[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha pítucha or sítuma respectively. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p'sukim in the parsha.
TAHARA & TUM'A To oversimplify: one aspect of the rules of ritual purity and impurity for a Yoledet (a woman who have given birth) is to show the sharp contrast between life and death. This can be seen in the Tum'a of a dead body, in the laws of Nidah, the rules of pregnancy, as well as the Yoledet. A woman's period signifies that life has not begun within her - there is TUM'A. A pregnant woman has life developing within her - TA'HARA. When that life emerges into the world, she is no longer carrying that extra life - TUM'A.
Another aspect of the procedures for the new mother is geared to help her
recoup her physical, psychological and emotional identity and well-being.
A person with an affliction that MIGHT be Tzora'at (in one of its many forms) is to be examined by a kohen (expert in the laws and identification of N'GA'IM, with a degree, perhaps, in dermatology as well). Under certain circumstances, the kohen might declare the afflicted individual a METZORA rendering him immediately ritually unclean. Or, a kohen might order a one week quaran- tine with an additional examination to determine the status of the individual, to take place on the seventh day of said quarantine. That second inspection can result in the person being declared "clean", or "Tamei", or an additional week of quarantine can be ordered.
[P> 13:9 (9)] A kohen must examine a case of suspected Tzora'at. He looks for changes in coloration of skin and hair, raised or sunken appearance of the blemished area, increase, decrease or no change in size, and other signs. Sometimes he declares immediate Tzora'at. Sometimes "ritual purity" is declared immediately, in which case a trip to the pharmacy for a salve might be the best thing. And sometimes a quarantine period is declared.
The expertise of a kohen in the area of Nega'im is both an art and a science. And more. Dozens of shades of white and other colors must be distinguish- able to the inspecting kohen. An error in perception of a white like the shell of an egg as opposed to the color of the thin membrane under the shell can make the difference between declaring the examinee Tahor or Tamei. Only certain times of the day are permitted for examining a NEGA, because of the different effects of light and shadow.
The laws of Nega'im are unbelievably difficult and complex. In addition to everything else, the kohen had to know the psychology of the cases and be sensitive to the personal situations of the afflicted. One example is that a new bride or groom is not examined by the kohen, so they cannot be declared TAMEI. That could spoil their moods.
A look at some of the Mishnayot in TAHAROT, even without going in depth, can give one an appreciation of what is involved in this topic. Once again, learning comes to the rescue and allows us to get "involved" in mitzvot even when they aren't active.
[P> 13:18 (6)] The Torah presents further details on what the kohen looks for when inspecting boils and similar afflictions on the skin. The elborate checking and time delays from inspection to inspection serve to give the afflicted person ample time for introspection. A NEGA on the outside mirrors a character blemish or a religious shortcoming on the inside. While the kohen examines the external, the Metzora does a thorough job of seeing his own inner being.
[P> 13:29 (9)] This next portion deals with yet another type or two of N'GA'IM - sores on the head, neck, or face, and blotches on the skin. As was mentioned before, we are dealing here with a complex issue of a bridge between the physical and the spiritual. Or, to put it differently, of physical manifestations of spiritual problems.
To help understand this idea better, think of the following analogy: There are physical afflictions and psycho- logical problems that people can suffer. Sometimes, each type is treated independently. But sometimes, a trained professional in the field will see the physical problems as manifestations of the psychological problems. And sometimes, vice versa. In those cases, it is very important for the professional to decide what gets treated and what will improve when the other does, even without special attention.
This was only an analogy, but this is one of the lessons, of Torat HaMetzora, the laws of N'GA'IM. The laws regard- ing the state of ritual impurity result- ing from Tzora'at constitute a positive commandment [169,A101 13:29]. In other words, we would be doing the wrong thing to ignore these laws and details. There is a specific prohibition of cutting the hair of a Tzora'at area on the body [170,L307 13:33]. Among other reasons, this would remove an important indicator for the inspecting kohen (and more importantly, perhaps, for the afflicted individual.)
Let's run with the analogy. If a doctor feels that a rash on a patient who came to him might be the result of stress and tension in the workplace, then it would serve no purpose to merely treat the rash. In fact, the rash might clear up after some stress-reduction measures without any treatment of the specific rash. In the case of N'GA'IM, it would be prohibited to treat the NEGA with physical means. Welts, burns, blemishes, boils, etc. might go away after T'shuva and the Tzara'at procedures. How can a korban heal an affliction? How can T'shuva heal it? Same question as, How can psychological counseling cure asthma. But it can (sometimes) and so can all of the "remedies" in this week's sedra. Mind, body, soul - they are all connected and interrelated.
