Parashat Tazria-Metzora: Leviticus 12:1 to 15:33

This week we have a double Torah portion, based on the Hebrew calendar and the number of Sabbaths in a year. Tazria means “bringing forth seed,” referring to a woman’s pregnancy and the birth of a newborn. This chapter focuses on the cleanliness and purity of persons, which follows from the previous chapters discussing the matter of clean and unclean animals. Over the centuries, commentators have argued about the purpose of such commandments: are these matters focused on hygiene, or are these Torah readings about spiritual striving, i.e. striving for cleanliness which leads to devotion towards God?

The second Torah ‘sedrah’ (scriptural reading) is known as Metzora, whose literal meaning is the “leper.” The opening phrase is “this is the priestly instruction for the leper in the day he is cleansed from his malady…” Most scholars argue that these laws do not pertain to the illness of leprosy, but rather some assortment of skin maladies. If a person contracts one of these skin ailments, they are taken outside of the camp for at least seven days, until the illness is healed. This is a means of protecting the purity of the portable sanctuary. On a midrashic level, the discussion of skin ailments centers on the way we use speech, and the dangers of “la’shon ha’ra,” destructive speech.
Join us for our Torah conversation about these ideas on Sabbath morning in our library.

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