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Parshat Tazria/Metzora - VaYikra (Leviticus) 12:1 - 15:33

Updated: Apr 16, 2021


This week’s parsha is a double parshat in Leviticus covering Tazria in Chapters 12 verses 1 to Chapter 13 and verse 59. Parshat Metzora covers Chapters 14 through Chapter 15 and verse 33.

Some could get lost in the language of these two parsha. From a surface reading they would appear to deal with bodily fluid discharges and certain skin conditions, but the teachings from them go far beyond those two important but limited concepts.

The placing of these laws of purification fit perfectly after the preceding verses in the previous parshat concerned with tumah (spiritual impurity) which resulted from coming into contact with dead animals to that which will be covered here — tumah resulting from human beings — from childbirth down to the very clothing we wear and the habitats of our dwellings.

Chapter 13 looks at and deals with the spiritual impurity of tzarass — sadly and mistakenly translated for centuries as leprosy. The actual Hebrew meaning is quite clear and has nothing to do with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy caused by a slow growing bacteria called Mycobacterium lepromatosis). This real disease of leprosy was not even in existence at the time of Moshe and the wanderings of the Children of Israel in the wilderness or after they had successfully entered the Land of Promise.

The skin disorder most likely referred to in the Torah would be a type of eczema and psoriasis. Both are genetic disorders generally aggravated by internal systemic and even emotional changes within a person. They can reveal themselves at various stages of development and outbreak from mild skin disruptions to severe plaque buildup and even systemic internal problems such as psoriatic arthritis and severe asthma. All these symptoms fit the descriptions outlined in the Torah as to the type of skin disorder is being referred to.

The go-to person for identification of the condition was the kohen. He did not treat (as there is no medical cure even in our century for either of these conditions), but to diagnose and determine if a quarantined isolation was required. The purpose of the isolation was not out of concern for the physical spreading of the condition as these types of skin disorders are not physically contagious. The quarantine was strictly done for spiritual purification purposes.

The greatest concern for the kohanim was to ensure that the inner spiritual condition manifesting itself as an outward skin eruption did not spread throughout the camp and especially into the Tabernacle.

A vast array of requirements were set forth here for the identification and requisite action to be taken. Depending on which part of the body was infected determined the course of action.

The spiritual condition most relegated to skin disruptions was recognized as Lashon Hara — Evil Speech — in particular, Slander. Such speech eventually will turn on the speaker in the form of these skin outbreaks. And, just as slander causes separation and division between people — so too, the slanderer is to be separated and isolated from the camp until such time as he repents and recovers or continues in such hateful speech, becomes covered head-to-toe with skin eruptions and is removed completely outside the camp and far away from the Tabernacle so to protect it and the people from the spiritual infection caused by such evil divisive speech.

The Chumash notes: “The unique laws of the Metzora have established that, despite the fact that his contamination is manifested in a change on his body, it was caused by his degraded spiritual condition. Being outside the camp gives him the opportunity to reflect on his deficiencies and to repent so that he can once more become worthy of becoming part of his nation.”

Once that true repentance occurs the Torah lays out the entire purification process in three specific stages outlined in Chapter 14 of parshat Metzora.

The remainder of this portion of Torah deals with the tzarass of clothing, materials and habitations afflicted with mold, mildew and other environmental and parasitic growths and how to rid them of the affliction — which is also grounded in a spiritual deficiency either with the person or nation as a whole.

Finally, bodily emissions pertaining to human reproduction are addressed. Those of the male — semen discharge; and the female — the niddah.

Again, these are in relation to spiritual purity in relationship to the Tabernacle of HaShem and are not seen as despised, but as normal flows of life. However, for ritual purity purposes must be dealt with the greatest of respect and attitude for their ultimate purpose — the continuation of human life.

Until Next time -- Shabbat Shalom!

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