Parashat Chukat / פרשת חקת

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.

1st Aliya: The laws of the Parah Adumah- the Red Heifer, are detailed.

 2nd Aliya: In Nissan of the 40th year, Miriam died. The well dried up and the nation gathered against Moshe and Aharon to complain. 

3rd Aliya: The “hitting of the rock” occurred and Moshe and Aharon were refused entry into Eretz Yisroel. 

4th Aliya: Moshe requested from Edom permission to travel through their land on the way to Eretz Yisroel. Edom refused. 

5th Aliya: Aharon died and Elazar succeeded his father as Kohain Gadol. They encountered the southern Canaanites (13 miles west of the Dead Sea) and bested them in battle. Following Aharon’s death, the protective clouds departed and the nation began to complain about the living conditions. Hashem sent poisonous snakes to attack the nation and Moshe was instructed to create the “copper snake on a stick” o miraculously save the bitten. 

6th & 7th Aliya: The nation traveled to Yeshimon – northeast of the Dead Sea. In the conclusion of Chukas, the nation was refused access to the lands of Sichon and Og and Moshe led them into victorious battle against them. 


Haftorah Rosh Chodesh 

This week’s Haftorah is from Yishayah Chap. 66 and reflects the fact that today is also Rosh Chodesh. Yishayah describes the ultimate downfall of all our enemies during the war of Gog and Magog. The Navi explains that this world is the manifestation of g-d’s presence and glory. Yet, we are incapable and sometimes unwilling to properly recognize G-d’s manifest presence. Even when the Bais Hamikdash stood the Bnai Yisroel did not appreciate their opportunity to be close to G-d and serve Him. The Navi forewarns that insincere expressions of devotion are tantamount to offering blemished sacrifices and G-d will punish those who lack sincerity and devotion. 

Nevertheless, the institution of the Bais Hamikdash and prayer are our only means for communication love and devotion. Therefore, those who truly mourn for the absence of the Bais Hamikdash and the Temple services will also merit to rejoice in her redemption and reconstruction. When the Bais Hamikdash will be rebuilt the nation will again be able to witness the Rosh Chodesh offering and service, and fully participate in expressing their commitment

Parashat Emor / פרשת אמור

Torah Reading: Parshas EMOR, Leviticus 21:1-24:23

SAY TO THE PRIESTS

As discussed in Universal Torah #20 TETZAVEH, the Torah conception of the priests and their relationship with the people is radically different from the conception of the priesthood in other traditions. The Cohen of the Torah does not absolve the Israelite of his obligation to forge his own personal relationship with G-d. The Cohen is not an intermediary who performs mysterious rituals that magically guarantee that all will be well for the ignorant worshipper who stands by watching.

In many religions, the priests held or hold a monopoly on religious knowledge, often actually discouraging the pursuit of such knowledge by the masses, whose very ignorance is necessary in order for the priest to maintain his position.

By contrast, the Holy Torah was given as a fountain of truth and wisdom to Israel and to all others who want to drink its waters. The entire people of Israel is intended to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation: the goal is for each Israelite to develop, build and cultivate his or her own bond with G-d in every detail of life. How can we do this? We need to learn how to do it. For this reason, the pride of place in the Torah tradition goes to the sage and teacher, because he is the one who can tell us how to do this. Even a MAMZER TALMID CHACHAM (an outstanding sage who is of illegitimate birth) takes precedence over the High Priest!

In our present parshah of EMOR, which is largely taken up with laws specifically relating to the priests, we see that Moses was commanded to instruct not only the priests themselves in these laws but also the Children of Israel. The Children of Israel are not to be excluded from all knowledge and understanding of the priesthood. On the contrary, they too are to study the laws relating to the priests. This is because the Israelites, as a kingdom of priests, have to have a model to learn from. The Cohanim are a kingdom within a kingdom. The Cohanim are to be to the Israelite what the Israelites are to be to the world.

The Temple is G-d’s palace on earth: a center-point for all the world to see, in order to contemplate the profundity of the message it contains and thereby to draw closer to the King. Everything about the Temple is about coming closer to G-d, particularly the KORBAN (“sacrifice”, from the Hebrew world KAROV, “close”). The entire Temple services center upon the sacrificial rites: the daily animal, grain, wine and incense offerings, the lighting of the Candelabrum, and so on. Like life in a royal court, life in the Temple was a spectacle. This was particularly so for the Israelite who brought a personal KORBAN, be it a SHLAMIM (“Peace”) offering, or an OLAH and particularly a CHATAS – sin-offering.

The animal is substituted for the person to undergo the slaughter, flaying, cutting and burning the sinner really deserves. (Those who worry about the alleged cruelty to the animal should first go and complain about the millions of animals daily slaughtered all over the world, often with great cruelty, as “sacrifices” for the gratification of men’s selfish lusts. To understand the meaning of the KORBONOS, we must be willing to think of the Temple as it actually was and will be, not try to adapt it to man-made moral “standards”.)

The SEFER HACHINUCH (explaining the meaning of the 613 commandments) discusses the sacrificial rituals at length in Mitzvah #95: Building the Temple. The ceremony consisted of various stages: SEMICHAH (the penitent’s laying on of hands on the animal’s head), SHECHITAH, the slaughter of the animal, KABALAH, collecting of its blood and sprinkling it on the altar, the flaying and cutting of the carcass, salting of the meat, the burning of the altar portions and eating by the priests of their share. The SEFER HACHINUCH explains in detail how the different stages of this unsettling and even shocking ceremony all communicated an unforgettable lesson to the penitent about how man must bring his animal side under control. We are to learn how to “slaughter” and elevate our animality by devoting our energies to G-d’s service and thereby burning our fat on His altar. (See also Nachmanides’ commentary on Leviticus 1:8).

The priests in the Temple, who conducted these ceremonies, were actors in a drama that was calculated to awaken people and induce them to think and repent rather than to hypnotize them with hocus-pocus. The role of the priest was as a facilitator, enabling people to understand the lesson for themselves.

Carrying the obligation to serve as ministers in the House and Court of G-d, the priests are a nation set apart, and are subject to an even more stringent code than the Israelites, as laid out in our parshah of EMOR. They are not allowed to defile themselves for the dead except in the case of their closest relatives. They are strictly forbidden to blemish their own bodies. They are not allowed to marry a divorcee or a woman who has been involved in a relationship tainted by immorality, etc. The Cohanim are to be a completely pure breed, fit to serve as G-d’s ministers on earth. The true Cohen is to be an exemplar in his very life of the elevated purity to which every Israelite should aspire, each according to his or her level.

The ultimate exemplar is to be the COHEN GADOL (“high priest”). Although the COHEN GADOL appears in costumes that are most gorgeous by the standards of this world, he must remain completely separated from this world. This is because his task is to keep our eyes focussed on G-d’s world. Thus the COHEN GADOL is not allowed to defile himself with the dead even in the case of his closest relatives. For in G-d’s world, there is no death but only life.

Everything about the Temple is designed to lift us up above the often tawdry world around us and to teach us how to draw closer to the underlying reality of G-d. For this reason, the Temple must be a place of the imposing splendor and beauty. Everything must be in the best repair. Not a flagstone must be loose nor an altar stone chipped. The vessels must be the finest gold and silver. And so too, the ministers themselves must be people of pleasing looks. Our parshah details the physical blemishes that disqualify a priest from participating in the Temple service itself (though not from eating sacrificial portions). The parshah also details the blemishes that disqualify an animal from being offered as a KORBAN. Everything offered to G-d has to be the very finest and most beautiful. So too, we must seek to beautify our offerings of prayers, our mitzvot, and acts of kindness, and take care that they should not be blemished.

* * *

THE CYCLE OF THE YEAR

The calling of the COHANIM was very exalted. The separation and purity demanded of them is not required of the Israelites, who on the contrary are required to be involved in the world — farming, manufacturing, selling and buying, raising families, etc. As discussed in the commentary on the previous parshah, KEDOSHIM, it is precisely through bringing every area of our actual lives under the wing of the Torah that we attain holiness.

Only the Cohen Gadol is to remain within the Temple precincts or in his nearby home in Jerusalem all the time. The people are to be throughout the country, going about their lives. For the Israelite, the relationship of G-d is one of “running and returning”: “running” in the sense of regularly rising above the mundane to make a deeper connection with the underlying reality of G-d, but then “returning”, in the sense of going back to grappling with everyday reality.

The Torah appointed a rhythm of weekly, monthly and seasonal MO’ADIM, “appointed times”, whereby the Israelites rise above the mundane and restore and strengthen their connection with the divine. Our parshah is one of several in the Torah (Ex. ch. 23; Numbers ch. 23; Deut. ch. 16) that set forth the cycle of festivals and their associated practices, each with its own particular focuses.

In our parshah (Leviticus ch. 23) one of the main themes that run through the account of the various festivals and their associated Temple practices is that of drawing ecological balance and agricultural blessing into the world. During the ALIYAH LE-REGEL — the foot-pilgrimage to the Temple on Pesach, Shavuos and Succos — the Israelites would leave the work of making a living and tilling the ground in order to participate in ceremonies whose purpose was to bless that work with G-dliness. Pesach, and Shavuos are particularly bound up with grain, which is man’s staple food. The Matzahs eaten on Pesach may be made from one of the five kinds of grain. On the second day of Pesach, at the beginning of the grain harvesting season, an Omer measure is to be brought from the newly-ripened barley crop. During the coming weeks, while the wheat-harvesting is going on, the Sefirah count directs our minds forward to Shavuos, when a “new grain offering”, the first wheat offering from the new crop — two loaves of leavened bread — was brought.

