Parashat Tazria-Metzora/ פרשת תַזְרִיעַ־מְּצֹרָע
Read on 17 April 2021 (5 Iyyar 5781).
Parashat Tazria-Metzora is the 27th and 28th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.
Torah Portion: Leviticus 12:1-15:33
This double portion follows the purity of food (kashrut).
Tazria starts by discussing the restoration of spiritual purity for a woman who gives birth. She is unclean for seven days after the birth of a son, and two weeks after the birth of a girl. The shorter time for a boy is possibly because he has to be circumcised on the eighth day of life. She then brings a burnt-offering and sin-offering and her purity is restored. Today, she would come into the synagogue after the period of time and then bathing in a mikvah.
The portion then discusses the impurity of skin blemishes. These are called tzaahat and beheret, depending on the appearance. These blemishes have been called “leprosy” and “elephantiasis”, and also by the transliterated terms. While their similarities to these modern diseases are questionable, their symptoms are not like any modern diseases. This is especially notable that it is the priest that diagnoses the conditions and the person is sent out of the camp for a period that can be as short as one week, if the blemish disappears in that time. When the person has been deemed to be “cured”, it is the priest who pronounces them clean.
Some sages believe that the etiology of these blemishes is the person engaging in LaShon HaRah. This is HaShem’s punishment for a person gossiping and demeaning others behind their back. The skin reveals their offense and they now have to walk through the camp warning people, “Contaminated, contaminated”, thus keeping people away from them and preventing their ability to spread malicious talk.
Metzora discusses the spiritual remedy of the metzora. The person, once the blemishes disappear and the priest deems them no long afflicted, takes two birds, one for a offering, one to let free. They offer a sin-offering and a guilt-offering. They immerse in a mikvah and shave themselves. They are anointed with blood and oil placed on their ears, thumb and foot, similar to the consecration of priests.
The portion also discusses blemishes that can appear on utensils, articles of clothing and houses. Purification is similar to that of a metzora. Also, the article is either destroyed or the part of the house is cut away.
Finally, we are taught about the purification of bodily issues. Some of these are naturally occurring, others are unnatural. The text gives the purification for these as well, again similar to the other purification rites.