Like a Gazelle Crying for Water

Like a Gazelle Crying for Water

Apr 29, 2006 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

By Rabbi Aubrey L. Glazer

The gazelle is always in motion skipping through the mountains if she is not getting pierced by Thorn bushes. Surely she doesn’t feel it. Let’s say it another way. Already. She cannot delay.
       —Ayelet Solomon, Aphorisms on the Persistence of the Gazelle (2004)

To give birth or to be given birth — that is the question! At the heart of this week’s Levitical regulations concerning the new mother is a highly legal section of Torah that seems less concerned with the new mother’s experience of birth than with how to conceptualize, order, and contain it through law.

Read More
Refining God’s Creation

Refining God’s Creation

Apr 29, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

Too often our perception of God’s creations and works assumes a sense of completion and perfection. We tend to place an inordinate share of responsibility on the shoulders of God, as it were — arguing that God’s involvement in creation necessarily implies wholeness. Our parashah this week, Tazri·a-Metzora, however demonstrate otherwise; humans are commanded to complete creation and enter into partnership with God. This lesson is evident from the opening of Parashat Tazri·a, which teaches, “On the eighth day, the flesh of [a newborn male’s] foreskin will be circumcised” (Leviticus 12:3). Why does God make a deliberate choice to create boys uncircumcised? What does this act teach us about the significance of brit milah — both for the particular act of circumcision and more generally, regarding the essence of Judaism?

Read More
Miracles of All Kinds

Miracles of All Kinds

Apr 24, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Tazria | Yom Hazikaron-Yom Ha'atzma'ut

Conspicuous miracles move us more swiftly and deeply than inconspicuous miracles. The latter elude our detection because they are an everyday occurrence. The commonplace numbs our sense of wonder, even as the daily experience of grandeur strips us of awe and radical amazement. It is surely one of the functions of religion to keep our wellsprings of wonder from running dry.

Read More
Abracadabra!

Abracadabra!

Apr 24, 2004 By Rachel Ain | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

Abracadabra! These words, recited by magicians all over the world, when broken down into smaller words introduce us to the truest mystery-the creation of the world. A’bara K’adabra – I will create as I have spoken. Just as magicians claim to have the power to change the reality that is in front of them with words, so too, when God created the world it was done not with hands, not with tools, but with speech. In Genesis 1:3 the first thing that God does is to speak. This verse reads, “And God said: ‘Let there be light’; And there was light.” What is it about the power of the spoken word that causes it to transform worlds?

Read More
Spirituality in the Laws of Purity

Spirituality in the Laws of Purity

Apr 5, 2003 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Tazria

My spiritual and intellectual journey as a teacher of Torah began with the purity system in Leviticus. Perhaps this was a strange place to begin my life’s passion — exploring genital discharges, corpse contamination and leprosy. However, the study of biblical purity laws yielded for me a profound appreciation for the beauty and wisdom of our tradition.

Read More
Know from Whence You Come

Know from Whence You Come

Apr 13, 2002 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Tazria

Commentators throughout the ages have been perplexed as to why a woman who has just given birth is considered by the Torah to be impure, and furthermore, why she needs to bring a sin offering after the birth! (Leviticus 12: 2, 6) After all, isn’t the first commandment given by God to Adam to “be fruitful and multiply”? (Genesis 1:28)

Read More
Purifying Waters?

Purifying Waters?

Apr 28, 2001 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

“These are the verses that try men’s souls.” Or better, these are the verses that pain the souls of numbers of serious Jewish women. I refer to Leviticus 12:2—5 in Parshat Tazri·a, and Leviticus 15:19—24 in Parshat Metzora. The first verses describe the laws regarding the days of a woman’s “uncleanness” (tum’ah) after giving birth to a child, which last twice as long if she gives birth to a female child. The second verses refer to the “impurity” of a menstruating woman (niddah). Anything she lies on or sits on becomes “unclean,” and any man who has sexual relations with her also becomes “unclean.” While almost all of the Torah’s impurity laws became obsolete after the destruction of the Temple, these laws, regarding postpartum and menstruating women, remain on the books.

Read More
Life’s Triumph Over Death

Life’s Triumph Over Death

Apr 8, 2000 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Tazria

Each morning we begin our prayers with a remarkable expression of gratitude. 

Read More
Jews and Medicine

Jews and Medicine

May 2, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

Our family seders always border on a medical convention. My sister, Hanna, who did not live to celebrate Passover with us this year, had three children, all of whom are doctors and all of whom married doctors (well, one is married to a veterinarian, but that’s close enough). The pattern is not an accident. Hanna was by training a nurse and her first husband, Calvin, was an obstetrician. In the mid-1950s, they settled in Vineland, New Jersey. Over the next 20 years, before his untimely death in 1974, he delivered half the babies born there, including the three Schorsch children. For both Hanna and Calvin, medicine was a calling which saturated the conversation around the dinner table. Their children grew up in the loving presence of medical paragons.

Read More
The Word is Flesh and Bread

The Word is Flesh and Bread

Apr 20, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

For Jews, the Hebrew Bible has always been a canon without closure, and the key to that historic paradox is the way we read it. Midrash posits more than one meaning to a word, verse or book. The literal meaning does not begin to exhaust the contents of the sacred text. Beneath the surface lie deeper meanings waiting to be tapped by resourceful readers. What distinguishes a divine from a human text, the Rabbis contended, is a multiplicity of meanings. In their sensitive hands, Scripture (the Tanakh) never lost its pliability: a finite number of books were made to yield an infinity of new readings.

Read More
The Sanctity of the Torah

The Sanctity of the Torah

Apr 1, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Tazria | Shabbat Hahodesh

It is not often that we read from three sifrei Torah on one Shabbat. But this week Shabbat displays a bit of the pageantry we associate with Simhat Torah because of the convergence of three sacred moments: the regular parasha for the week, Tazri·a; the first day of the new month of Nisan (Rosh Hodesh); and the fourth of the four special Sabbaths before Passover, Shabbat ha-Hodesh. So in addition to the sefer Torah forTazri·a, we take out two other scrolls for the readings from Numbers (28:9-15) and Exodus (12:1-20) appropriate for the occasions. To read from three books of the Torah out of the same scroll would be unwieldy and time-consuming (a lot of holy rolling!). Hence three scrolls, to avoid burdening the congregation with distracting delays.

Read More
Tazria

Tazria

Jan 1, 1980

42 A man came from Baal-shalishah and he brought the man of God some bread of the first reaping — twenty loaves of barley bread, and some fresh grain in his sack. And [Elisha] said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.”

Read More
Tazria

Tazria

Jan 1, 1980

1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 

Read More
Tazria-Metzora

Tazria-Metzora

Jan 1, 1980

1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to the Israelite people thus: When a woman at childbirth bears a male, she shall be unclean seven days; she shall be unclean as at the time of her menstrual infirmity.

Read More
Reset Search

SUBSCRIBE TO TORAH FROM JTS

Our regular commentaries and videos are a great way to stay intellectually and spiritually engaged with Jewish thought and wisdom.