The observances of Succos are particularly bound up with the water-cycle. The four species of Esrog (citron), Lulav (palm branch), Hadass (myrtle) and Arovos (willow branches) all require ample water. Succos comes after the hot, dry summer of Eretz Israel, prior to what should be the rainy season. We take these four species in our hands and pour out our hearts like water in thanks and praise, hinting to our heavenly Father how totally dependent we are on His blessings and mercy.

The chapter in our present parshah of EMOR relating to the festival cycle leads us in the direction of next week’s parshah, BEHAR, which sets forth the commandments relating to the cycles of Sabbatical and Jubilee years, which are also bound up with agriculture, ecological balance and reverence for the earth.

* * *

HIDDEN CYCLES

Besides the cycles of festivals and Sabbaticals that give time its rhythm, the world is also governed by cycles that are often not apparent, because one generation does not know what happened in previous generations and therefore cannot understand how what happens today is cyclically rooted in what happened earlier.

To understand the incident of the MEGADEF (“blasphemer”) in the closing section of our parshah (Leviticus 24:10ff), it is necessary to understand that “the son of the Israelite woman who was the son of an Egyptian man” was, in fact, the issue of an illicit relationship. Our rabbis teach that Shulamis Bas Divri was the wife of the Israelite whom Moses saw being beaten by an Egyptian the first time he went out to visit his brothers. The Egyptian would daily drive the Israelite out of his home and send him to his labors, thereafter going into his wife. (See Rashi on Lev. 24:10 and on Exodus 2:11).

There is a deep counterpoint in the positioning of this episode in Parshas EMOR, which centers on the special purity demanded of the priests. Shulamis Bas Divri is the exemplar of the opposite: immorality. While the holiness of the priesthood requires separation and the making of distinctions between pure and impure, fine and blemished, she sought to erase distinctions, greeting everyone with a naive “Peace be upon you, peace be upon you”. As if friendly chatter is enough to turn evil into good. It was Shulamis Bas Divri’s endeavor to erase distinctions that laid her open to the immoral relationship which led to the birth of the blasphemer. The latter, however, discovered that, whether you like it or not, this IS a world of distinctions. While the blasphemer was an Israelite through his mother, he had no tribal affiliation, since this comes only through the father. Accordingly, the blasphemer had no place in the Israelite camp.

Contemporary political correctness will cry out in the voice of Shulamis Bas Divri that he should have been given a place — isn’t it unfair that he should be excluded because of a quirk of birth? Endless similar questions can be asked about other commandments in our parshah. Why should a blemished priest not be allowed to serve in the Temple? Why should a divorcee not be allowed to marry a priest? etc. etc.

Rashi brings a midrash that the blasphemer “went out” (Lev. 24:10) in the sense that he departed from the Torah: he mocked the idea that the Sanctuary Show-Bread (subject of the preceding section), which was eaten by the priests when it was nine days old, was a fitting institution in the Sanctuary of the King (Rashi ad loc.). The blasphemer could not accept G-d’s Torah the way it is. He wanted to adapt the Torah fit his own personal views.

There was a way that even the blasphemer could have found his place. As quoted at the outset, even a MAMZER TALMID CHOCHOM has precedence over the High Priest. If the blasphemer had been willing to submit himself to G-d and accept the position G-d put him in, he could have been saved. But he was not willing to submit and instead he opened his mouth and poured out a torrent of abuse.

Over sixty years previous to this, when Moses saw this man’s father striking Shulamis Bas Divri’s husband, Moses knew that there was no potential. “And he looked here and there and he saw that there was no man [that no man would come forth from him to convert, Rashi] and he struck the Egyptian” (Ex. 2:12). The rabbis taught that Moses “struck” him by invoking the Name of HaShem. It was precisely this name that the son of the Egyptian’s illicit relationship blasphemed. Prior to the Giving of the Torah, Moses inflicted instant justice on the father. However, after the Giving of the Torah, Moses was subject to the Torah like everyone else and he had to wait to hear from G-d how to deal with the blaspheming son.

The account of the punishment of the blasphemer includes related laws of punishments for killing and the damages that must be paid for inflicting injury to humans and animals. The cycles of crime and its penalties and payments revolve from generation to generation, but this is not apparent to the onlooker who sees only the here and now and does not understand what was before and what will come afterward.

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

* * * * *

 

Parashat Vayigash / פרשת ויגש

VAYIGASH

Torah Reading: VAYIGASH Gen. 44:18-47:27.

“AND JUDAH STEPPED FORWARD.”

The key to the dramatic encounter between Judah and Joseph with which our parshah of VAYIGASH begins is to be found in the Haftara our sages attached to this parshah: Ezekiel’s vision of the joining of the two sticks. One stick the prophet was to inscribe with the names of Judah and the Children of Israel his friends — the kingdom of Torah Law and spirituality under David. The other stick he was to inscribe “to Joseph Tree of Ephraim and all the House of Israel his friends” — secular, assimilated Israelite might: economic, political, military, involvement in the material world. The prophet was to join the two sticks and make them one, signifying that they will become —

“One nation in the earth in the mountains of Israel, and one king will be over all of them as King, and they will no longer be two nations and they will no longer be split into two kingdoms. And my servant David will be king over them and one shepherd will be for them all [King Mashiach]. And they will go in My laws and guard My statutes and do them. And they will dwell in the land that I have given to My servant Jacob in which your fathers dwelled, and they and their children and children’s children will dwell upon it forever, and David My servant will be Prince to them forever. And I will cut for them a Covenant of Peace, an eternal Covenant will be for them. And I will give them and multiply them and I will put My Holy Temple within them forever. And My Dwelling will be upon them and I will be G-d for them, and they will be My People. And the Nations will know that I am HaShem who sanctifies Israel that My Sanctuary should be among them forever ” (Ezekiel 37:28).

The encounter in our parshah between Judah and Joseph is the paradigm of this necessary joining between the two aspects of Israelite being in the world, spiritual and material. For its own existence, the Torah “kingdom” depends upon the successful material presence of Israel in the world, be it in the Land of Israel or in “Goshen”. (“Goshen” would include all historical and present-day centers of Jewish sojourn in exile and dispersal east or west.) For “if there is no flour [bread to eat], there is no Torah”. Likewise, material Israel cannot survive without true Torah leadership — Melech HaMashiach. Jacob saw this, which is why “he sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to rule before him to Goshen” (Gen. 46:28). It is the Torah leader who must rule over Israel, and Torah leadership must direct Israeli worldly power to the nation’s prophetic mission of being worthy of building the Temple in the Land of Israel from which the Law will go forth to all the Nations.

