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.

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Completing Creation

Completing Creation

Apr 17, 2009 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

One of the better known rabbinic midrashim connects the disease of leprosy with the sin of slandering: that is, God afflicts the slanderer with leprosy (B.T. Arakhin 15b). Underlying the connection is the close resemblance in the Hebrew words for each. According to Resh Lakish, who authored this midrash in the third century long after the Temple had been leveled, the biblical term for leprosy, metzora (Leviticus 14:1), is but a compressed form of the rabbinic term for slandering, motzi shem ra (literally, to give someone a bad name). Even to an ear untrained in Hebrew, the similarity in sounds of this clever identification is apparent.

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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.

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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.

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A Ritual of Cleansing

A Ritual of Cleansing

Apr 12, 2003 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Metzora

Twelve years ago, just before I was ordained as a Conservative rabbi, I remember feeling that I wished the age—old practice of putting oil on the heads of “ordainees” was still in vogue. I had spent 6 intense years of my life working to become a rabbi — living at the Seminary, reading and writing voluminously about Talmud, Bible, History and Theology, studying for long hours in the library — and I think I wanted a concrete ritual to mark that hard work, those long hours, and that accomplishment. I believe I also wanted a special ritual that would mark my change in status — one day a regular Jew — the next day — a rabbi.

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On the Sanctification of Time

On the Sanctification of Time

Apr 8, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Metzora

For as long as I knew her, my mother suffered from psoriasis. Her elbows were scaly and her shoulders covered with a patina of dandruff. A close look at her hair would show the lesions on her head from which it came. Psoriasis is not life-threatening, merely discomforting and unsightly. It is related to nerves as much as anything and can flare up with stress.

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Realizing Our Human Potential

Realizing Our Human Potential

Apr 25, 2009 By Alan Cooper | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

This week’s double dose of purity laws is unlikely to top anyone’s list of favorite Torah portions. While the laws may be discomfiting and obscure, however, they also are fundamental to an understanding of biblical theology and anthropology, and they convey a message that transcends their particular details.

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Finding Holiness Through Boundaries

Finding Holiness Through Boundaries

Apr 12, 2008 By David M. Ackerman | Commentary | Metzora

The Book of Vayikra concerns itself with a truly interesting collection of topics, among them animal sacrifice, priestly behavior, food, skin diseases, and blood.

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Authentic Judaism

Authentic Judaism

Apr 28, 2012 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Metzora | Tazria

Many modern Jews have declared the opening verses of this week’s Torah portion not just arcane, but misogynist. Indeed, the laws regarding postpartum impurity emerge from a priestly world of sacrifices and distinctions that seems distant today. Our ancient Sages, however, radically reinterpreted that passage and the creation of humanity in Genesis with playful translations that provide an opening for insights into the origins of gender.

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Boundaries: Not Only Healthy, but Divine

Boundaries: Not Only Healthy, but Divine

Apr 3, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Metzora

Boundaries are the focal point of Parashat Metzora, and indeed they are the obsession of the book of Leviticus.

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