Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary
Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-counts of Sefer HaChinuch AND Rambam's Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva is counted.
[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha p'tucha or s'tuma respectively. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p'sukim in the parsha.
Kohen - First Aliya - 13+12+6=31 p'sukim - 12:1-13:23
[P> 12:1 (8)] Perek 12, the shortest in the Torah with 8 p'sukim (not that we are responsible for the chaptering of the Torah), deals with "birth". A woman becomes "ritually unclean" following a (normal) birth - one week for a boy - and on the 8th day the boy is circumcised - and two weeks for a girl. This period of TUM'A is followed by a special "waiting time" of 33 or 66 days for boy or girl respectively, after which the mother is to bring the korbanot of a YOLEDET. The whole issue of the "ritual impurity of a woman having given birth" constitutes a mitzva [166,A100 12:2], as does the bringing of the sacrifices [168, A76 12:6]. This portion of the Torah is also the source of the general prohibition of eating "sacred meat" while in a state of "ritual impurity" [167,L129 12:4].
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.
[P> 13:1 (8)] After the parsha of BIRTH, the Torah moves on to the topic of NEGA'IM (various skin afflictions). The rest of Tazri'a and most of M'tzora deal with this topic.
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 M'TZORA rendering him immediately ritually unclean. Or, a kohen might order a one week quarantine 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 distinguishable 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 (for example). 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 elaborate 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.
Why all the detail? Why are there so many different types of NEGA'IM? Perhaps it is because WE are all different. So many different types of people. So many different temperaments. So many different sins. And so many different personal reactions to our individual situations. We need to feel this individuality. It helps us be responsible for our own deeds. One imagines that the kohen- examiner played the role of counselor too, maybe sensing a disturbed soul that needs TIPUL along with the NEGA.
Levi - Second Aliya - 5+11=16 p'sukim - 13:24-39
[S> 13:24 (5)] This portion discusses burns on the skin and different colorations within the affected area. Keep in mind that a blemish of any sort is NOT Tzora'at unless declared so by a kohen. It could look like Tzora'at, but it isn't unless declared "Tamei" by a kohen. In fact, two people can have identical signs and one can be declared a M'tzora, the other not so. And the treatment of each case is completely different as a result.
[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 psychological 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 HaM'tzora, the laws of N'GA'IM.
The laws regarding the state of ritual impurity resulting 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 person.)
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 treating the rash itself. 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, the rash is just a rash. TAHOR.
Shlishi - Third Aliya - 15 p'sukim - 13:40-54
[S> 13:40 (7)] Certain cases of baldness are discussed in the first part of this portion. Usually, baldness is just baldness. But occasionally, the skin that is exposed when the hair falls out is blemished in specific ways which might mean Tzora'at.
A person who has Tzora'at, tears his clothes, lets his hair hang loose, and must announce in public that he is TAMEI. The proper conduct of the M'tzora is a mitzva [171, A112 13:45].
[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].
R'vi'i - Fourth Aliya - 5+12+8=25 p'sukim - 13:55-14:20
The fourth Aliya is always the bridge Aliya between two combine sedras
The topic of "afflictions of garments" continues into this Aliya, for the duration of the Tazri'a part of the double reading. The fact that there is such a thing as an affliction of a garment tells us something. We are dealing with different ways that G-d communicates his "displeasure" with us, as individuals. Today, we might say, His communication is more subtle - but we must see it... and react appropriately.
[P> 14:1 (20)] The afflictions presented in Tazria are immediately dealt with by the procedures for purification described in M'tzora.
The main theme of M'tzora is the "ritual purification" of 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, following 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.
Chamishi - Fifth Aliya - 12 p'sukim - 14:21-32
[P> 14:21 (12)] A person who cannot afford the animals for the sacrifices, is to bring one sheep and two birds as his offering. The Torah describes the rituals involved in these offerings.
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.
Thus ends the section of the Torah dealing with afflictions to the individual. ZOT TORAT... this is the body of law of one afflicted who cannot afford the full set of korbanot.
Shishi - Sixth Aliya - 21+19=40 p'sukim - 14:33-15:15
[P> 14:33 (25)] The Torah next discusses Tzora'at that can afflict a person's house. This can only be in the Land of Israel, in a house made of specific materials, and under specific conditions [177, A103 14:35]. Once again, it is the kohen who makes the determination as to whether Tzora'at does exist, or a professional house painter should be consulted. In the case of a "house plague", there are procedures to be followed and purification processes, including korbanot to be brought.
SDT: Not only does a person's body contain elements of spirituality, but even him home - but only 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.
We also find a curiosity among these p'sukim - specifically, two consecutive p'sukim of three words each. There are only about 12 or 13 three-word p'sukim in the Torah altogether. Having two of those in a row is unique.
[P> 15:1 (15)] Next the Torah speaks of the status of a man with an "unnatural discharge" (probably a form of venereal disease). In such cases, the Torah view matters as a combination of physical symptoms with spiritual causes - in the case of "Zav" and "Zava", most probably attributable to sexual misconduct. The one afflicted is himself "Tamei" as well as causing other people and objects to become "ritually impure" through contact, both direct and indirect [178,A104 15:2]. The one afflicted, must bring special korbanot after a purification process [179,A74 15:13].
Sh'vi'i - Seventh Aliya - 13+5=18 p'sukim - 15:16-33
[S> 15:16 (3)] There is also a "ritual impurity" (of a lesser degree - one-day type) in cases of normal seminal emissions [180,A105 15:17].
A menstruating woman is "ritually unclean". This is counted as a positive mitzva [181,A99 15:19]; the prohibition "other side of the coin" to this mitzva is in the next sedra.
[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.
[S> 15:25 (9)] The longer-term Zava is presented in its own parsha, a S'TUMA that can be seen as a sub-parsha of the previous P'TUCHA that introduced the topic of ZAVA. These rules and procedures constitute a mitzva [182, A106 15:19].
The requirement of the korbanot at the conclusion of the period of impurity is a mitzva [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".
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. Not proper, but valid, nonetheless.
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 beautifully explained why. 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.
Maftir - Second Torah 7 p'sukim - Bamidbar 28:9-15
Chapters 28 and 29 in Bamidbar (Parshat Pinchas) deal with the daily and Musaf korbanot in the Mikdash. Since the two Shabbat p'sukim are followed by the five that deal with Rosh Chodesh, both portions are read for the Maftir on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh. Notice that the Musaf of Shabbat is an expanded version of the weekday sacrifices and Rosh Chodesh's Musaf is like those of the Chagim. Makes sense when you think about it. Six days... and on the 7th - Shabbat is one of the days of the week and the unique one among them. The Chagim belong to the Jewish calendar, which is based on the months and Rosh Chodesh.
Haftara - 24* p'sukim - Yeshayahu 66:1-24
The special Haftara for Shabbat- Rosh Chodesh, the last chapter of Yeshayahu, preempts the regular Haftara (usually). The obvious reason for the choice is found in the next to the last pasuk, which mentions both Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh. This pasuk is reread after the last pasuk, so that the book of Yeshayahu - and this Haftara - can end on a brighter note than its real end provides. This chapter, as all chapters in Yeshayahu from 40 and on, contains a message of consolation. Specifically, this chapter tells us that G-d cannot be contained in the physical Mikdash, nor is He interested in sacrifices that are not offered with sincerity. This message is appropriate always, and the association with Shabbat - week in & week out - Rosh Chodesh - month in & month out, fits.