"…and the person undergoing purification is to wash his clothing." (Lev. 14:8)

Clothing represents acquired characteristics [see Zachariah, Chapter 3, as well as in the writings of the Kabbala which describe the "attire of the soul" in the hereafter]. Until such garments, i.e. characteristics, have been "washed", the total rehabilitation of the metzora has not been completed.

Hair represents inessential outgrowths of the personality which can lead to sin…

Similarly, hair represents inessential outgrowths of the personality which can lead to sin. Until such outgrowths have been removed by shaving, i.e. removed totally, the metzora had not yet been fully re-instated in Jewish society. After that, he has to occupy himself with Torah, symbolized by his immersion in water.

The subsequent return to "the camp" is also a reference to the "higher" world to which the soul has now been restored. His return to this stage is still only tangential, peripheral; he does not yet occupy his rightful place within it. After a further, more lengthy period of time has elapsed (characterized in the Torah by the number 7), he can rid himself of all his hair on all parts of his body. This means that he divests himself of all that is extraneous, non-essential, and therefore apt to lead him astray. At that point no hint of his affliction remains, and the rehabilitation process has been successfully completed.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]