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Parshat Tazria-M'tzora


Parshat Tazria-M'tzora Ah, the dreaded leprosy parsha, the bane of many b'nai mitzvot through the ages, is upon us. It's pretty hard for the average 13-year-old to make spiritual sense out of skin eruptions, much less publicly discuss semen and menstruation when everyone is watching. In Tazria, we learn that a woman who bears a male child remains "impure" for 7 days. And "she shall remain in a state of blood purification for thirty-three days: she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary..." If she has a girl, she remains "impure" for 2 weeks, but she's in this blood purification state for twice as long, 66 days. (Clearly this was written long before the #MeToo movement.) Then we get to the poor person who "has a swelling, a rash, or a discoloration and it develops into a scaly affection on the skin of his body..." (See self-portrait with challah dough standing in for leprosy.) He or she must be examined by Aaron or one of his son's to determine if the patch "appears to be deeper than the skin of his body" and not just on the surface. If so, he

is "(pronounced) impure....his head shall be left bare...and he shall call out, 'Impure! Impure!'" The person must dwell "outside the camp to protect the others. (Interestingly, if the leprosy covers every inch of the person's body "he is pure for he has turned all white.") M'tzora details the purification rituals necessary for a leper to return to the community after his skin has cleared: he offers "two live birds, cedar wood, crimson stuff and hyssop." The remainder of the portion goes into gory detail about male ejaculation and women's discharge, and how to resolve the related contamination. It may seem like Biblical TMI, but on the other hand, it is a remarkable example of the Torah's ancient practicality. Shabbat Shalom!

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