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Posted April 12, 2019 - 11:43am
Parashat Metzorah (Leviticus 14:1-15:33)

The first full chapter in Parashat Metzora is a continuation of the instructions regarding the metzora (the person who has tzara’at—biblical leprosy) from our previous portion, Parashat Tazria. In both of these readings our modern senses are immediately assaulted. Why do we read chapter after chapter of gross, or even embarrassing, details of skin diseases and bodily functions? After all, we live in a modern world where all of those type of things are handled privately and confidentially with one’s medical practitioner. Why are these detailed and meticulous laws concerning tzara’at important? They are actually a reminder of God’s great compassion. How so? 

The tzara’at itself does not render the person tamei (ritually unclean). One could go a lifetime displaying the symptoms of tzara’at without ever being considered a metzora. It is the only the ruling of the kohen that can render the person tamei and a metzora. The goal of this pronouncement was not destroy the person, but to protect the community and restore the person. It was a condemnation of the flesh, rather than the person himself.

Posted April 5, 2019 - 8:33am
Parashat Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59)

In Parashat Tazria we are introduced to a skin disease of biblical proportions called tzara’at. Most people know it as biblical leprosy. However, as we mentioned in our previous commentary on this portion, it is completely unrelated to what we now know as leprosy. Tzara’at is a malady that affects not only the skin, but can also affect clothing, and the walls of a person’s home. It could begin as a moldy looking spot on a person’s house and end up as scab-looking blotches on his skin. As we discovered, the primary way tzara’at was contracted was through lashon hara (evil speech). A person who continually gossiped and spoke destructive words about others would eventually become afflicted with this disease.

With this in mind, studying the laws of tzara’at is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the damages of speaking ill of other people and how important it is for us to guard our tongues. Too often we forget about destructive nature and the severe damages lashon hara can inflict. The Talmud says that lashon hara kills three people: the speaker, the listener, and the one who is spoken of (Arachin 15b). How so? It kills the person speaking because it damages their reputation. They become known as someone who is malicious and uses information to harm others. It kills the listener because it alters the way they perceive other people. It kills the one spoken of because it damages their reputation.

Posted March 29, 2019 - 9:31am

This week’s Torah reading is not only the source for the Torah’s dietary laws, but it also records the very first service of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. It was a time unprecedented in human history when the very presence of the LORD rested upon a physical structure created by the labor of man. But unfortunately, there was a horrible tragedy that took place immediately after this event. Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, enjoyed the presence of the LORD so much that they wanted to recreate it. They entered the the sanctuary with incense and “unauthorized fire” in order to experience this exhilarating event a second time. Rather than being enrapturing, however, the results were disastrous:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:1–3)

Because of this incident Aaron lost two of his four sons. Many people read through this account without any empathy for this great man who was bereaved of two of his children. However, without empathy we cannot realize the incredible strength and maturity of Aaron in this situation. Several translations say that Aaron “held his peace.” This conveys the basic concept, but the Hebrew is much more straightforward. It says that he was silent (vayidom). For a man who just experienced such a devastation as Aaron, this shows an incredible amount of self-restraint.

Posted March 22, 2019 - 4:12pm
Parashat Tzav (Leviticus 6:1[8]-8:36)

Sometimes, to our modern minds, the Torah’s instructions can seem irrelevant, primitive, or even savage. Take this week’s Torah reading for example. The first few chapters continue on about the various ritual sacrifices that our previous portion began describing. In chapter seven we learn that the meat from certain sacrifices may not be leftover after a certain amount of time. The meat of some sacrifices must be eaten before the next morning, but others may be extended until the following evening. The consequence for eating this meat after the prescribed time is that the person will be sinning:

He who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity. (Leviticus 7:18)

Seriously? Someone could be sinning by simply eating meat after a specified time period? This seems unreasonable to most people today. It isn’t logical. But neither is the prohibitions against eating certain other things. The consequences of eating these certain other things, however, seem even more extreme:

But the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. (Leviticus 7:20)

For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the LORD shall be cut off from his people. (Leviticus 7:25)

Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.  (Leviticus 7:27)

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

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