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.

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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.

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How to Approach God

How to Approach God

Apr 5, 2019 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Commentary | Tazria

There are probably no Torah readings as widely misunderstood as the Torah readings for this week and next week, Parashat Tazria and Parashat Metzora. These parshiyot are devoted entirely to the subject of ritual purity. They discuss what causes people to become ritually impure, how they can become ritually pure again, and what the effects of this state are. For many modern readers, this topic is off-putting. It seems primitive and far removed from the real concerns of an ethical and monotheistic religion.

And yet to the authors of the Bible, these laws were of paramount importance. They were seamlessly intertwined with the idea of monotheism.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Birth, Both Spiritual and Physical

Birth, Both Spiritual and Physical

Apr 2, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Tazria

How can men understand something like pregnancy, which is so fundamentally foreign to the male experience? As contemporary Jews, we often raise questions about how our classical sources, compiled by men, portray “the other,” in this case, child-bearing women. We find in the midrash above an ancient rabbi’s attempt to understand childbirth, the opening subject of this week’s Torah portion, and identify men’s role in it.

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Keep Calm and Consult a Priest

Keep Calm and Consult a Priest

Apr 8, 2016 By Hillel Gruenberg | Commentary | Tazria

Tazria begins with a discussion of the ritual purity of a woman following childbirth and goes on to relate the treatment of leprosy. Reflecting on this juxtaposition of topics, my thoughts turned to the Zika virus, which has garnered global attention because of evidence it may cause birth defects in the children of mothers infected while pregnant. 

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Here I Am, <em>Tzara’at</em> and All

Here I Am, Tzara’at and All

Apr 8, 2016 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Tazria

When I was 12, a few weeks before my bat mitzvah I went in to meet with one of the rabbis of my synagogue. At the time, the synagogue newsletter included a “pasuk of the week,” a verse from that week’s Torah portion that was particularly interesting or thought provoking. However, as the rabbi confessed to me, the week of my bat mitzvah was to be the end of that custom. He just couldn’t find anything that fit the bill. That week’s parashah? Tazria.

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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?

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