Torah Weekly - Parshat Tazria

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Parshat Tazria

For the week ending 3 Nissan 5760 / 7 & 8 April 2000

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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 disease 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 tara'at or not. The kohen isolates the sufferer for a week. If the disease 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.




    "If a tzara'at affliction will be in a person..." (13:9)

    While flying from Detroit to Chicago a couple of weeks ago, I happened to pick up the in-flight buying guide from the pocket of the seat in front of me. What I saw there astounded me. I was amazed at the entrepreneurial skills of the advertisers. Here were solutions to problems that I didn't even realize that I had: Tweezers to remove unsightly hairs from the nostrils of your pet poodle. A digitized sound generator that replicates the sound of a gurgling brook to soothe a depressed goldfish. A set of dentures fixed in a permanent smile to guarantee that at your next job interview you create a positive vibe.

    Okay. I'm exaggerating. But not much.

    Advertising and consumerism have turned us into a nation of "needers." I need therefore I am. From the moment we turn on our TV in the morning, from the moment we pick up our morning papers, on the subway, at the movies, we are reminded that we are lacking. There are things out there that any self-respecting person ought to have. And we don't have them. We need. We need so much. Although this may have an amusing side, its implications are rather more disturbing.

    If I were to ask you to sum up the difference between a child and an adult in one sentence, what would it be?

    I would like to suggest that the difference is that a child sees himself as the center of the world, whereas an adult sees G-d as the center of the world.

    A child is prepared to wake up a continent if he has a tickle in the back of his throat. An adult understands that he is not the center of creation. Things don't revolve around me, around my self-gratification, around my self-fulfillment. An adult realizes that life is no more than a series of opportunities to give; life is no more than one scenario after another in which I can connect to the Ultimate Giver, by being like Him. According to this definition, most of us are still toddlers.

    This is what the Torah means when it says that we are created "in the image of G-d." It doesn't mean that G-d has a face, arms or a white beard. When the Torah speaks anthropomorphically, it does so because it wants to "speak in our language." On a deeper level, however, when it says that man is created "in the image of G-d," it means that just like G-d is the Giver, man is created to be a giver, and not a needer.

    In this week's Torah portion, we learn of a malady called tzara'at. For centuries, tzara'at has been translated erroneously as "leprosy". Even a cursory glance at this week's portion shows the inaccuracy of such a translation. Leprosy is a highly contagious disease. However, if something that looked like tzara'at broke out on a newlywed, or if it afflicted someone during a festival, the Talmud tells us that the kohen (the only person capable of establishing the nature of the affliction) should delay his examination so that the joy of the wedding festivities or of the holiday should proceed without impediment. If tzara'at really meant leprosy, allowing someone with this disease to roam loose, rubbing shoulders with all and sundry at a wedding feast or a Jewish holiday, would be criminal negligence.

    Tzara'at was not a physical disease but a malaise of the spirit. It was merely the physical symptom of a chronic spiritual illness. If we do not see such a disease today, it is because our bodies have become so desensitized to our spiritual state that they can no longer act as a barometer to our spiritual well-being.

    One of the causes of tzara'at was chronic selfishness.

    From the Jewish perspective, society does not exist for its own sake, nor does it exist so that we may fulfill our own needs, it exists so that we may become givers, so that we may exercise our kindness and his caring. When someone fails in this fundamental area, he demonstrates that he has failed to understand the purpose of society itself. Thus he has no place in society until he can cure himself of this failing. Therefore the Torah prescribes that he must dwell "outside of the camp" until he ceases being a chronic "needer" and returns to being a reflection of G-d Himself -- the Ultimate Giver.

    Love of the Land
    Selections from classical Torah sources
    which express the special relationship between
    the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael


    Built in 1538 by Suleiman the Magnificent, this gate serves as one of the main connections between the Old City and the rest of Jerusalem.

    The Arabs call it Bab el-Halil (Gate of the Beloved) as a reference to Abraham, the Beloved of G-d, who is buried in Hebron, since the road to that southern city leaves from here. But it is the westerly orientation of the gate which has endowed it with the name indicating that the road to Jaffa begins here.

    In 1898 the Turks breached the Old City wall and paved a road over the moat so that their visiting ally, Kaiser Wilhelm II of German would not have to dismount from his royal carriage. A quarter of a century later, with the Turks and Germans vanquished in World War One, the victorious British General Allenby and his staff dismounted from their horses and entered the Holy City on foot in the traditional manner of pilgrims.

    Love of the Land Archives

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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