Thursday, April 27, 2006

DVAR TORAH: Tazria-Metzora/Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Iyar

"If your friend calls you an ass, put a saddle on your back... bend over like a duck but always keep your eyes facing skyward" - Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Baba Kama 92b (something we studied in Gemara today.)

Check out this article. It's just like the dissertation I wanted to write for my eventual (God-willing) doctorate: JEEEEEEEEEEEWS INNNNNNN SPAAAAAAACE!!!

Also Chodesh Tov to all and welcome to the only month named after a place, a popular telivison drama, and two letters of the english alphabet: ER... I mean, Iyar.

Onto the Dvar Torah!

Alright, so the thing that piqued my interest in these parshiot, which are chock-filled with laws of purity and more often, impurity, is the law of spreading of tzaras. Someone who has completely normal skin is not considered to have tzaras (I don't want to call it leprosy because it is not actually leprosy, nor do I want to give it any other name because tzaraas/tzaraat can't be easily translated). Suddenly the white on your skin makes you impure and you have to be ejected from camp for a week (while hollering at all who pass, "UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!"). If it had gone away after that week, then the metzora is free to return to society. If it had remained or spread at all, they relock him in and leave him for another week. If however the metzora turns completely white, from head to toe, without any healthy skin whatsoever, he is declared clean and reenters society, but if any healthy skin grows thereafter, he is reinterned outside of the camp. This is fascinating and I feel that this paralels something we learn from a midrash, which I am too lazy to try and track down now. The messiah will supposedly come in either a time of perfection or a time of complete chaos. The end of the world could be a time of everlasting world peace catyclismic war on Har Megido. So too, one is declared clean on one of two conditions: either they are completely healthy or completely infected. Only complete good or complete evil will bring the messiah... supposedly.

Another note is that in the purification process for purifying a person, a house, or clothing, involves, besides having to shave off ALL hair (including eyebrows, which must look completely bizarre), taking cedar and hyssop. The cedar is the tallest tree and the hyssop (probably more known by its arabic name, za'atar) is the lowliest shrub. הקטנים עם הגדלים, as we see in Psalm 115, one of the psalms (actually split into two sections) we read for Hallel today. The big with the small. Together the great and the meek perform God's will, and likewise the rich person brings a bull or goat and a pauper will bring turtledoves, doves and the completly impovershed will bring matzah, and God will accept all of them each the same, הקטנים עם הגדלים. Beautiful.

You can read more about these parashiot in the Illustrated Guide to Tzaras which can be found in the Beit Midrash of the Columbia Barnard Hillel, unless Elena, Jaymie and Simone have completely destroyed it along with the Illustrated Guide to Olah Sacrifice, Illustrated Guide to Yom Kippur Avodah, and Illustrated Guide to Mincha Offering. If you cannot find the book, pester them, they probably have it hidden somewhere.

Chodesh Tov and then Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,

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