|Questions and Concepts for Tazriah and Metzorah
- In this week's Torah portion we read about a physical ailment resulting from spiritual
causes. Most Bibles use the terms "leper" and "leprosy" in these
chapters, but this is incorrect. The affliction described affected homes and clothing as
well as the skin, and in the latter case did not have the symptoms of leprosy nor was it
treated accordingly. The affliction is called tzarat and would affect people due
to certain sins, particularly that of speaking evil of someone. This is called Lashon Hara
(evil tongue) in Hebrew.
- Tzarat was a display of God's presence among the people. How could tzarat be considered
a blessing from a merciful God? How does unchecked Lashon Hara affect cohesion within a
community of people?
- When a person was proclaimed by the Priest to be unclean from tzarat, he had to tear his
garments, not cut his hair, and was expelled from the community, remaining alone until the
symptoms went away. As God is said to punish "measure for measure" (midda
keneged midda), how does the punishment of tzarat on an individual guilty of Lashon
Hara reflect this?
- What did Miriam do in Numbers chapter 12, to become afflicted with tzarat? What was
significant about her role with the people for her to receive such a harsh punishment?
- The Torah places tzarat on "body and clothes" in a different category that
tzarat that affects a "house." Leviticus 14:34 mentions that this only applies
to a house in the Land of Israel, whereas tzarat on the body or clothing can appear
outside the Land. What does this teach us about the Land of Israel?
- The person afflicted with tzarat was put in quarantine. Oddly, if the tzarat spread to
the point of covering their entire body, the person was called "clean." (If even
a small uncontaminated skin appears, he remained unclean.") Was a declaration of
"clean" upon someone totally covered with tzarat necessarily a "good"
thing -- or could it mean something else?
- The Parsha also addresses the subject of a woman who goes from a state of purity to
impurity by giving birth. As childbirth is a blessed event, why would this be? Further,
why is the initial impurity period, and the following pure state, double for a female
birth than for a male birth? Does this have to do with a mother's influence on her
daughter? Does the placement of the teaching of circumcision of a son in this section
relate to this?
- Consider this concept:
Looking back at the parsha sections of Leviticus to this point, Parsha Vayikra and
Tzav focused on the basic laws of offerings. The first topic addressed in Parsha Vayikra
was the "how to" of sacrifices. Parsha Shimini then told of Aharon and his sons,
the priesthood and the construction and dedication of the Tabernacle. After all this, why
does the Torah next address the topic of Tzarat? And why does it spend so much time on the
details of this affliction? Consider something found in the Talmud. It asks why the
Holy Temple was destroyed. The reason it gives is that people spoke Loshon Hara about each
other. Might guarding our tongues help bring on the time of redemption, Messiah and the
Temple? What does the "New Testament" book of Ya'acov ("James") say
about watching our speech?
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