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Summary of Parshat Tazria & Metzora

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

Summary of this week's double Torah portion: Tazria-Metzora After the discussion at the end of last week's portion regarding tumah (spiritual impurity) resulting from dead animals, Parshat Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59) introduces the various categories of tumah emanating from human beings, beginning with a woman upon giving birth. The rest of the portion describes in great detail the varying and numerous manifestations of the disease called tzaraat. Although it has been commonly mistranslated as leprosy, this skin disease has little resemblance to any bodily ailment transmitted through normal exposure. Rather, tzaraat is the physical manifestation of a spiritual malaise, a punishment from Hashem primarily for the sin of speaking lashon hara (evil speech), amongst other transgressions and anti-social behavior. Known as a metzora, someone afflicted by a tzaraat-like patch on his skin is subject to a series of examinations by a Kohen (priest), who declares the patient to be either tahor (pure) or tamei (impure). If tamei, he is isolated outside of the camp, an appropriate punishment for someone whose foul tongue caused others to become separated from one another. After describing the various forms, colors, and manifestations of the disease on a person's skin, head, and beard, the portion concludes with a discussion of garments contaminated by tzaraat.

Parshat Metzora (ibid. 14:1-15:33) continues the discussion of tzaraat, detailing the three part purification process of the metzora administered by a Kohen, complete with immersions, korbanot (offerings), and the shaving of the entire body. After a lengthy description of tzaraat on houses and the command to demolish the entire residence if the disease has spread, the final chapter of the portion discusses several categories of natural human discharges which render a person impure to varying degrees.

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