Parashat Metzora / פרשת מצרע

LET’S STUDY ONKELOS

STUDY GUIDE METZORA (CHAPTER 14:1–15:33) SUMMARY OF THE TORAH PORTION
The purification process of the metzora is outlined; the indigent metzora is allowed to bring fewer sacrifices; a house afflicted with tzara’at has a special purification procedure; the Torah addresses the impurity derived from female and male bodily discharges and under what conditions the impurity is transmitted; distinctions are made between the impurity of a menstruant and the impurity acquired by other body flows; the Israelites are warned to separate themselves from impurity lest they defile the Tabernacle.
THE CASE OF THE EXTRA HAY:
ARE THERE SUPERFLUOUS LETTERS IN THE TORAH?
There is a glaring use of the letter hay in our parashah in chapter 14 that points to a biblical style that needs clarification. Six times, in 14:13 (pages 102 and 103),1 22 (pages 104 and 105), 30 (twice, pages 104 and 105) and 31 (twice, pages 106 and 107), there appears a hay that seems extraneous and unnecessary and our targumist was faced with the challenge of how to treat the letter in his translation. We mentioned
1 All page numbers refer to the Onkelos on the Torah volume.
2
before in our Guides and commentary that Onkelos follows the school of Rabbi Ishmael in seeing the Torah “speaking in the language that human beings would clearly understand” and not agreeing with the view of Rabbi Akiva who considered it necessary to regard every biblical linguistic irregularity as a launching pad for exegesis and interpretation. This orientation may seem strange to us today because, by and large, Rabbi Akiva’s opinion prevailed and the extraordinary expansion of the Oral Law is predicated upon it.
These facts make it important and valuable for us to understand what to expect of the Onkelos translator when he confronted the challenge of the biblical hay that really doesn’t belong in the text. Our examination will help understand the different ways that Torah is interpreted. While we are using chapter 14 as our focus, this phenomenon of apparently superfluous letters is found many times elsewhere in the Torah.
Let us examine the four verses referred to above and the unnecessary hays that are found in them. With regard to the process of purification the metzora must undergo, the Torah states:
13. “He slaughters the lamb in the place where the guilt offering and burnt offering are slaughtered, ‘bimkom hakodesh,’ (literally, in the place of the holy).”
Onkelos, recognizing that the hay of hakodesh is superfluous, drops it and renders the phrase be’atar kadish, in a holy place, as if the Torah had, bimkom kodesh.
22. “. . . one as the guilt offering, (‘ve’ha’echad olah’), and one as the burnt offering.”
Onkelos drops the hay, “the,” and renders as if the Torah read ve’chad.
30. “He prepares the one (‘ha’echad’) of the turtledoves or the pigeons (‘b’nei hayonah’).”
The targumist replaces ha’echad with chad and hayonah with yonah, again removing the superfluous hays.
31. “(He prepares) what he can afford, the one (‘ha’echad’) as the guilt offering and the one (‘ha’echad’) as the burnt offering.”
In both cases, the targumist substitutes chad for ha’echad, “one” for “the one.”
It may seem trivial to stress the liberty taken by the targumist in eliminating a Torah letter in his translation. But, reflect for a moment. What is the halakhah? What if a Torah scroll were found with one of its hays missing from it? The law is that the Torah is pasul, invalid, unfit for use for the public synagogue Torah reading, even if it is the only Torah available. Just one missing letter renders a Torah unfit for use. That is how holy the halakhah considers each and every letter. Yet, here we have a translator eliminating a letter, as if it did not exist, six times in one chapter, in a translation that has been venerated by the sages for sixteen hundred years.
As we note in our “Onkelos Highlight” (page 110):
3
Anyone who has completed a year of Modern Hebrew language study would agree that a “hay” should not be placed where the Torah placed it. This raises two questions (1) Was the Torah wrong by using the “hay” in the passage? (2) How could the targumist be so brazen as to remove a letter that the Torah felt was necessary? There are essentially two approaches to resolving these questions. The first approach accepts the idea that the Torah added “hays” for a purpose, but nevertheless recognizes that the targumist is after all a translator and not a halakhist and he is allowed to remove the “hays” to clarify the verse for his readership. The second approach would argue that the Torah “speaks in human language” and God did not insert every letter to teach halakhic lessons; therefore while the “hays” were appropriate in ancient Hebrew, a translator who wants to make the text clear to modern readers is perfectly free to remove them.
In our Preface to Leviticus (pages xv and xvi) we clarify the targumist’s approach, lest it be considered irreverent, which it most certainly is not:
The targumist’s acceptance of Rabbi Ishmael’s view does not mean that he rejected the entire body of law, theology, and values that emanated from the exegetical genius of the sages who extracted mountains of halakhah and aggadot not evident in Scripture itself. Onkelos, we believe, would certainly have acknowledged these rabbinical interpretations that comprise this Oral Law and tradition.
Our contention is that the targumist did not want to incorporate these laws into his translation, not because he rejected them, but because he did not view the teaching of the Oral Torah to be his task. He was a translator. He wanted to provide a literal understanding of the text on its own terms. Yet, notwithstanding the fact that the targumist ignored the oral traditions, which did not directly reflect the literal understanding of the text, the sages who wrote the Talmud and Midrashim that contained their teachings gave Onkelos their “seal of approval” without feeling at all uncomfortable that their exegesis was not incorporated into it.
They obviously felt that it is vitally important for every lover of the Bible to focus with as much fervor on the plain meaning of the text as on the multitudinous interpretations of the text. “Peshat”—that is, the literal meaning of Scripture—is, after all, the first of the four accepted categories of biblical understanding known as “pardes,” which refers to “peshat,” “remez,” “derash,” and “sod,” the literal, allegorical, homiletical, and mystical discernment of Torah.
The rabbinic mandate of “shnayim mikra v’echad Targum,” the imperative of reading the Torah portion twice in the Hebrew and once with Onkelos, is especially relevant today so that our immersion in commentaries and exegesis, in the spirit of “hafoch bah v’hafoch bah, d’kulay bah,” “search well in the Torah for everything is in it,” will not deflect us from attempting to first grasp the plain meaning of Scripture.
4
ADDITIONAL DISCUSSIONS
ON ONKELOS
We focused on the seemingly superfluous hay in this Guide. We showed, in essence, that biblical Hebrew is different than contemporary Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew inserts the definite article hay, “the,” in places that modern Hebrew would not place it. Languages change. Some rabbis and scholars ignore this idea and read significant, legal and homiletical lessons into the superfluous hay. But our targumist, as a translator, while respecting the legal and homiletical lessons, does not place them into his translation.
This situation with the hay is not unique. Another, more prevalent situation is the letter vav, which means “and,” “but,” “however,” “then,” and the like. Biblical Hebrew introduces many sentences with the letter, even when contemporary Hebrew would not use it. Again, as with the hay, many rabbis and scholars read lessons into the usage (readers may want to see an example in our commentary on Exodus 21:1, and look again at the example in the Tzav Guide on page three about the vav). Onkelos generally retains these vavs, but does not insert or even hint at the lessons others read into the letter. Do you think that the targumist was justified in disregarding the biblical style in regard to the hay? Why?
GENERAL DISCUSSION
Many people consider the Torah message relevant for all times. Does the fact that the Torah was written in biblical Hebrew, which is different than contemporary Hebrew, threaten this idea in any way? Or, should we say that the Torah had to be written in a language that the people who received it could understand?
FOR FURTHER STUDY
1. See 14:12 and commentary, “PENALTY OFFERING” (page 103). Why does the metzora bring an asham (penalty offering)?
2. See 14:16 and commentary, “HAND” (page 102). A characteristic change made by the targumist when Scripture uses a figure of speech, a part that represents a whole.
3. See 15:11 and commentary, “WITHOUT RINSING HIS HANDS” (page 112, continuing on page 115). Onkelos misses a chance to clarify a perplexing phrase

Parshas Tazria-HaChodesh

Parshas Tazria

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.

1st, 2nd and 3rd Aliya: The laws of purity and impurity as they pertain to childbirth are discussed. The basic laws of Tzaras, its diagnosis by a Kohain, the possibility of a quarantine, and the laws of Tzaras as it relates to healthy and infected skin are discussed.

4th, 5th, 6th, & 7th Aliyot: The laws of Tzaras as it relates to a burn, a bald patch, dull white spots, and the presence of a Tzaras blemish on clothing is detailed.


Maftir HaChodesh

This week, in addition to the regular Parsha, we read the section known as HaChodesh. The additional sections of Shekalim, Zachor, Parah, and Chodesh are read prior to Pesach for both commemorative and practical reasons.

This additional section from Shemos, Parshas Bo, Chapter 12, is read on the Shabbos before the month of Nissan, or on the Shabbos of Rosh Chodesh Nissan. This section is an account of the very first Mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a nation. It includes the concept of Rosh Chodesh – the New Moon, as well as the basic laws of Pesach and the Pascal Lamb. Being that Pesach starts on the 15th of Nissan, this section is read about two weeks before Pesach begins. As with Parshas Parah, Chazal wanted the reading of this Parsha to be a reminder that Pesach is almost upon us! Only two more weeks to make the necessary arrangements to get to Yerushalayim and bring the Paschal Lamb! Only two more weeks and your house had better be in order! (are you panicked yet?)

It is interesting that Hashem selected the Mitzvah of the New Moon as the first national Mitzvah. Basically, the Mitzvah required two eye witnesses to testify before Beis Din that they had seen the tiny sliver of the new moon’s crescent that is the very first exposure of the moon’s new monthly cycle. The Beis Din would then declare the start of the new month.

The most obvious consequence of this procedure was the 29 or 30 day month, otherwise identified by a one or two day Rosh Chodesh. A two day Rosh Chodesh is comprised of the 30th day of the previous month and the 1st day of the new month. A one day Rosh Chodesh means that the preceding month was only 29 days long making Rosh Chodesh the 1st day of the new month. This would have an immediate effect on the scheduling of Yomim Tovim and other calendar ordained activities. It underscores from the very inception of the nation that the Beis Din, representing the Rabbinic leadership of the nation, were the single most important factor in guaranteeing the practice of Torah throughout time. It was as if G-d would wait for Beis Din to notify Him when His Yomim Tovim were to be.


Haftorah HaChodesh
Ezekiel Chapter 45

This week’s Haftorah is from Yechezkel – Ezekiel Chapter 45 and is related to the reading of Parshas Hachodesh. The latter chapters of Yechezkel describe the future Bais Hamikdash and the service that will take place once Mashiach has come and the Jews have returned to Eretz Israel. The Haftorah describes the offering that the Prince (the King or the High Priest) will bring on Rosh Chodesh – the New Moon.

This selection from Yechezkel is especially appropriate for the Shabbos that precedes or coincides with the beginning of the month of Nissan. The month of Nissan is known as the month of redemption. Our exodus from Egypt took place in the month of Nissan. The Mishkan was first assembled on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. The Mizbeach was inaugurated into service during the first 12 days of Nissan. Therefore, we hope that this year, in the month of Nissan, we will again merit to be redeemed from exile, rebuild the Bais Hamikdash, and again inaugurate the Mizbeach by bringing the Rosh Chodesh offering in the service of G-d.

Parsha Summary, Copyright &copy 2016 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org.

