Torah Weekly

For the week ending 13 April 2013 / 2 Iyyar 5773

Parshat Tazria - Metzora

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah commands a woman to bring a korban after the birth of a child. A son is to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. The Torah introduces the phenomenon of tzara'at (often mistranslated as leprosy) — a miraculous affliction that attacks people, clothing and buildings to awaken a person to spiritual failures. A kohen must be consulted to determine whether a particular mark is tzara'at or not. The kohen isolates the sufferer for a week. If the malady remains unchanged, confinement continues for a second week, after which the kohen decides the person's status. The Torah describes the different forms of tzara'at. One whose tzara'at is confirmed wears torn clothing, does not cut his hair, and must alert others that he is ritually impure. He may not have normal contact with people. The phenomenon of tzara'at on clothing is described in detail.


The Torah describes the procedure for a metzora (a person afflicted with tzara'at) upon conclusion of his isolation. This process extends for a week and involves korbanot and immersions in the mikveh. Then, a kohen must pronounce the metzora pure. A metzora of limited financial means may substitute lesser offerings for the more expensive animals. Before a kohen diagnoses that a house has tzara'at, household possessions are removed to prevent them from also being declared ritually impure. The tzara'at is removed by smashing and rebuilding that section of the house. If it reappears, the entire building must be razed. The Torah details those bodily secretions that render a person spiritually impure, thereby preventing his contact with holy items, and the Torah defines how one regains a state of ritual purity.


Two Signs

"And on the eighth day, the flesh of the foreskin shall be circumcised."(12:3)

The greatness of Shabbat can be seen from the fact that a boy is not given brit mila until he is eight days old, until he has experienced Shabbat. In other words, the reason that brit mila is performed on the eighth day after birth is so that the he can experience Shabbat before the mila. Only by passing through the holiness of Shabbat can he reach a level where he becomes fit to enter into the holiness of the Jewish People through brit mila.

More Than Skin Deep

"And on the eighth day, the flesh of the foreskin shall be circumcised."(12:3)

The custom at a brit is to say to the parents "Just as he has been brought into the Covenant (brit), so should he be brought to Torah, marriage and good deeds." Just as he has been brought into the brit, which is now an inseparable part of him, thus also should all the other mitzvot of the Torah form an inseparable part of him.

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