzara'ath, in whom there is the lesion, his garments shall be torn Lev.13:45” – “ ‘the leper’ (refers to) the Beit HaMikdash which has the plague of idol worship … ‘his garments shall be torn’ are the garments of the Kohen (High Priest)”etc. (Eicha Rab 21, Yal Shimoni our Parsha)”.
At first glance the wording of the Midrash: “ ‘the leper’ is the Beit HaMikdash” needs clarification for it should have said: “is the Beit HaMikdash that was destroyed” ( or words to that effect). What is (the meaning) of the wording “ ‘the leper’ is the Beit HaMikdash” (without the word destroyed etc.) which implies that this is the main aspect of the Beit HaMikdash (itself)
One can say that, with this (omitting the word destroyed), the Midrash is hinting, that there is a positive aspect in the concept of a plague, and this is why the Beit HaMikdash is called leper (“Tzarua”) (even before it contracted “the plague of idol worship” which made it a leper (“Tzarua”) in a negative connotation), like Moshiach is called is 'the leper scholar,' (The Metzora of Beit Rebbi)”
3. One can explain this according to a additional explanation of the Alter Rebbe (in Likkutei Torah) regarding plagues. He writes: “Plagues are lofty things, for it (the plague) is not called impure until the Kohen declares it impure (Tamei) . And while it has not been declared impure, the plagues are not in the realm of impurity (Tumah) ,but on the contrary, are Supernal Lights (Orot Elyonim) , But they are severe judgments of holiness ( Dina Kashia d’Kedusha) .. “And it shall be brought to Aaron the Kohen”, they are elevated through the Kohen who is Supernal kindness (Chesed Ilaah). And he is able to sweeten the judgment when he declares: pure (Tahor)”.
In other words, the main property of a “plague” (nega) is not an aspect of impurity, but on the contrary, an aspect of holiness.
One can say, that this expresses itself also in actual plagues – in the appearance of the plagues, from the onset they are Tahor, even though they must be brought to the Kohen who declares them “Tahor” : The plagues are from the onset an aspect of holiness, and the effect of the Kohen on them (by declaring “Tahor”) is not to purify them from Tumah, but to sweeten the severity with kindness, to overturn them from “severe judgments “ (Dina Kashia) to an aspect of Chesed (kindness).
[However, from these “severe” (Kashim) judgments of holiness, it is possible to descend and derive an aspect of evil (as is known, that from the many contractions of the Middah of Din and Gevurah is derived (nishtalshel) the aspect of evil) – and these are the appearances of impure plagues.
4. Accordingly, one can add, that not only is the root of the “nega” (plague) in holiness, severe judgments of holiness (Dina Kashia d’Kedusha) , but moreover, that at its root (primary) it is a very high level (in holiness itself).
As it is explained concerning the supernal Middah of Gevurah , that its root and source is not an aspect of Din (judgment) and contraction ( withholding effluence) but on the contrary, Gevurah from the term overpowering, an overpowering of vitality, (like overwhelming rains), an effluence with extreme force (hitgavrut yeseira) which is above the receptacles of the receiver [which is why there descends and derives from it afterwards, the aspect of contraction and severity ( the actual withholding of effluence) and specifically when the receiver is not able to contain such a great flow as this]
And also in our case, the aspect of “nega” (plague), at its primary root, is an overpowering of holiness, but there descends and derives from it “severe judgments” (Dinim Kashim) as they are in the realm of holiness: But from the “severe judgments” there descends and derives afterwards ,much lower, the appearances of impure plagues.
And one can say that this concept is hinted in the words of the Alter Rebbe (above) that “while (the plagues) have not been declared impure they… are Supernal Lights (Orot Elyonim) (and not Holy Lights etc) - for with this he is hinting, that the aspect of plagues is not just severe judgments of holiness, but much higher - “Supernal Lights”. In other words, not just an aspect of light and revelation of G-dliness, but additionally – “Supernal Lights”, which are above the low (tachton), measure and boundary.
[and also in man’s service (Avodat haAdam), as explained that the aspect of “nega” (plague), in spiritual service is “ratzu” (advance) without a “shuv” (retreat).
Namely, the Avodah of “klos hanefesh” (lit., "the expiration of the soul) which is the yearning to go out of one’s limitations and boundaries and to attach to G-d with a complete bittul (to the extent that the soul actually expires). And this is not the G-d’s (Supernal) intent. For Avodah must specifically be with “shuv” (retreat), to draw G-dliness down into this world, through the service of Torah and Mitzvot, specifically a soul in a body.
Thus the root of the aspect of “nega” (plague), in man’s service (Avodat haAdam), is “ratzu” (advance) and “klos hanefesh” (which is the Avodah of “With all your might” (cf. Shema prayer) above limitations and boundaries) but when it is not followed by “shuv” (retreat), this is not according to (G-d’s) intent.]
5. According to all of the above, one can understand the reason why Moshiach ( and accordingly the Beit HaMikdash) is called leper (Metzora), For the aspect of Geulah is – going out of all limitations and boundaries, an overpowering of holiness, which is the revelation of G-dliness above limitation and boundary.
And this itself comes through that which “he hath borne our griefs”etc for with this, is effected the very last refining and purification of the Jewish people in the “Ikvata De'Meshichah” (footsteps of Moshiach) and they immediately become receptacles to the revelation of “Supernal Lights”.
And may we merit the fulfillment of the prophecy: “And your Teacher will no longer hide from you (Isa 30:20) (meaning — not as some interpret the verse: ”He will no longer withhold your rains,“ but, following Rashi: ”He will no longer conceal Himself from you with the edge of a robe or garment “), "and your eyes will behold Your Teacher” (Tanya 36) in the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach, instantly and immediately, Mamosh (geulah hamitah v’hashlema, al yiday Moshiach Tzeidkeinu).
(m’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Metzora 5733)
1) (The School of R. Shila said: His name is Shiloh, for it is written, until Shiloh come The School of R. Yannai said: His name is Yinnon, for it is written, His name shall endure for ever: e'er the sun was, his name is Yinnon. The School of R. Haninah maintained: His name is Haninah, as it is written, Where I will not give you Haninah. Others say: His name is Menahem the son of Hezekiah, for it is written, Because Menahem ['the comforter'], that would relieve my soul, is far.)