Parshas Shemini

Parshas Shemini

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.
1st & 2nd Aliyot: The Parsha begins on Nissan 1, 2449. The seven-day inauguration of Aharon and his sons was completed and the ceremonies for the Mizbeach’s consecration had begun. Over 40 offerings would be brought on that first day, each requiring the direct ministrations of Aharon. Aharon blessed the nation with the standard priestly blessing after which Moshe and Aharon blessed the nation with the special Bracha of Psalm 90.

3rd Aliya: The deaths of Nadav and Avihu are recorded at the very same time that fire descended from heaven to light the Mizbeach. Their cousins removed the bodies of Nadav and Avihu from the courtyard of the Mishkan. Moshe instructs Aharon and his two remaining sons, Elazar and Isamar, that they are forbidden to overtly mourn the deaths of Nadav and Avihu in the standard manner. It is from here that we are taught the standard practices of tearing Kriyah and of mourners not cutting their hair.

4th & 5th Aliyot: Moshe instructs Aharon and his sons to continue the service of the Mizbeach’s consecration. The first recorded difference in Halachik rulings is recorded between Moshe and Aharon as it pertained to the eating of the Rosh Chodesh offering. (Note 16-20, Stone Edition ArtScroll pg. 595)

6th Aliya: The basic laws of Kosher and non-Kosher animals, fish, and fowl are recorded. Note that verses 11:4-7 is one of the established proofs for the divine authorship of the Torah.

7th Aliya: The basic laws of purity and impurity are recorded. It is important to clarify that the Torah does not associate “Tummah” impurity and “Taharah” purity with good and bad. The entire process involves the concept of life and death and the symbolic emphasis that the Torah places on serving G-d with optimism and vigor. So long as there is life there is the opportunity to grow in our relationship with G-d.

The question of “Why are we commanded to keep Kosher?” is answered in 11:44-47. The Torah clearly states that the reason to keep Kosher is to emulate G-d’s sanctity. Sanctity “Kedusha” means being set apart and different. Just as G-d is apart from all things and divine in every way, so too are we to be set apart from all other nations and be different in the manner of our eating.


Maftir Parah

This week, in addition to the regular Parsha, we read the section known as Parah. The additional sections of Shekalim, Zachor, Parah, and Chodesh are read prior to Pesach for both commemorative and practical reasons. Shekalim, the first additional section, dealt with the 1/2 Shekel and the public sacrifices. The reading of the second section, Zachor, facilitated our fulfillment of the Mitzvah to remember the evil of Amalek. The two sections of Parah and Chodesh are directed toward our preparations for Pesach.

On Parshas Parah, we read the section found in the beginning of Parshas Chukas known as Parah. This section discusses the necessary steps that had to be followed to remove the impurity which caused by having had contact with a dead person. This process involved a seven day period during which the impure – Tameh person underwent a process involving the ashes of the Red Heifer. The process was facilitated by a Kohen, and had to take place in Yerushalayim.

The status of being Tameh restricted a person from entering into the Temple compound and / or participating in certain select activities. Although these restrictions are less applicable today because we do not have the Bais Hamikdash; nevertheless, it is incumbent upon all people, male and female, to keep these laws to the degree that they do apply.

In the time of the Bais Hamikdash it was required of every male adult to visit the Bais Hamikdash and offer a sacrifice a minimum of three times a year: Pesach, Shevout, and Succoth. However, it was even more important to be there on Erev Pesach to sacrifice the Korban Pesach – Pascal Lamb. Anyone who happened to be Tameh, from having had contact with a dead body, would have to undergo the process of the Parah Adumah – the Red Heifer, to remove the status of Tameh and be allowed to bring his Pascal Lamb to the Bais Hamikdash.

The Talmud tells us that the furthest point in Israel from Yerushalayim was a two weeks travel. If so, a person who was Tameh living two weeks travel away would require a minimum of three weeks to arrive in Yerushalayim with sufficient time to go through the one week process of the Red Heifer and be able to offer his Korban Pesach. Therefore, Chazal ordained the reading of Parah on the week before the reading of Chodesh as a public reminder to those who are Tameh that they must immediately arrange to get to Yerushalayim so that they can purify themselves in time to bring the Korban Pesach.

Summary of The Haftorah:

Haftorah Parah
Yechezkel 36:16

This week’s Haftorah reflects the reading of Parshas Parah. Yechezkel, the prophet, berated the people for their defection away from G-d. Their behavior defiled Eretz Yisroel rendering them unfit to remain within her boundaries. Therefore, the Jews had to be exiled from their land and dispersed among the nations. The exile and the consequent suffering while in exile would serve as a process purification process for the nation. In essence, the exile would be a national Parah Adumah – Red Heifer.

Central to the theme of the Haftorah is the fact that Hashem ultimately redeems the nation, “for His own sake.” While in exile the Jews are able to spread the word of G-d and teach His existence to the other nations. However, exile will also take its toll on the Jews. The Jews interaction with other nations will result in furthering the very defection which caused G-d to first punish the nation.

Among the mysteries of the Parah Adumah is the fact that the Kohen who administers the ashes becomes impure while the recipient of the ashes becomes pure. In essence this is the experience of the Jew in exile. The Jews have brought knowledge and understanding of G-d to the nations wherein which they were exiled, while at the same time suffering terrible persecution and assimilation through their association with the non-Jewish world. The nations have become pure while the Jews have become impure.

In the end G-d will redeem the nation and gather them in from the four- corners of the earth, “for His own sake.” The time will come when the purpose of the Jew in exile will have been fulfilled. Then, there will be no further reason for the Jew to remain among the other nations and G-d will renew His covenant with the Bnai Yisroel and return them to Eretz Yisroel.

Parsha Summary, Copyright &copy 2016 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org.

Parashat Tazria / פרשת תזריע

Tazria

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tazria, Thazria, Thazri’a, Sazria, or Ki Tazria (תַזְרִיעַHebrew for “she conceives”, the 13th word, and the first distinctive word, in the parashah) is the 27th weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the fourth in the book of Leviticus. It constitutesLeviticus 12:1–13:59. The parashah is made up of 3,667 Hebrew letters, 1,010 Hebrew words, and 67 verses, and can occupy about 128 lines in a Torah Scroll (סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה, Sefer Torah).[1]

Jews read it the 27th or 28th Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in April. The lunisolar Hebrew calendar contains up to 55 weeks, the exact number varying between 50 in common years and 54 or 55 in leap years. In leap years (for example, 2016, 2019, 2022, 2024, and 2027), parashah Tazria is read separately. In common years (for example, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, 2023, 2025, 2026, and 2028), parashah Tazria is combined with the next parashah,Metzora, to help achieve the number of weekly readings needed.[2]

The Poor Widow’s Offering (illustration byFrederick Goodall)

Readings

In traditional Sabbath Torah reading, the parashah is divided into seven readings, or עליות, aliyot.[3]

First reading — Leviticus 12:1–13:5

In the first reading (עליה, aliyah), God told Moses to tell the Israelites that when a woman at childbirth bore a boy, she was to be unclean 7 days and then remain in a state of blood purification for 33 days, while if she bore a girl, she was to be unclean 14 days and then remain in a state of blood purification for 66 days.[4] Upon completing her period of purification, she was to bring a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a turtle dove for a sin offering, and thepriest was to offer them as sacrifices to make expiation on her behalf.[5] If she could not afford a sheep, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.[6] God told Moses and Aaron that when a person had a swelling, rash, discoloration, scaly affection, inflammation, or burn, it was to be reported to the priest, who was to examine it to determine whether the person was clean or unclean.[7]

Second reading — Leviticus 13:6–17

In the second reading (עליה, aliyah), the priest was to examine the person again the seventh day to determine whether the person was clean or unclean.[8]The reading goes on to describe the features of skin disease.[9]

Third reading — Leviticus 13:18–23

The third reading (עליה, aliyah) further describes features of skin disease.[10]

Fourth reading — Leviticus 13:24–28

The fourth reading (עליה, aliyah) further describes features of skin disease.[11]

Fifth reading — Leviticus 13:29–39

The fifth reading (עליה, aliyah) describes features of skin disease on the head or beard.[12]

Sixth reading — Leviticus 13:40–54

The sixth reading (עליה, aliyah) continued the discussion of skin disease on the head or beard.[13] Unclean persons were to rend their clothes, leave their head bare, cover over their upper lips, call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” and dwell outside the camp.[14] When a streaky green or red eruptive affection occurred in wool, linen, or animal skin, it was to be shown to the priest, who was to examine to determine whether it was clean or unclean.[15] If unclean, it was to be burned.[16]

Seventh reading — Leviticus 13:55–59

In the seventh reading (עליה, aliyah), if the affection disappeared from the article upon washing, it was to be shut up seven days, washed again, and be clean.[17]

In inner-biblical interpretation

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these Biblical sources:[18]

Leviticus chapter 12

Leviticus 12 associates childbirth with uncleanness. In the Hebrew Bible, uncleanness has a variety of associations. Leviticus 11:8, 11; 21:1–4, 11; and Numbers 6:6–7; and 19:11–16; associate it with death. And perhaps similarly, Leviticus 13–14 associates it with skin disease. Leviticus 15 associates it with various sexuality-related events. And Jeremiah 2:7, 23; 3:2; and 7:30; and Hosea 6:10 associate it with contact with the worship of alien gods.

