Saturday, April 21, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Tazria/Metzora (the one about rashes and bodily functions)

I have to be quick this week.

Firstly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the events of the past week in Virginia. We know that humanity can descend into darkness and evil. Few of us know this as firsthand as Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor. He was an Israeli citizen and a professor at Virginia Tech. When the gunman was coming toward his classroom, he blocked the door with his body so his students could escape from the window, himself getting killed. On Yom HaShoah V'HaGvurah, Rememberance Day for the Holocaust and the Heroes, he was both a survivor and a heroic martyr. ZT"L.

On an entirely different note, this week we read two Torah portions about matters of the body. Circumcision will be for boys on the eighth day of life. Why the eighth day? Tradition states that Isaac was circumcised on his eighth day of life and this commandment was previously mentioned in Genesis 17:12. We should be thankful that we weren't commanded to be circumcised when Ishmael was, at age 13, or Abraham at the ripe old age of 99.

The rest of the two parshiot deal with purity and impurity. Women have certain periods... well, periods that they are considered ritually unclean and we derive the laws of Niddah. Births of boys and girls demand sacrifices for impurity (not observed today). We also have the fun laws of Tzaras, commonly mistakenly translated as leprosy. It is a disease that can affect people, clothing, and houses. There really isn't much to say on the topic, but the most famous example of the Metzora, a person afflicted with this, is Miriam, Moses' sister. She speaks ill of her sister in law, Tziporah, Moses' wife and God afflicts her with Tzaras. The word מצורע (metzora) might be a contraction ofמוציא שם רע (motzi shem ra), a slanderer. Tzaras seems to affect people, clothing, and homes due to something bad they did. It shouldn't be looked at as a curse but rather as a sign that Teshuva, repentance must be done for something. Today, without tzaras we have no such indicator that we did something wrong. Tzaras seems to have been replaced with Tzuras, but that's another story.

Shabbat Shalom,

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