דַּבֵּר אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ וְיָלְדָה זָכָר
וְטָֽמְאָה שִׁבְעַת יָמ֔ים כִּימֵי נִדַּת דְּוֺתָהּ תִּטְמָֽא׃
Speak to the children of Israel, saying:
‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean.
April 13 2024
|II Kings 4:42-5:19
For many of us, the Torah portions of Tazria and Metzora have never felt so relevant. While in years past there was a great sense of distance from the confusing descriptions of biblical skin afflictions, the quarantine of afflicted Israelites, and the complex post-illness purification process
Parshat Tazria bring a discussion of the ritual purity. The biblical process of purification of skin diseases can be divided into three stages: 1) examination, 2) quarantine, and 3) purification. The priest is called upon to examine the severity of the tzara’at affliction. If the affliction is not severe, the person is permitted to return to the camp after a waiting period. If, however, the affliction is pronounced impure, the sufferer is banished from the settlement.
We can understand tzara’at as a metaphor for when a person’s body or health goes out of control— something many people deal with all the time. Like us, our biblical ancestors often felt helpless and frightened in these situations. The Biblical notion of tumah, usually translated as “impurity and this doesn’t necessarily refer only to physical conditions.
The Torah’s description of the priest’s examination of the afflicted person reveals a fascinating insight into the way many of us think about disease. The Torah explains that after examination, Lev. 13:4 the priest shall isolate the affliction for seven days. Note, the object of the verb is no longer the person but the disease itself.
When the Israelites arrived in the land, God, wanted to purify and sanctify the land for them by removing the spirit of uncleanness, so that the land be cleared and sanctified to make room for His Presence and not dwell in an unclean place.