While Leviticus 12:6–8 required a new mother to bring a burnt-offering and a sin-offering, Leviticus 26:9, Deuteronomy 28:11, and Psalm 127:3–5 make clear that having children is a blessing from God; Genesis 15:2 and 1 Samuel 1:5–11 characterize childlessness as a misfortune; and Leviticus 20:20 and Deuteronomy 28:18threaten childlessness as a punishment.

Leviticus chapter 13

The Hebrew Bible reports skin disease (צָּרַעַת, tzara’at) and a person affected by skin disease (metzora, מְּצֹרָע) at several places, often (and sometimes incorrectly) translated as “leprosy” and “a leper.” In Exodus 4:6, to help Moses to convince others that God had sent him, God instructed Moses to put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, his hand was “leprous (m’tzora’at, מְצֹרַעַת), as white as snow.” In Leviticus 13–14, the Torah sets out regulations for skin disease (צָּרַעַת, tzara’at) and a person affected by skin disease (metzora, מְּצֹרָע). In Numbers 12:10,after Miriam spoke against Moses, God’s cloud removed from the Tent of Meeting and “Miriam was leprous (m’tzora’at, מְצֹרַעַת), as white as snow.” InDeuteronomy 24:8–9, Moses warned the Israelites in the case of skin disease (צָּרַעַת, tzara’at) diligently to observe all that the priests would teach them, remembering what God did to Miriam. In 2 Kings 5:1–19, part of the haftarah for parashah Tazria, the prophet Elisha curesNaaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, who was a “leper” (metzora, מְּצֹרָע). In 2 Kings 7:3–20, part of the haftarah for parashah Metzora, the story is told of four “leprous men” (m’tzora’im, מְצֹרָעִים) at the gate during the Arameans’ siege of Samaria. And in 2 Chronicles 26:19, after King Uzziah tried to burn incense in the Temple in Jerusalem, “leprosy (צָּרַעַת, tzara’at) broke forth on his forehead”.

In early nonrabbinic interpretation

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these early nonrabbinic sources:[19]

Leviticus chapter 13

Philo taught that the skin disease in Leviticus 13 signified voluntary depravity.[20]

In classical rabbinic interpretation

The parashah is discussed in these rabbinic sources from the era of the Mishnah and the Talmud:[21]

Leviticus chapter 12

Rabbi Simlai noted that just as God created humans after creating cattle, beasts, and birds, the law concerning human impurity in Leviticus 12 follows that concerning cattle, beasts, and birds in Leviticus 11.[22]

Rabbi Ammi taught in the name of Rabbi Johanan that even though Rabbi Simeon ruled that a dissolved fetus expelled by a woman was not unclean, Rabbi Simeon nonetheless agreed that the woman was ritually unclean as a woman who bore a child. An old man explained to Rabbi Ammi that Rabbi Johanan reasoned from the words of Leviticus 12:2, “If a woman conceived seed and bore.” Those words imply that even if a woman bore something like “conceived seed” (in a fluid state), she was nonetheless unclean by reason of childbirth.[23]

Rabbi Johanan interpreted the words “in the [eighth] day” in Leviticus 12:3 to teach that one must perform circumcision even on the Sabbath.[24]

The Gemara read the command of Genesis 17:14 to require an uncircumcised adult man to become circumcised, and the Gemara read the command of Leviticus 12:3 to require the father to circumcise his infant child.[25]

The Mishnah taught that circumcision should not be performed until the sun has risen, but counts it as done if done after dawn has appeared.[26] The Gemara explained that the reason for the rule could be found in the words of Leviticus 12:3, “And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised”.[27] A Baraita interpreted Leviticus 12:3 to teach that the whole eighth day is valid for circumcision, but deduced from Abraham‘s rising “early in the morning” to perform his obligations in Genesis 22:3 that the zealous perform circumcisions early in the morning.[28]

The disciples of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai asked him why Leviticus 12:6–8 ordained that after childbirth a woman had to bring a sacrifice. He replied that when she bore her child, she swore impetuously in the pain of childbirth that she would never again have intercourse with her husband. The Torah, therefore, ordained that she had to bring a sacrifice, as she would probably violate that oath.[29] Rabbi Berekiah and Rabbi Simon said in the name of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai that because she fluttered in her heart, she had to bring a fluttering sacrifice, two turtle-doves or two young pigeons.[30] The disciples asked Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai why Leviticus 12:2 permitted contact between the father and mother after 7 days when the mother bore a boy, but Leviticus 12:5 permitted contact after 14 days when she bore a girl. He replied that since everyone around the mother would rejoice upon the birth of a boy, she would regret her oath to shun her husband after just 7 days, but since people around her would not rejoice on the birth of a girl, she would take twice as long. And Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai taught thatLeviticus 12:3 ordained circumcision on the eighth day so that the parents could join their guests in a celebratory mood on that day.[29]

Turtledove (1897 painting byJohann Friedrich Naumann)

Pigeons (painting circa 1832–1837 by John Gould)

Leviticus 5:7; 5:11;12:8; and 14:21–22 provided that people of lesser means could bring less-expensive offerings. The Mishnah taught that one who sacrificed much and one who sacrificed little attained equal merit, so long as they directed their hearts to Heaven.[31] Rabbi Zera taught that Ecclesiastes 5:11 provided a Scriptural proof for this when it says, “Sweet is the sleep of a serving man, whether he eat little or much.” RavAdda bar Ahavah taught that Ecclesiastes 5:10 provided a Scriptural proof for this when it says, “When goods increase, they are increased who eat them; and what advantage is there to the owner thereof.” Rabbi Simeon ben Azzai taught that Scripture says of a large ox, “An offering made by fire of a sweet savor”; of a small bird, “An offering made by fire of a sweet savor”; and of a meal-offering, “An offering made by fire of a sweet savor.” Rabbi Simeon ben Azzai thus taught that Scripture uses the same expression each time to teach that it is the same whether people offered much or little, so long as they directed their hearts to Heaven.[32] And Rabbi Isaac asked why the meal-offering was distinguished in that Leviticus 2:1 uses the word “soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) to refer to the donor of a meal-offering, instead of the usual “man” (אָדָם, adam, inLeviticus 1:2, or אִישׁ, ish, in Leviticus 7:8) used in connection with other sacrifices. Rabbi Isaac taught that Leviticus 2:1 uses the word “soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) because God noted that the one who usually brought a meal-offering was a poor man, and God accounted it as if the poor man had offered his own soul.[33]

Rabbi Simeon noted that Scripture always lists turtledoves before pigeons, and imagined that one might thus think that Scripture prefers turtledoves over pigeons. But Rabbi Simeon quoted the instructions of Leviticus 12:8, “a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin-offering”, to teach that Scripture accepted both equally.[34]

Rabbi Eleazar ben Hisma taught that even the apparently arcane laws of bird offerings in Leviticus 12:8 and the beginning of menstrual cycles in Leviticus 12:1–8 are essential laws.[35]

Tractate Kinnim in the Mishnah interpreted the laws of pairs of sacrificial pigeons and doves in Leviticus 1:14, 5:7, 12:6–8, 14:22, and 15:29; and Numbers 6:10.[36]

Interpreting the beginning of menstrual cycles, as in Leviticus 12:6–8,the Mishnah ruled that if a woman loses track of her menstrual cycle, there is no return to the beginning of the niddah count in fewer than seven, nor more than seventeen days.[37]

The Mishnah (following Leviticus 5:7–8) taught that a sin-offering of a bird preceded a burnt-offering of a bird; and the priest also dedicated them in that order.[38] Rabbi Eliezer taught that wherever an offerer (because of poverty) substituted for an animal sin-offering the offering of two birds (one of which was for a sin-offering and the other for a burnt-offering), the priest sacrificed the bird sin-offering before the bird burnt-offering (as Leviticus 5:7–8 instructs). But in the case of a woman after childbirth discussed in Leviticus 12:8 (where a poor new mother could substitute for an animal burnt-offering two birds, one for a sin-offering and the other for a burnt-offering), the bird burnt-offering took precedence over the bird sin-offering. Wherever the offering came on account of sin, the sin-offering took precedence. But here (in the case of a woman after childbirth, where the sin-offering was not on account of sin) the burnt-offering took precedence. And wherever both birds came instead of one animal sin-offering, the sin-offering took precedence. But here (in the case of a woman after childbirth) they did not both come on account of a sin-offering (for in poverty she substituted a bird burnt-offering for an animal burnt-offering, as Leviticus 12:6–7 required her to bring a bird sin-offering in any case), the burnt-offering took precedence. (The Gemara asked whether this contradicted the Mishnah, which taught that a bird sin-offering took precedence over an animal burnt-offering, whereas here she brought the animal burnt-offering before the bird sin-offering.) Rava taught that Leviticus 12:6–7 merely accorded the bird burnt-offering precedence in the mentioning. (Thus, some read Rava to teach that Leviticus 12:6–8 lets the readerread first about the burnt-offering, but in fact the priest sacrificed the sin-offering first. Others read Rava to teach that one first dedicated the animal or bird for the burnt-offering and then dedicated the bird for the sin-offering, but in fact the priest sacrificed the sin-offering first.)[39]

