Parshat Tazria - Metzora
The Torah commands a woman to bring a korban after the birth of a child. A son is to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. The Torah introduces the phenomenon of tzara'at (often mistranslated as leprosy) — a miraculous affliction that attacks people, clothing and buildings to awaken a person to spiritual failures. A kohen must be consulted to determine whether a particular mark is tzara'at or not. The kohen isolates the sufferer for a week. If the malady remains unchanged, confinement continues for a second week, after which the kohen decides the person's status. The Torah describes the different forms of tzara'at. One whose tzara'at is confirmed wears torn clothing, does not cut his hair, and must alert others that he is ritually impure. He may not have normal contact with people. The phenomenon of tzara'at on clothing is described in detail.
The Torah describes the procedure for a metzora (a person afflicted with tzara'at) upon conclusion of his isolation. This process extends for a week and involves korbanot and immersions in the mikveh. Then, a kohen must pronounce the metzora pure. A metzora of limited financial means may substitute lesser offerings for the more expensive animals. Before a kohen diagnoses that a house has tzara'at, household possessions are removed to prevent them from also being declared ritually impure. The tzara'at is removed by smashing and rebuilding that section of the house. If it reappears, the entire building must be razed. The Torah details those bodily secretions that render a person spiritually impure, thereby preventing his contact with holy items, and the Torah defines how one regains a state of ritual purity.
Letting In The Light
“If a tzara’at affliction will be in a person…” (13:9)
The business of living in this world is about being able to see through the physical to the spiritual.
In this week’s parsha, we learn of the spiritual afflictions of tzara’at and nega. These appeared on the skin of a person. In Hebrew, the word “skin,” ohr, if written with an aleph instead of an ayin means “light.” These two words are pronounced almost identically. In other words, the “skin” of the world, the way the world looks like from the outside, is that it seems as though things just run by themselves devoid of an Unseen Hand. The “skin” of the world obstructs the Light. Nature is like a skin that obstructs the perception that everything in the world is miraculous, that everything is a manifestation of the Light.
Every week, we are afforded an opportunity to make the “skin of the world” transparent, to see beyond to that Light. This opportunity is called Shabbat. G-d called Shabbat “pleasure”. The pleasure of Shabbat is not just delicious food such as cholent. The real pleasure of Shabbat is the opportunity to re-orient our world-view, to see the Light.
Some of the causes of a nega and of tzara’at were selfishness, stinginess and speaking negatively about others. When a person feels that others have things they don’t deserve, it leads to ‘nega-tivity’ (Pun fully intended!). Selfishness and speaking slander reveal a lack of trust in G-d’s providential guidance. Shabbat reverses these flaws. Shabbat teaches us that G-d is running the world, and whatever I have is because He wants me to have it, and whatever I don’t have is because He doesn’t want me to have it.
If you take the spiritual affliction that manifests itself in the skin that is called nega and re-arrange the letters, you can form the word oneg, meaning, “pleasure.” By re-arranging our view of the world, we can turn nega into the oneg of experiencing the Light.
Similarly, if you rearrange the letters of tzara’at, you can form the word Atzeret, another name for Yom Tov, the holy festivals of the Jewish People, which afford yet another unique glimpse of the Light.