Updated: May 1, 2020
Iyyar 1, 5780
Welcome to Tazria-Metzora (She Conceives/The Infected One), this week’s Parashiot (Torah portions).
Tazria (She Conceives)
· Leviticus 12:1–13:59
· Exodus 12:1–20
· Ezekiel 45:16–46:18
· Luke 5:12–15
“YAHUVEH said to Moshe and Aharon in the Land of Egypt, 'This month shall be for you the beginning of the months; it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.'" (Exodus 12:1–2)
In last week’s Torah portion, YAHUVEH issued a fire to consume the offerings on the altar, and the Divine Presence came to dwell in the newly built Sanctuary.
In Parasha Tazria, ELOHIM provides Moses with the laws of purification after childbirth. He also gives the laws concerning afflictions of the skin.
The name of this week’s Torah portion, Tazria, is related to the Hebrew root word ‘zarah’ (זרע), meaning ‘seed’; therefore, an alternative translation of Tazria is ‘She Bears Seed’ or ‘Bearing Seed’, rather than ‘She Conceives’.
“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives [tazria] and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean [tameh] seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean [tameh].” (Leviticus 12:1–2)
When considering the purification rituals that YAHUVEH gave for mothers following childbirth, many questions naturally arise:
· Why is a woman ritually impure when she gives birth?
· Why is there a need for an offering?
“When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. ... He shall offer them before YAHUVEH to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood.” (Leviticus 12:6–7)
· Why are there 7 days of isolation following the birth of a boy, coupled with 33 days of ritual purity?
· Why are there 14 days of isolation following the birth of a girl, coupled with 66 days of ritual purity?
“But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation.” (Leviticus 12:5)
These questions regarding childbirth puzzle even Jewish scholars since being fruitful and multiplying is the very first of all commandments to humankind, and a woman giving birth to a child is fulfilling this YAHUVEH-given mitzvah (commandment).
What’s more, holding your newborn child in your arms for the first time has to be among the most exhilarating spiritual moments anyone can experience.
It is also one of the most transformational; so many aspects of life, especially for the mother, can and do change following the birth of a child, particularly after the firstborn.
In the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), we see that Miriam (Mary) observed this law after the birth of YAHUSHUA.
“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moshe [Moses], Yosef [Joseph] and Miriam [Mary] took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to ELOHIM (as it is written in the Law of ELOHIM, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to ELOHIM’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of YAHUVEH: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’” (Luke 2:22–24)
As for the period of isolation, new mothers should be given the luxury of a private time of bonding with their children, away from prying eyes, as well as a time to reflect on navigating the journey forward.
The differences in the length of isolation between the birth of a boy and the birth of a girl have been explained in a variety of ways; for instance, since Jewish boys undergo circumcision on the eighth day, the mother must recover more quickly.
The burnt offering and the sin offering that are given following childbirth are seen as a means of transitioning from a time of isolation back into the community by first drawing close to YAHUVEH. It is a special moment of thanksgiving that both the child and the mother survived the pain and risk of childbirth.
This important juncture reminds us that transitions matter; as we move from one phase to the next in our lives, we should first draw close to GOD with thanksgiving.
Periods of Isolation
This week’s Parasha also provides the laws of purification from the ancient Biblical disease tzara’at, which is inaccurately translated ‘leprosy’.
The Hebrew word may be derived from the Aramaic word ‘segiruta’, meaning ‘isolation’, and have a linguistic root that means ‘smiting’.
Some consider it a collective term for various skin diseases that might include eczema, psoriasis, and ringworm. Tzara’at also can show up on clothing as green or red patches and even on walls, as perhaps mildew.
It causes spiritual defilement and requires purification and a time of isolation to prevent the spread of contamination.
If after a 7-day period of quarantine, the Cohen (Priest) sees that the disease is spreading, the “leper” is to be isolated from the community in order to prevent defiling and infecting others by contact.
“And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lip, and shall cry: ‘Unclean, unclean [tameh, tameh].' All the days wherein the plague is in him he shall be unclean; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his dwelling be.” (Leviticus 13:45–46)
Setting Time Aside for GOD
In the Torah, isolation or time alone is not restricted to physical.
In the words of a Jewish saying, “A person who does not have an hour to him or herself every day is not a person.”
YAH invites each one of us to spend time alone with HIM in order to deepen our relationship in ways we cannot do in a group setting.
There are plenty of Biblical examples to follow, as well.
Moses met with YAHUVEH alone at the burning bush, as well as on Mount Sinai while receiving the Ten Commandments.
David also spent much time communing with YAH.
The Prophet Elijah experienced YAH's Presence pass by when he was alone in a cave. He heard YAH’s voice as ‘kol demamah dekhah’, a phrase that literally means ‘voice of thin silence’; translated in the King James Bible as the ‘still, small voice’.
To hear such a magnificent voice, it is helpful to temporarily leave the noise of our daily lives and enjoy some quiet moments with YAHUVEH.
“And early in the morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.” (Mark 1:35)
“But HE HIMSELF would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)
Surely if YAHUSHUA needed to slip away from everyone’s demands in order to have time alone, then we also have this crucial need.
Of course, all things must be in balance. The Word of YAH warns us against excessive isolation, which can cause us to focus on our own desires.
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1)
Although contagious diseases are definitely cause for concern, the Bible makes it plain that we have been infected by something that is far more lethal and contagious than any physical disease.
