• Dvar for Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)

    Both Parshat Tazria and Metzora discuss skin ailments on one’s flesh, who to see about it (the Priest), how to treat it (isolate it), what to do if it spreads (isolate yourself), and so on. While we get caught up in the details of the treatments, we might fail to realize how strange all of this is. This is the first time the Torah discusses personal physical hygiene. Why would the Torah spend almost  two entire Parshiot (multiple Parshas) on personal hygiene?

    Rabbi Munk in The Call of The Torah explains that by giving these afflictions so much attention, the Torah points to them as examples of the spiritual causes at the root of many illnesses (in our case, Tzaraas – the affliction discussed in the Parsha – is caused by one of seven sins: Slander, murder, perjury, debauchery, pride, theft and jealousy (Talmud Arachim 16a)). As the Rambam (Maimonides) asserts, the best medication is based on ethical values, helping to re-establish harmonies between spiritual and physical forces (Guide to the Perplexed 3:27). That way, even if our physical ailments aren’t ultimately cured, at least we’re in harmony within ourselves. This discussion is meant to remind us that illness is sometimes spiritual, and that it’s connected to our physical well-being. As such, we should feed our bodies, so long as we nurture our souls.

  • Dvar for Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)

    The primary subject of Parshat Tazria is tzara’at, a supernatural skin disease that, according to the Sages, was a punishment for speaking ill about other people.  A person who habitually spoke ill about others would be struck with tzara’at and would then be quarantined outside the city as a divine warning to improve their behavior and make themselves more worthy of dwelling within the community.  Although the symptoms of tzara’at were fairly straightforward, the official diagnosis could only be made by a kohen, who would declare whether a given patch of skin contained tzara’at or not.  The Torah describes one type of skin lesion called a “bohak” that is not tzara’at, but is required to be shown to a kohen as well.  R’ Moshe Feinstein asks about the purpose of this – if it is not tzara’at, why does the Torah trouble people to show it to the kohen?

    R’ Moshe Feinstein explains based on the insight mentioned earlier.  The purpose of tzara’at is to cause a person to evaluate their behavior and to make improvements.  The trauma of being quarantined outside the city for a week or more is clearly a strong catalyst for such self-examination, similar to the way serious illness or loss of a job triggers self-examination in our day.  But we must not wait for such dramatic events to examine our actions.  The law of the bohak teaches us that even smaller events in our lives should be seen as catalysts for introspection and self-improvement.  We can never know for certain what messages G-d is trying to send us, but we should always be listening, whether the message is loud or not.

  • Dvar for Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59)

    The primary subject of Parshat Tazria is tzara’at, a supernatural skin disease that, according to the Sages, was a punishment for speaking ill about other people.  A person who habitually spoke ill about others would be struck with tzara’at and would then be quarantined outside the city as a divine warning to improve their behavior and make themselves more worthy of dwelling within the community.  Although the symptoms of tzara’at were fairly straightforward, the official diagnosis could only be made by a kohen, who would declare whether a given patch of skin contained tzara’at or not.  The Torah describes one type of skin lesion called a “bohak” that is not tzara’at, but is required to be shown to a kohen as well.  R’ Moshe Feinstein asks about the purpose of this – if it is not tzara’at, why does the Torah trouble people to show it to the kohen?

    R’ Moshe Feinstein explains based on the insight mentioned earlier.  The purpose of tzara’at is to cause a person to evaluate their behavior and to make improvements.  The trauma of being quarantined outside the city for a week or more is clearly a strong catalyst for such self-examination, similar to the way serious illness or loss of a job triggers self-examination in our day.  But we must not wait for such dramatic events to examine our actions.  The law of the bohak teaches us that even smaller events in our lives should be seen as catalysts for introspection and self-improvement.  We can never know for certain what messages G-d is trying to send us, but we should always be listening, whether the message is loud or not.

  • Daily Aliya for Tazria-Metzora, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This section discusses the ritual impurity contracted by a man who issues a (normal) seminal discharge, the ritual impurity of a menstruating woman, and of a man who cohabits with her. All such people must immerse in a mikvah (ritual pool) in order to be purified. Under certain circumstances a menstruating woman was required to bring to the Temple two bird offerings in order to attain purity.

    People might say (or think) that most of Tazria-M’tzora is complex, confusing, non-applicable, why do I need to study it, boring… but the interplay between the physical and spiritual, the functioning of Jewish society in the context of the topics of the Parsha and other themes are timeless, and the contemplation provides much food for thought and possibly even discussion around the Shabbat table.