Leviticus 12:8 called for “two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons: the one for a burnt-offering, and the other for a sin-offering”. Rav Hisda taught that the designation of one of the birds to become the burnt-offering and the other to become the sin-offering was made either by the owner or by the priest’s action. Rabbi Shimi bar Ashi explained that the words of Leviticus 12:8, “she shall take . . . the one for a burnt-offering, and the other for a sin-offering”, indicated that the mother could have made the designation when taking the birds, and the words of Leviticus 15:15, “the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering”, and of Leviticus 15:30, “the priest shall offer the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering”, indicated that (absent such a designation by the mother) the priest could have made the designation when offering them up.[40]

Leviticus chapter 13

Reading Leviticus 13:1, a Midrash taught that in 18 verses, Scripture places Moses and Aaron (the instruments of Israel’s deliverance) on an equal footing (reporting that God spoke to both of them alike),[41] and thus there are 18 benedictions in the Amidah.[42]

Tractate Negaim in the Mishnah and Tosefta interpreted the laws of skin disease in Leviticus 13.[43]

A Midrash compared the discussion of skin diseases beginning at Leviticus 13:2 to the case of a noble lady who, upon entering the king’s palace, was terrified by the whips that she saw hanging about. But the king told her: “Do not fear; these are meant for the slaves, but you are here to eat, drink, and make merry.” So, too, when the Israelites heard the section of Scripture dealing with leprous affections, they became afraid. But Moses told them: “These are meant for the wicked nations, but you are intended to eat, drink, and be joyful, as it is written in Psalm 32:10: “Many are the sufferings of the wicked; but he that trusts in the Lord, mercy surrounds him.”[44]

Rabbi Johanan said in the name of Rabbi Joseph ben Zimra that anyone who bears evil tales (לשון הרע, lashon hara) will be visited by the plague of skin disease (צָּרַעַת, tzara’at), as it is said in Psalm 101:5: “Whoever slandershis neighbor in secret, him will I destroy (azmit).” The Gemara read azmit to allude to צָּרַעַת, tzara’at, and cited how Leviticus 25:23 says “in perpetuity” (la-zemitut). And Resh Lakish interpreted the words of Leviticus 14:2, “This shall be the law of the person with skin disease (metzora),” to mean, “This shall be the law for him who brings up an evil name (motzi shem ra).” And the Gemara reported that in the Land of Israel they taught that slander kills three persons: the slanderer, the one who accepts it, and the one about whom the slander is told.[45]

Similarly, Rabbi Haninah taught that skin disease came only from slander. The Rabbis found a proof for this from the case of Miriam, arguing that because she uttered slander against Moses, plagues attacked her. And the Rabbis read Deuteronomy 24:8–9 to support this when it says in connection with skin disease, “remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam”.[46]

Rabbi Samuel bar Nahmani said in the name of Rabbi Johanan that skin disease results from seven sins: slander, the shedding of blood, vain oath, incest, arrogance, robbery, and envy. The Gemara cited Scriptural bases for each of the associations: For slander, Psalm 101:5; for bloodshed, 2 Samuel 3:29; for a vain oath, 2 Kings 5:23–27; for incest, Genesis 12:17; for arrogance, 2 Chronicles 26:16–19; for robbery, Leviticus 14:36 (as a Tanna taught that those who collect money that does not belong to them will see a priest come and scatter their money around the street); and for envy, Leviticus 14:35.[47]

Worshiping the golden calf (illustration from a 1901 Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company)

Miriam Shut Out from the Camp (watercolor circa 1896–1902 byJames Tissot)

Similarly, a Midrash taught that skin disease resulted from 10 sins: (1) idol-worship, (2) unchastity, (3) bloodshed, (4) the profanation of the Divine Name, (5) blasphemy of the Divine Name, (6) robbing the public, (7) usurping a dignity to which one has no right, (8) overweening pride, (9) evil speech, and (10) an evil eye. The Midrash cited as proofs: (1) for idol-worship, the experience of the Israelites who said of the Golden Calf, “This is your god, O Israel”, in Exodus 32:4 and then were smitten with leprosy, as reported in Exodus 32:25, where “Moses saw that the people had broken out (parua, פָרֻעַ)”, indicating that leprosy had “broken out” (parah) among them; (2) for unchastity, from the experience of the daughters of Zion of whom Isaiah 3:16 says, “the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and ogling eyes”, and then Isaiah 3:17 says, “Therefore will the Lord smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion”; (3) for bloodshed, from the experience of Joab, of whom 2 Samuel 3:29 says, “Let it fall upon the head of Joab, and upon all his father’s house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper,” (4) for the profanation of the Divine Name, from the experience ofGehazi, of whom 2 Kings 5:20 says, “But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said: ‘Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought; as the Lord lives, I will surely run after him, and take of him somewhat (me’umah, מְאוּמָה),” and “somewhat” (me’umah, מְאוּמָה) means “of the blemish” (mum, מוּם) that Naaman had, and thus Gehazi was smitten with leprosy, as 2 Kings 5:20 reports Elisha said to Gehazi, “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave to you”; (5) for blaspheming the Divine Name, from the experience of Goliath, of whom 1 Samuel 17:43 says, “And the Philistine cursed David by his God”, and the 1 Samuel 17:46 says, “This day will the Lord deliver (sagar, סַגֶּרְ) you”, and the term “deliver” (sagar, סַגֶּרְ) is used here in the same sense as Leviticus 13:5 uses it with regard to leprosy, when it is says, “And the priest shall shut him up (sagar)”; (6) for robbing the public, from the experience of Shebna, who derived illicit personal benefit from property of the Sanctuary, and of whom Isaiah 22:17 says, “the Lord . . . will wrap you round and round”, and “wrap” must refer to a leper, of whom Leviticus 13:45 says, “And he shall wrap himself over the upper lip”; (7) for usurping a dignity to which one has no right, from the experience of Uzziah, of whom 2 Chronicles 26:21 says, “And Uzziah the king was a leper to the day of his death”; (8) for overweening pride, from the same example of Uzziah, of whom 2 Chronicles 26:16 says, “But when he became strong, his heart was lifted up, so that he did corruptly and he trespassed against the Lord his God”; (9) for evil speech, from the experience of Miriam, of whom Numbers 12:1 says, “And Miriam . . . spoke against Moses”, and then Numbers 12:10 says, “when the cloud was removed from over the Tent, behold Miriam was leprous”; and (10) for an evil eye, from the person described in Leviticus 14:35, which can be read, “And he that keeps his house to himself shall come to the priest, saying: There seems to me to be a plague in the house,” and Leviticus 14:35 thus describes one who is not willing to permit any other to have any benefit from the house.[48]

Similarly, Rabbi Judah the Levite, son of Rabbi Shalom, inferred that skin disease comes because of eleven sins: (1) for cursing the Divine Name, (2) for immorality, (3) for bloodshed, (4) for ascribing to another a fault that is not in him, (5) for haughtiness, (6) for encroaching upon other people’s domains, (7) for a lying tongue, (8) for theft, (9) for swearing falsely, (10) for profanation of the name of Heaven, and (11) for idolatry. Rabbi Isaac added: for ill-will. And our Rabbis said: for despising the words of the Torah.[49]

Reading Leviticus 18:4, “My ordinances (מִשְׁפָּטַי, mishpatai) shall you do, and My statutes (חֻקֹּתַי, chukotai) shall you keep”, the Sifra distinguished “ordinances” (מִשְׁפָּטִים, mishpatim) from “statutes” (חֻקִּים, chukim). The term “ordinances” (מִשְׁפָּטִים, mishpatim), taught the Sifra, refers to rules that even had they not been written in the Torah, it would have been entirely logical to write them, like laws pertaining to theft, sexual immorality, idolatry, blasphemy and murder. The term “statutes” (חֻקִּים, chukim), taught the Sifra, refers to those rules that the impulse to do evil (יצר הרע, yetzer hara) and the nations of the world try to undermine, like eating pork (prohibited by Leviticus 11:7 and Deuteronomy 14:7–8), wearing wool-linen mixtures (שַׁעַטְנֵז, shatnez, prohibited by Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11), release from levirate marriage (חליצה, chalitzah, mandated by Deuteronomy 25:5–10), purification of a person affected by skin disease (מְּצֹרָע,metzora, regulated in Leviticus 13–14), and the goat sent off into the wilderness (the “scapegoat,” regulated in Leviticus 16). In regard to these, taught the Sifra, the Torah says simply that God legislated them and we have no right to raise doubts about them.[50]

It was taught in a Baraita that four types of people are accounted as though they were dead: a poor person, a person affected by skin disease (מְּצֹרָע,metzora), a blind person, and one who is childless. A poor person is accounted as dead, for Exodus 4:19 says, “for all the men are dead who sought your life” (and the Gemara interpreted this to mean that they had been stricken with poverty). A person affected by skin disease (מְּצֹרָע, metzora) is accounted as dead, for Numbers 12:10–12 says, “And Aaron looked upon Miriam, and behold, she was leprous (מְצֹרָעַת, metzora’at). And Aaron said to Moses . . . let her not be as one dead.” The blind are accounted as dead, for Lamentations 3:6 says, “He has set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old”. And one who is childless is accounted as dead, for in Genesis 30:1,Rachel said, “Give me children, or else I am dead”.[51]