Since the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, we have all been infected with the venom of the serpent, and all are subject to sin that separates us from YAH. We are so defiled by sin that even our righteousness is like filthy rags.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Only the blood of the MESSIAH, YAHUSHUA, the Passover LAMB, can cleanse us from our defilement and uncleanness to come into true fellowship with the living GOD. Just as YAHUSHUA made the lepers pure and whole once again, so too can HE cleanse us and present us Holy and without blemish to the FATHER.
“Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch — as you really are. For Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Welcome to Metzora (Infected One), this week’s additional Torah portion.
Metzora (Infected One)
· Leviticus 14:1–15:33
· Malachi 3:4–24(4:6)
· Matthew 8:1–4, 11:2–6
· John 1:19–34
“Then YAHUVEH spoke to Moses, saying, “This will be the law of the leper [metzora] for the day of his cleansing.” (Leviticus 14:1)
Parasha Tazria, YAHUVEH gave the laws pertaining to ritual purity and impurity for childbirth. It also identified tzara'at, skin afflictions that caused a person to be ritually impure.
Parasha Metzora continues with the theme of Tazria. In it, YAHUVEH gives Moses the law for the recovered ‘metzora’ (commonly mistranslated as ‘leper’) and the ritual purification of the metzora by the kohen (priest).
If the kohen determined that the metzora had healed, he or she underwent a process of ritual cleansing that began with the offering of two birds, one which was sacrificed and the other which was set free.
Then the healed metzora washed his clothes, shaved his body, and entered the mikvah (ritual bath) before being allowed back into the camp. Though he could enter the general camp, for seven days he had to remain outside his home.
On the eighth day (eight being a number that symbolizes new beginnings), the healed person brought a grain and a guilt offering (minchah and asham).
As part of the cleansing ceremony, the kohen would put some of the blood of the offering on the tip of the right ear of the person to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand and on the big toe of the right foot (Leviticus 14:14).
This represents cleansing of the total person from everything we hear, everything we do, and every path we take.
For those serious about remaining in the community as whole, healed people, it also represents a determination to remain Holy by being careful about what one hears, deliberate in what one does, and mindful of where one goes.
Not only did people need to be healed and ritually cleaned of tzara'at – even houses could be infected.
When such an affliction invaded a home, just like a malignant cancer, it had to be cut out and removed. Even the stones and timber would be removed from the house and carried off to a designated “unclean place.”
Sometimes, however, the only remedy for the infection was the total destruction of the entire house (Leviticus 14:43–45).
King Solomon, in all his wisdom, wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to build up but also a time to tear down.
Likewise, sometimes we find ourselves in environments that are toxic. When that environment resists the cure, and nothing we do can cleanse the situation so that it becomes beneficial to human life, health, and growth, we must move from this situation and start over, despite the heavy cost and losses involved.
Although some may encounter such times when a relationship has become so defiled and unhealthy that they must move on, trusting that YAHUVEH will help them begin anew, most certainly, discernment from the RUACH HAKODESH (HOLY SPIRIT) is necessary to know when to keep holding on in faith and when to move on.
The Mikvah’s Cleansing Waters
Parasha Metzora also deals with cleansing from bodily secretions, the laws of niddah (a woman’s menstrual cycle), and sexual relations within marriage.
The law of niddah calls upon a woman to be separated from the community for a period of seven days during her menstrual cycle (Leviticus 15:19–31).
Sexual relations are forbidden at this time between a husband and his wife, and may only be resumed after the woman has properly immersed herself in the mikvah (ritual water immersion).
Complete immersion (tevilah) is one of the primary Biblical ways of effecting ritual purification, and it is essential to purity and holiness in Judaism. In fact, in Temple times, anyone who entered the Temple, including priests, first immersed in a mikvah.
Although Temple sacrifices have been interrupted, the ritual use of the mikvah has continued to this day.
The mikvah in Israel and around the world is a private affair, usually maintained in an inconspicuous building.
Women immerse themselves without clothing, with only a female attendant present to witness her full immersion. Sometimes the facility provides cosmetics, creams, and lotions for the woman to beautify herself before returning home to resume relations with her husband.
The mikvah is seen to symbolize spiritual rebirth, and the Christian ceremony of baptism has its roots in this Jewish rite. Indeed, the immersion of YAHUSHUA (before His ministry began) by Yochanan (John) was actually a mikvah (John 1:19–28).
“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of GOD.” (John 3:5)
“For, behold, the day comes, it burns as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that comes shall set them ablaze, says YAHUVEH of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” (Malachi 4:1)
This year, Parasha Metzora is read on the Sabbath that precedes Pesach (Passover). That's right! Pesach begins next week!
For the Haftarah (Prophetic Portion), Malachi 3:4–24 is read. This prophecy references the coming of the MESSIAH — the Day of the LORD!
Hearing that the Day of the LORD is coming soon is good news for those of us who look to YAHUSHUA’s return for our redemption; but for those who reject the LORD and work wickedness, it will be a terrible day of judgment.
In this chapter of Malachi, the way of teshuvah (repentance) back to the LORD is described in terms of giving. The whole nation of Israel was under a curse because they had robbed GOD by not bringing their tithes and offerings; but great blessings were promised to those who would obey YAHUVEH’s command to give.
“Bring the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in MY House, and try ME now, says YAHUVEH of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall be more than sufficiency.” (Malachi 3:10)
Before the coming of this day, however, it is traditionally believed that YAHUVEH will send Elijah the Prophet — the one who never died but went up to Heaven alive in a fiery chariot. For this reason, a place is set at every Passover Seder (ritual meal) for Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) in the hopes that this will be the year he arrives, signaling the imminent coming of the MESSIAH.
"Behold, I send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and awesome Day of the LORD." (Malachi 4:5)