Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tazria-Metzora – Leviticus 12:1-15:33
Paraphrasing a question from Father Christopher Allen, a community member, he asks if being ritually clean is related more to wholeness than to physical cleanliness. He refers to two verses in parsha, Tazria-Metzora:
“And if the tzaraas has spread over the skin and the tzaraas covers all of the skin of the one with the lesion, from his head to his feet, on all that the eyes of the kohen can see; and the kohen will look at it. And behold! And the tzaraas covers all of his flesh. And he will declare the person with the lesion ritually pure. He has turned completely white. He is ritually pure.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 13:12-13).
This Sabbath’s parsha is a double reading. The first, Tzaria tells about a woman becoming tahor (spiritually purified) after giving birth and verifying when a person has a tzaraas, baheres or s’eis affliction on his body or a tzaraas affliction on a garment.
Parshas Metzora discusses how a metzora, someone with tzaraas, and a house with a tzaraas become tahor. It also details how a zav, zavah and niddah become tahor.
To understand tahara (the state of being tahor) note that leprosy, a chronic physical disease, is not at all related to tzaraas, which afflicts a person whose life is out of balance or whose relationships are damaged. Today you rely on your conscience and how well your life is going to determine such things. In Biblical times, when the Creator and humanity were closer, tzaraas served as a physical indication that something was amiss on the spiritual level.
If you look at the concept of purity you see ideas such as “without any extraneous elements,” “free of contamination,” and “untainted by immorality.” A pure sound is perfectly in tune. Consider a diamond. Clarity and freedom from impurities increase its value. Now place these concepts on a spiritual plane.
Think about how you feel when you and your spouse are most in tune. Are there any impediments to communication and intimacy? Notice we use the same words for a pure sound and a pure marriage.
Consider your relationships with your children or parents. They’re best when all the extraneous elements are removed, aren’t they? Even if you’re doing something extravagant, a fancy meal, an exotic trip, I suspect what you remember are the laughter or awe you shared. Those moments of pure connection form the essence of relationships. Similarly,
When relationships are in this state we say they are shalom. Most often thought of as a greeting and usually translated as peace, at its root it means whole. When are we at peace? When our lives are whole.
So when a person’s skin is completely white with tzaraas, he is tahor, pure in the sense of whole. But when tzaraas afflicts only part of his body he becomes a metzora because the unaffected skin and the tzaraas-afflicted skin are not in tune with each other. They are contradictory. By purifying his relationships, bringing balance to his spirit, the metzora removes all the tzaraas from his skin, becomes whole again, and is at shalom with his family, the world, and G-d.
Chris, thanks for a another wonderful question!
Father Allen leads the Sts. Joachim and Anna Orthodox Church in San Antonio, Texas. Like me, he is a navy reserve chaplain, currently with 4th Marine Reconnaissance Battalion.
Do you feel a sort of spiritual tzaraas when your relationships are awry or your spirit unbalanced? Please comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!