In the priest’s examination of skin disease mandated by Leviticus 13:2, 9, and 14:2, the Mishnah taught that a priest could examine anyone else’s symptoms, but not his own. And Rabbi Meir taught that the priest could not examine his relatives.[52] The Mishnah taught that the priests delayed examining a bridegroom — as well as his house and his garment — until after his seven days of rejoicing, and delayed examining anyone until after a holy day.[53]

The Gemara taught that the early scholars were called soferim (related to the original sense of its root safar, “to count”) because they used to count all the letters of the Torah (to ensure the correctness of the text). They used to say the vav (ו) in gachon, גָּחוֹן (“belly”), in Leviticus 11:42 marks the half-way point of the letters in the Torah. They used to say the words darosh darash, דָּרֹשׁ דָּרַשׁ (“diligently inquired”), in Leviticus 10:16 mark the half-way point of the words in the Torah. And they used to say Leviticus 13:33 marks the half-way point of the verses in the Torah. Rav Joseph asked whether the vav (ו) in gachon, גָּחוֹן (“belly”), in Leviticus 11:42belonged to the first half or the second half of the Torah. (Rav Joseph presumed that the Torah contains an even number of letters.) The scholars replied that they could bring a Torah Scroll and count, for Rabbah bar bar Hanah said on a similar occasion that they did not stir from where they were until a Torah Scroll was brought and they counted. Rav Joseph replied that they (in Rabbah bar bar Hanah’s time) were thoroughly versed in the proper defective and full spellings of words (that could be spelled in variant ways), but they (in Rav Joseph’s time) were not. Similarly, Rav Joseph asked whether Leviticus 13:33 belongs to the first half or the second half of verses. Abaye replied that for verses, at least, we can bring a Scroll and count them. But Rav Joseph replied that even with verses, they could no longer be certain. For when Rav Aha bar Adda came (from the Land of Israel to Babylon), he said that in the West (in the Land of Israel), they divided Exodus 19:9 into three verses. Nonetheless, the Rabbis taught in a Baraita that there are 5,888 verses in the Torah.[54] (Note that others say the middle letter in our current Torah text is the aleph (א) in hu, הוּא (“he”), in Leviticus 8:28; the middle two words are el yesod, אֶל-יְסוֹד (“at the base of”), inLeviticus 8:15; the half-way point of the verses in the Torah is Leviticus 8:7; and there are 5,846 verses in the Torah text we have today.)[55]

Rava recounted a Baraita that taught that the rule of Leviticus 13:45regarding one with skin disease, “the hair of his head shall be loose”, also applied to a High Priest. The status of a High Priest throughout the year corresponded with that of any other person on a festival (with regard to mourning). For the Mishnah said[56] that the High Priest could bring sacrifices on the altar even before he had buried his dead, but he could not eat sacrificial meat. From this restriction of a High Priest, the Gemara inferred that the High Priest would deport himself as a person with skin disease during a festival. And the Gemara continued to teach that a mourner is forbidden to cut his hair, because since Leviticus 10:6 ordained for the sons of Aaron: “Let not the hair of your heads go loose” (after the death of their brothers Nadab and Abihu), we infer that cutting hair is forbidden for everybody else (during mourning), as well.[57]

Rabbi Abbahu, as well as Rabbi Uzziel the grandson of Rabbi Uzziel the Great, taught that Leviticus 13:46 requires that the person afflicted with skin disease “cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!'” to warn passers-by to keep away. But the Gemara cited a Baraita that taught that Leviticus 13:46 requires that the person “cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!'” so that the person’s distress would become known to many people, so that many could pray for mercy on the afflicted person’s behalf. And the Gemara concluded that Leviticus 13:46 reads “Unclean” twice to teach that Leviticus 13:46 is intended to further both purposes, to keep passers-by away and to invite their prayers for mercy.[58]

A Midrash taught that Divine Justice first attacks a person’s substance and then the person’s body. So when leprous plagues come upon a person, first they come upon the fabric of the person’s house. If the person repents, then Leviticus 14:40 requires that only the affected stones need to be pulled out; if the person does not repent, then Leviticus 14:45 requires pulling down the house. Then the plagues come upon the person’s clothes. If the person repents, then the clothes require washing; if not, they require burning. Then the plagues come upon the person’s body. If the person repents, Leviticus 14:1–32 provides for purification; if not, then Leviticus 13:46 ordains that the person “shall dwell alone”.[59]

Similarly, the Tosefta reported that when a person would come to the priest, the priest would tell the person to engage in self-examination and turn from evil ways. The priest would continue that plagues come only from gossip, and skin disease from arrogance. But God would judge in mercy. The plague would come to the house, and if the homeowner repented, the house required only dismantling, but if the homeowner did not repent, the house required demolition. They would appear on clothing, and if the owner repented, the clothing required only tearing, but if the owner did not repent, the clothing required burning. They would appear on the person’s body, and if the person repented, well and good, but if the person did not repent, Leviticus 13:46 required that the person “shall dwell alone”.[60]

Rabbi Samuel bar Elnadab asked Rabbi Haninah (or others say Rabbi Samuel bar Nadab the son-in-law of Rabbi Haninah asked Rabbi Haninah, or still others say, asked Rabbi Joshua ben Levi) what distinguished the person afflicted with skin disease that Leviticus 13:46 ordains that the person “shall dwell alone”. The answer was that through gossip, the person afflicted with skin disease separated husband from wife, one neighbor from another, and therefore the Torah punished the person afflicted with skin disease measure for measure, ordaining that the person “shall dwell alone”.[61]

In medieval Jewish interpretation

The parashah is discussed in these medieval Jewish sources:[62]

Maimonides

Leviticus chapter 12

Maimonides taught that the laws of impurity serve many uses: (1) They keep Jews at a distance from dirty and filthy objects. (2) They guard the Sanctuary. (3) They pay regard to an established custom. (4) They lightened the burden. For these laws do not impede people affected with impurity in their ordinary occupations. For the distinction between pure and impure applies only with reference to the Sanctuary and the holy objects connected with it; it does not apply to other cases. Citing Leviticus 12:4, “She shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the Sanctuary,” Maimonides noted that people who do not intend to enter the Sanctuary or touch any holy thing are not guilty of any sin if they remain unclean as long as they like, and eat, according to their pleasure, ordinary food that has been in contact with unclean things.[63]

Commandments

According to Maimonides

Maimonides cited verses in this parashah for 3 positive and 1 negative commandments:[64]

  • To circumcise the son, as it is written “and on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised”[65]
  • For a woman after childbirth to bring a sacrifice after she becomes clean, as it is written “and when the days of her purification are fulfilled”[66]
  • Not to shave off the hair of the scall, as it is written “but the scall shall he not shave”[67]
  • For the person with skin disease to be known to all by the things written about the person, “his clothes shall be rent, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lip, and shall cry: ‘unclean, unclean.'”[68] So too, all other unclean persons must declare themselves.

According to Sefer ha-Chinuch

According to Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are 5 positive and 2 negative commandments in the parashah:[69]

  • The precept about the ritual uncleanness of a woman after childbirth[70]
  • A ritually unclean person is not to eat meat of holy sacrifices.[71]
  • The precept of a woman’s offering after giving birth[66]
  • The precept regarding the ritual uncleanness of a m’tzora (person with skin disease (צָּרַעַת, tzara’at)[72]
  • The prohibition against shaving the area of a nethek (an impurity in hair)[67]
  • That one with skin disease (צָּרַעַת, tzara’at), among others, should rend clothes.[68]
  • The precept of צָּרַעַת, tzara’at in cloth[73]

In the liturgy

Some Jews refer to the laws of bird offerings in Leviticus 12:8 and the laws of the menstrual cycle as they study the end of chapter 3 of Pirkei Avot on a Sabbath between Passover and Rosh Hashanah.[74]

Some Jews refer to the guilt offerings for skin disease in Leviticus 13 as part of readings on the offerings after the Sabbath morning blessings.[75]

Following the Shacharit morning prayer service, some Jews recite the Six Remembrances, among which is Deuteronomy 24:9, “Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam by the way as you came forth out of Egypt,” recalling that God punished Miriam with צָּרַעַת, tzara’at.[76]

The Weekly Maqam

In the Weekly Maqam, Sephardi Jews each week base the songs of the services on the content of that week’s parashah. For parashah Tazria, Sephardi Jews apply Maqam Saba, the maqam that symbolizes a covenant (brit). This is appropriate, because this parashah commences with the discussion of what to do when a baby boy is born. It also mentions the brit milah, a ritual that shows a covenant between man and God.

Haftarah

The haftarah for the parashah (when read individually on a Sabbath that is not a special Sabbath) is 2 Kings 4:42–5:19.