[S> 13:38 (2)] In this small parsha, the Torah gives an example of a rash of white spots errupting on the body. In this case, a rash is a rash. TAHOR.
[S> 13:47 (13)] The rest of this Aliya deals with infection of Tzora'at on garments. Wool, linen, and leather are the materials that are subject to Tzora'at HaBeged. The laws of infected garments also constitute one of the 613 mitzvot [172,A102 13:47].
[P> 14:1 (20)] The afflictions presented in Tazria are immediately dealt with by the procedures described in M'Tzora.
The main theme of M'tzora is the "ritual purification" of the one afflicted with Tzora'at, and certain other conditions that render a person TAMEI. These procedures constitute a positive mitzva [173,A110 14:2]. Two birds are to be taken, a ceremony is performed with them, one bird is offered as a sacrifice, and the other is set free. The person immerses in a mikve, he cleans his garments, and he shaves all the hair on his body [174,A111 14:9]. The rules of ritual immersion in general, come from this context [175,A109 14:9].
The purification process is completed after bringing various korbanot, follow- ing a seven day period and the other procedures, as mentioned above [176, A77 14:10].
SDT Notice how the M'tzora is isolated from others during the time he is ritually unclean. That gives him time to examine himself, his deeds, his thoughts. But as part of the process of purification, as part of the process of having a second chance in the world, he is ministered to by a kohen who becomes the first contact in his renewal procedure. There is a significant psychological factor in the topic of N'GA'IM.
It is not important how much the sacrifice is worth on a dollars and cents
basis (shekels and agorot), but what is relative to the means of the atoner.
SDT Not only does a person's body contain elements of spirituality, but even him home - specifically in Eretz Yisrael. Although we do not "practice" this whole topic today, the lessons of the bridge and connection between the physical world and the spiritual one should not be overlooked. A person whose home is a meeting place for Torah scholars, a launching pad for acts of charity and kindness, a training ground for a new generation of sensitive, feeling, enthusiastic Jews, such a home cannot be infected by spiritual plague. A home devoid of spirituality is a prime target for Nig'ei HaBayit. In this case, it is not the anti-rust and anti-mold paint that makes the difference. It is the values that a Jew lives by and their effect on the next generation.
This parsha concludes with a summary of the different types of NEGA'IM.
[P> 15:19 (6)] A woman with an unnatural discharge has a specific set of
rules. In the case of a Zava, there are differences in her status depending
upon how many sightings of blood there are, and how frequent.
The requirement of the korbanot at the conclusion of the period of impurity [183,A75 15:29]. The people of Israel have a great potential for attaining spiritual heights. They have an equally great potential for descending to low levels of spiritual impurity.
The last 3 p'sukim of the sedra serve as a summary to the topics of ritual purity and impurity and present the challenge to the Jewish People to rise above mundane physical existence by scrupulously avoiding "impurity". These three p'sukim are reread for the Maftir.
SDT Generally, when there is a rich man's korban and a poor man's korban for the same situation, if a rich man brings the less expensive version of the korban, he fulfills his obligation, after the fact.
Tzora'at is an exception. If a rich man brought a poor man's offering, he has not fulfilled his obligation.
The son of the Nodeh B'Yehuda explained why beautifully. One of the causes of Tzora'at is stinginess. Even the term in our Vidui can be seen as a play on words - TZAROT AYIN. If a rich man brings a poor person's korban, in this case it is an indication that he hasn't healed. The korban cannot bring atonement.
As Elisha had prophesied, the famine ended on the following day and grain and food was found.
Rabbi Jacobs in A Haftara Companion says that aside from the obvious, but seemingly shallow connection between sedra and Haftara Ė both mention TZA'RA'AT Ė there is a deeper lesson to be learned from the haftara. Four people who were outcasts, no one would touch them, they were isolated from their society, they were on their own during very difficult times, nonetheless embarked on the path of spiritual improvement by being concerned with their fellow Jews and reporting the condition of the enemy camp so that others would be able to obtain food and be saved. If, as mentioned earlier in the previous SDT, one of the causes of TZA'RA'AT is stinginess, then the intrepid four of the Haftara are indeed on the mend.
The Gemara tells us that the four M'tzora'im were Geichazi and his three sons.