Weekly Reading Insights

Tazriyah 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Tazriyah
To be read on 3 Nissan 5763 (April 5)

Torah: Lev. 12:1-13:59
Haftorah: Kings II 4:42-5:19 (Elisha cures tzara’at )
Stats: Tazriyah 4th Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 27th overall, contains 5 positive mitzvot and 2 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 128 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 48th out of 54 in overall length.

Tazria opens with childbirth laws, followed by a long discussion of the distinguishing signs of tzara’at* on skin, hair, and garments. * tzara’at is a discoloration appearing on skin, hair, garments, and houses, and is sometimes (inaccurately) translated as 'leprosy'


When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male (Lev. 12:2)

Last week's Torah portion discusses kosher food, and this week's begins with childbirth. The connection of these two topics teaches us that the parents' obligation to the child begins even before he is born. A pregnant woman must be very careful about what she eats, because it will affect her child.

(R. Akiva Eiger)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

I have previously referred to an allusion contained in the words: "A person having a blemish in his skin" (Leviticus 13:2). We can understand this in relation to the vestments for the priests which were to be "for dignity and adornment." These were to symbolize the Katunot Or, "garments of light" (the word "Or" here spelt with an Alef, meaning "light"), which Adam and Eve wore before the sin of the 'Tree of Knowledge' which they had to subsequently exchange for Katunot Or ("Or" spelt with an Ayin, meaning skin) garments of skin. While on one hand this demonstrates a fall from grace, Onkelos translates Katunot Or ("Or" spelt with Ayin), as "precious garments" (Genesis 3,21). At first glance it seems that Onkelos is mixing Katunot Or (spelt with an Alef) with Katunot Or (spelt with an Ayin). In fact, he is alluding to a mystical dimension to this comparison which is rooted in Kohelet 2,13: "as the advantage of light over darkness." The message there is that G-d makes purity emerge even out of impurity. [From the "Or", or "skin", eventually will come a spiritual benefit - what appeared to be a descent , will ultimately be an advantage).

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:27-63 Tazriyah)

This week's and next week's portions both speak primarily about tzara'at, a discoloration appearing on skin, hair, garments, and houses (sometimes inaccurately translated as leprosy). Indeed, most years these two readings are combined. Tzara'at was a physical affliction which often was caused by inappropriate speech. While this manifestation does not exist today, we can still learn from the Torah's description of it.

In the laws of tzara'at is an amazing detail: if some of a person's skin is afflicted with one of the many blemishes that the Torah describes, the individual becomes spiritually impure. However, if the affliction covers his or her entire body, they are deemed pure! "If it all turned white, it is pure" (Lev. 13:9). This does not make sense. More of a bad thing should make a situation worse, not good!?

It is written in the Talmud concerning the imminent redemption, "In the generation when the son of David (Mashiach) will come...the entire kingdom will convert to heresy and there will be no rebuke..." (Sanhedrin 97a). This means that when the world will be ruled not partially but totally by a belief that denies G-d and his providence, this is an indication that the redemption is imminent. The proof cited is the above law of tzara'at! Isolated blemishes of tzara'at are a sign of spiritual failing and are a consequence of our sins, yet when it covers the person totally - "when it all turns white - it is pure!"

Let's ask again from this new angle. How is it possible that such a low spiritual perception - when evil has the upper hand - is indicative of the Redemption?

Either it is divine will, regardless of our logic and reality, or, specifically when the world will be at a very low ebb, G-d will come with His infinite power and bring the redemption, as the verse says, "For Myself I will do it" (Isaiah 48:11).

These explanations apply to our lives. When evil will spread over the entire world, immersing us in its influence, this will not be just an extreme situation. If this were so, we would find some remnants of good somewhere, struggling for survival.

The fact that everything is crazy tells us that all of the forces of evil are emerging, making their very last stand, because they know their end is near. This is the final purification of the world, as the verse says, "The many will be purified and whitened and cleansed" (Daniel 12:10). Evil will separate from good and show itself. The inner reality will have become ready to accept the light of the Redemption and automatically reject evil from its midst. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy, "All of the nations will call out the name of G-d with a clear voice and serve Him united" (Zephaniah 3:9).

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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