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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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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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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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