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.