  • Daily Aliya for Tazria-Metzora, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Homes, too, can be afflicted with tzara’at. If bricks on a home become discolored — acquiring a strong red or green pigment — a priest is summoned. If indeed the discoloration seems to be tzara’at, the priest quarantines the home for up to three weeks. Depending on the spread of the discoloration, the home is either declared to be pure, or the specific bricks are removed from the house, or, in the most extreme situations, the house is demolished. The Torah then describes the purification process for such a home — which is very similar to the initial stage of the purification of the human afflicted with tzara’at (described in the First Aliyah). After concluding the subject of tzara’at, the Torah discusses the ritual impurity of a man who issues a sickly and unnatural seminal discharge, as well as the method by which this person attains purity when the condition passes.

    Not only does a person’s body contain elements of spirituality, but even his home – specifically in Eretz Yisrael. Although we do not “practice” this whole topic today, the lessons of the bridge and connection between the physical world and the spiritual one cannot be overlooked. A person whose home is a meeting placefor Torah scholars, a launching pad for acts of charity and kindness, a training ground for a new generation of sensitive, feeling, enthusiastic Jews, such a home cannot be infected by spiritual plague. A home devoid of spirituality is a prime target for Nig’ei HaBayit. In this case, it is not the anti-rust and anti-moldpaint that makes the difference. It is the values that a Jew lives by and their affect on the next generation.

  • Daily Aliya for Tazria-Metzora, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    A person who cannot afford the animals for the sacrifices, is to bring one sheep and two birds as his offering. The Torah describes the rituals involved in these offerings.

    It is not important how much the sacrifice is worth on a dollars and cents basis (shekels and agorot), but what is relative to the means of the atoner. Thus ends the section of the Torah dealing with afflictions to the individual. ZOT TORAT… this is the body of law of one afflicted who cannot afford the full set of korbanot.

  • Dvar for Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)

    Both Parshat Tazria and Metzora discuss skin ailments on one’s flesh, who to see about it (the Priest), how to treat it (isolate it), what to do if it spreads (isolate yourself), and so on. While we get caught up in the details of the treatments, we might fail to realize how strange all of this is. This is the first time the Torah discusses personal physical hygiene. Why would the Torah spend almost  two entire Parshiot (multiple Parshas) on personal hygiene?

    Rabbi Munk in The Call of The Torah explains that by giving these afflictions so much attention, the Torah points to them as examples of the spiritual causes at the root of many illnesses (in our case, Tzaraas – the affliction discussed in the Parsha – is caused by one of seven sins: Slander, murder, perjury, debauchery, pride, theft and jealousy (Talmud Arachim 16a)). As the Rambam (Maimonides) asserts, the best medication is based on ethical values, helping to re-establish harmonies between spiritual and physical forces (Guide to the Perplexed 3:27). That way, even if our physical ailments aren’t ultimately cured, at least we’re in harmony within ourselves. This discussion is meant to remind us that illness is sometimes spiritual, and that it’s connected to our physical well-being. As such, we should feed our bodies, so long as we nurture our souls.

  • Daily Aliya for Tazria, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The topic of “afflictions of garments” is continued in this Aliya.

    The fact that there was such a thing as an affliction of a garment tells us something. We are dealing with different ways that G-d communicates his “displeasure” with us, as individuals. Today, we might say, His communication is more subtle – but we must see it, and react appropriately.

  • Daily Aliya for Tazria, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya discusses tzara’at which appears on a bald spot, as well a white discoloration streaked with red, which can appear anywhere on the body. Also discussed is the procedure followed by an individual who is afflicted with tzara’at, the main requirement being that they must remain outside the city until their condition clears up. The Torah then discusses “clothing tzara’at,” a green or red discoloration which can affect certain types of materials. The garment is shown to a priest who quarantines it for up to two weeks.

    A person who has Tzora’at, tears their clothes, lets their hair hang loose, and must announce in public that they are impure (possibly some sort of public repentence). The proper conduct of the Metzora is a mitzvah (positive commandment).

  • Daily Aliya for Tazria, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: In this Aliya we discover that tzara’at can also affect the areas on the body covered by hair. The symptoms and laws of such a tzara’at are quite different than standard tzara’at. This Aliya concludes with the laws of a person afflicted by multiple dull white areas on his skin.

    There is a specific prohibition of cutting the hair of a Tzora’at area on the body. Among other reasons, this would remove an important indicator for the inspecting kohen. If a doctor notices that a rash on a patient might be the result of stress and tension in the workplace, then it would serve no purpose to merely treat the rash. In fact, the rash might clear up after some stress-reduction measures without any treatment of the rash itself.

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