The Values of a Jewish Home

The Values of a Jewish Home

Apr 16, 2021 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria | Yom Hazikaron-Yom Ha'atzma'ut

In the precious days “Before the Coronavirus Era” (B.C.E.), the parshiyot of Tazria-Metzora seemed wholly disconnected from our lives, presenting the perennial challenge of relevance (or irrelevance) to even the most talented darshan (sermonizer). How are we to connect leprous plagues attacking both body and abode to our daily lives? And to what extent does the experience of quarantine resonate with our modern reality? These are only two of the many questions that we would have posed in a pre-Covid world.

Read More
Living Outside the Camp

Living Outside the Camp

Apr 24, 2020 By Jason Rogoff | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

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, it feels difficult to escape their prescience during our current global pandemic. As we all struggle with the challenges of social distancing and the uncertainty of the future, I believe that insights into the details of our parshiyot can provide us with points of reflection for our present reality.

Read More
It Passes and We Stay

It Passes and We Stay

Apr 20, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period—
When March is scarcely here

The double parashiyot of Tazria and Metzora are devoted in their entireties to the Biblical notion of tumah, usually translated as “impurity.” In them, we learn three of the major sources of tumah: childbirth (Lev. 12); a condition known as tzara’at, which can manifest on skin, clothing, or the walls of one’s house (Lev. 13–14); and bodily secretions (Lev. 15). The two other primary sources of tumah are touching or carrying the carcasses of certain animals (Lev. 11) and contact with a human corpse (Num. 19).

Read More
Guarding Our Tongues

Guarding Our Tongues

Apr 28, 2017 By Abigail Uhrman | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

Becoming is better than being.

—Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

This week’s parashah discusses tzara’at, a skin disease understood in rabbinic tradition as punishment for lashon hara, evil speech. The public castigation that the metzora suffers is a powerful warning for us to “guard our tongues.” It was with words that God created the world, and our words have potential to build, create, and sustain life and human dignity, or to be a source of pain and destruction.

Read More
Gender Inside and Outside the Camp

Gender Inside and Outside the Camp

Apr 28, 2017 By Joy Ladin | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

The idea that others would examine and report on intimate details of our bodies—that such things would be of communal concern, and subject us to institutional regulation—may seem archaic. But as transgender people know, when it comes to gender, this kind of surveillance is alive and well.

Read More
Humanity: Both Glory and Shame

Humanity: Both Glory and Shame

Apr 9, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Metzora

Rabbi Morris Shapiro (z”l) spent his last years teaching in the JTS beit midrash. He was a Holocaust survivor and arguably one of the best talmudic minds of his generation, and we who had the privilege of learning with him here knew well that one of his most frequently cited teachings was the phrase this midrash brings to mind: know before Whom you stand.

Read More
<em>Inside Out</em>

Inside Out

Apr 15, 2016 By Ally Sterling | Commentary | Metzora

This week’s parashah, Metzora, details the special procedures a kohen performs to purify the recovered metzora (a person suffering from some kind of skin condition), tzara’at in the home, and ritual impurity. Metzora is about the insides (childbirth and emissions) and outsides (skin afflictions) of the body. I created Inside Out as part of a series of biological drawings that explores the beauty and intricateness of the inner workings of the human body. When I made Inside Out, I wanted to explore the different functions and shapes of human anatomy and physiology, and also the way in which everything is connected.

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
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
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