SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, April 28, 2006 |    

Tazria and Metzora (When she conceives & the leper):
Leviticus 12:1 – 15:33; 2 Kings 4:42-5:18 and 2 Kings 7:3-20

First a correction: In our last Shabbat commentary, we inadvertently listed the “unclean” animals of pig, rabbit and camel as "clean" animals. This is clearly a mistake as the Bible says that those animals are unclean (Leviticus 11:6).

Now to this week's commentary
In our double reading portion this Shabbat Tazria and Metzora we have more laws concerning our body beginning in the last part with instruction on food. Again God’s Word gives us clear instructions on what is “holy” and “clean” and what is “unholy” and “unclean.” The Lord also gave laws concerning sexuality, starting with the “law of a woman after giving birth.”

We read in chapter 12 about the seven “unclean days,” called nidda, after giving birth. Added to this is 33 days of the woman’s “purification” (tehara). The times are different for giving birth to boys and girls. After this, the woman must bring an atonement offering. The parents of Jesus did likewise when he was born (see Luke 2:21-24).

In chapter 14, we read about the “law of the leper.” Rabbi Yisrael Salanter said that some people are very careful not to eat the tiniest insect yet they swallow others whole with their vicious tongue by evil tales, resulting in leprosy. An “evil tongue,” not only refers to cursing but also gossip, flattery, a critical spirit and blasphemy. Therefore this raises the question: Is leprosy a medical matter or is it also spiritual? In Jewish commentary, leprosy is the result of sins of the “evil tongue,” thus the reason priests couldn’t be near lepers as we see in time of Yeshua.

As is written in Ethics of the Fathers 4:5: “Whoever profanes of Heaven in secret, will suffer the penalty for it in public.”

In the Bible we find three reasons for leprosy:

  • Speaking against authority – Miriam (Numbers 12:10), the sister of Moses, was struck with leprosy because she spoke against her brother.

  • Pride – Naaman (2 Kings 5), the Syrian General who suffers from leprosy and was ordered by the prophet Elisha to dip seven times in the Jordan River, much like the Lord commands: “He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean…” (Leviticus 14:7). We see Naaman wasn’t only healed physically, but was humbled, having to “bow” seven times.

  • Jealousy or coveting - Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27), the servant of Elisha, who tried to get for himself the money Naaman was going to give Elisha. God punished him by passing on Naaman’s leprosy to him.
Leprosy can affect the skin, clothing and homes. To keep those three safe, the Jewish sages say circumcision protects the skin, the Tzizzit (fringes of the prayer garment) protects clothing, and keeping a Mezuzah on the door post protects the homes.

It is interesting that in the New Testament we read how Yeshua “cleansed” (taher), not healed, the leper. Because leprosy is a matter of inner uncleanness, once the inner man is cleansed and forgiven, the outer man will be also healed (Matthew 10:8; 11:5).

On the contrary, a person whose spirit is redeemed will radiate the light of the Lord from the inside as Moses did when he came down from Mount Sinai. “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matt. 6:22b)

Our reading ends with laws regarding a woman’s monthly cycle. Jewish sages codified that seven “clean” days should be added to the approximately five days of her cycle, making a total 12 days that a husband and wife have no relations. After the 12 days, the woman takes a ritual bath, called mikveh. The 12 days are a healthy, God-given rest that keeps marriage from becoming routine. God cares about marriage and made several commandments in both the Old and New Testaments regarding its sanctity, particularly that the husband should love his wife as his own body and that they both fulfill their marital duty to each other. (Ephesians 5:28; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5).

- Michael Schneider -

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