Summary

A man from Baal-shalishah brought the prophet Elisha bread of the First Fruits — 20 loaves of barley — and fresh grain in his sack to give to the people to eat.[77] Elisha’s servant asked Elisha how he could feed a hundred men with these rations, but Elisha told his servant to give the food to the people, for God said that they would eat and have food left over.[78] So the servant set the food before the men, they ate, and they had food left over, just as God had said.[79]

Elisha Refusing Gifts from Naaman (1630 painting by Pieter de Grebber)

Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great warrior, but he was a leper.[80]The girl who waited on Naaman’s wife was an Israelite whom the Arameans had taken captive, and she told Naaman’s wife that if Naaman went to Elisha in Samaria, then Elisha would cure Naaman of his leprosy.[81] Naaman told his lord the king of Aram what the girl said, and the king of Aram sent Naaman on his way with a letter to the king of Israel.[82] Naaman departed, taking with him ten talents of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold, and ten changes of clothes.[83] Naaman brought the king of Israel the letter, which asked the king of Israel to cure Naaman of his leprosy.[84] When the king of Israel read the letter, he rent his clothes and complained that he was not God with power over life and death, but the king of Aram must have been seeking some pretext to attack Israel.[85]

Elisha refusing the gifts of Naaman (1637 painting by Pieter de Grebber)

When Elisha heard, he invited the king to send Naaman to him, and so Naaman came to Elisha’s house with his horses and his chariots.[86] Elisha sent a messenger to Naaman to tell him to wash seven times in the Jordan River and be healed, but that angered Naaman, who expected Elisha to come out, call on the name of God, and wave his hands over Naaman.[87] Naaman asked whether the Amanah andPharpar rivers of Damascus were not better than any river in Israel, so that he might wash in them and be clean.[88]

But Naaman’s servants advised him that if Elisha had directed him to do some difficult thing he would have done it, so how much more should he do what Elisha directed when he said merely to wash and be clean.[89] So Naaman dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, and his flesh came back like the flesh of a little child.[90]

Naaman returned to Elisha, avowed that there is no God except in Israel, and asked Elisha to take a present, but Elisha declined.[91] Naaman asked if he might take two mule loads of Israel’s earth so that Naaman might make offerings to God, and he asked that God might pardon Naaman when had had to bow before the Aramean idol Rimmon when the king of Aram leaned on Naaman to bow before Rimmon.[92] And Elisha told Naaman to go in peace.[93]

Connection to the parashah

Both the parashah and the haftarah report the treatment of skin disease, the parashah by the priests,[94] and the haftarah by the prophet Elisha.[95] Both the parashah and the haftarah frequently employ the term for skin disease (צָּרַעַת, tzara’at).[96]

A Midrash deduced from the characterization of Naaman as a “great man” in 2 Kings 5:1 that Naaman was haughty on account of his being a great warrior, and as a result was smitten with leprosy.[49]

And fundamentally, both the parashah and the haftarah view skin disease as related to the Divine sphere and an occasion for interaction with God.

The haftarah in classical rabbinic interpretation

The Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael considered Naaman a more righteous convert than Jethro. Reading Jethro’s words in Exodus 18:11, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods,” the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael reported that they said that there was not an idol in the world that Jethro failed to seek out and worship, for Jethro said “than all gods.” The Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael taught that Naaman, however, knew better than Jethro that there was no other god, for Naaman said in 2 Kings 5:15, “Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel.”[97] The Babylonian Talmud, however, taught that Naaman was merely a resident alien who observed the seven Noahide commandments (including the prohibition on idolatry).[98]

Ezekiel (1510 fresco byMichelangelo from theSistine Chapel)

On Shabbat HaChodesh

When the parashah coincides with Shabbat HaChodesh (“Sabbath [of] the month,” the special Sabbath preceding the Hebrew month of Nissan — as it does in 2016, 2019, and 2022), the haftarah is:[2]

Connection to the Special Sabbath

On Shabbat HaChodesh, Jews read Exodus 12:1–20, in which God commands that “This month [Nissan] shall be the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year,”[99] and in which God issued the commandments of Passover.[100] Similarly, the haftarah in Ezekiel 45:21–25 discusses Passover. In both the special reading and the haftarah, God instructs the Israelites to apply blood to doorposts.[101]

Parashah Tazria-Metzora

When parashah Tazria is combined with parashah Metzora (as it is in 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, 2025, and 2028) and it is not a special Sabbath, the haftarah is the haftarah for parashah Metzora, 2 Kings 7:3–20.[102]

The lepers went into a tent (illustration by Charles Joseph Staniland (1838–1916))

Summary

During the Arameans’ siege of Samaria, four leprous men at the gate asked each other why they should die there of starvation, when they might go to the Arameans, who would either save them or leave them no worse than they were.[103] When at twilight, they went to the Arameans’ camp, there was no one there, for God had made the Arameans hear chariots, horses, and a great army, and fearing the Hittites and the Egyptians, they fled, leaving their tents, their horses, their donkeys, and their camp.[104] The lepers went into a tent, ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold, and clothing from the tents and hid it.[105]

The four lepers bring the news to the guards at the gate of Samaria (illumination from Petrus Comestor‘s 1372 Bible Historiale)

Feeling qualms of guilt, they went to go tell the king of Samaria, and called to the porters of the city telling them what they had seen, and the porters told the king’s household within.[106] The king arose in the night, and told his servants that he suspected that the Arameans had hidden in the field, thinking that when the Samaritans came out, they would be able to get into the city.[107] One of his servants suggested that some men take five of the horses that remained and go see, and they took two chariots with horses to go and see.[108] They went after the Arameans as far as the Jordan River, and all the way was littered with garments and vessels that the Arameans had cast away in their haste, and the messengers returned and told the king.[109] So the people went out and looted the Arameans’ camp, so that the price of fine flour and two measures of barley each dropped to a shekel, as God had said it would.[110] And the king appointed the captain on whom he leaned to take charge of the gate, and the people trampled him and killed him before he could taste of the flour, just as the man of God Elisha had said.[111]

Connection to the double parashah

Isaiah (fresco circa 1508–1512 by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel)

Both the double parashah and the haftarah deal with people stricken with skin disease. Both the parashah and the haftarah employ the term for the person affected by skin disease (metzora, מְּצֹרָע).[112] In parashah Tazria, Leviticus 13:46 provides that the person with skin disease “shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his dwelling be,” thus explaining why the four leprous men in the haftarah lived outside the gate.[113]

Rabbi Johanan taught that the four leprous men at the gate in 2 Kings 7:3 were none other than Elisha’s former servant Gehazi (whom the Midrash, above, cited as having been stricken with leprosy for profanation of the Divine Name) and his three sons.[114]

In parashah Metzora, when there “seems” to be a plague in the house,[115] the priest must not jump to conclusions, but must examine the facts.[116] Just before the opening of the haftarah, in 2 Kings 7:2, the captain on whom the king leaned jumps to the conclusion that Elisha’s prophecy could not come true, and the captain meets his punishment in 2 Kings 7:17 and19.[117]

On Shabbat Rosh Chodesh

When the combined parashah coincides with Shabbat Rosh Chodesh (as it does in 2020, 2023, and 2026), the haftarah is Isaiah 66:1–24.[102]

Notes

    1. “Torah Stats — VaYikra”. Akhlah Inc. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
    1. “Parashat Tazria”. Hebcal. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
    1. See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Vayikra/Leviticus. Edited by Menachem Davis, pages 74–88. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2008. ISBN 1-4226-0206-0.
    1. Leviticus 12:1–5.
    1. Leviticus 12:6–7.
    1. Leviticus 12:8.
    1. Leviticus 13:1–5.
    1. Leviticus 13:6–8.
    1. Leviticus 13:9–17.
    1. Leviticus 13:18–23.
    1. Leviticus 13:24–28.
    1. Leviticus 13:29–39.
    1. Leviticus 13:40–44.
    1. Leviticus 13:45–46.
    1. Leviticus 13:47–51.
    1. Leviticus 13:52–54.
    1. Leviticus 13:55–59.
    1. For more on inner-Biblical interpretation, see, e.g., Benjamin D. Sommer. “Inner-biblical Interpretation.” In The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, pages 1835–41. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-19-997846-5.
    1. For more on early nonrabbinic interpretation, see, e.g., Esther Eshel. “Early Nonrabbinic Interpretation.” In The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, pages 1841–59.
    1. Philo. On the Unchangableness of God 27:129.Alexandria, Egypt, early 1st century CE. Reprinted in, e.g.,The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. Translated by Charles Duke Yonge, page 169. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0-943575-93-1.
    1. For more on classical rabbinic interpretation, see, e.g., Yaakov Elman. “Classical Rabbinic Interpretation.” In The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, pages 1859–78.
    1. Leviticus Rabbah 14:1.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Nidah 27b.Babylonia, 6th century.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 132a.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 132b.
    1. Mishnah Megillah 2:4. Land of Israel, circa 200 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 319. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.Babylonian Talmud Megillah 20a.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Megillah 20a.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 4a, Yoma 28b.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Niddah 31b.
    1. Genesis Rabbah 20:7. Land of Israel, 5th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by Harry Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 165–66. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
    1. Mishnah Menachot 13:11. Reprinted in, e.g.,The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 765. Babylonian Talmud Menachot 110a. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Yosef Davis, Eliezer Herzka, Abba Zvi Naiman, Zev Meisels, Noson Boruch Herzka, and Avrohom Neuberger; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 60, page 110a3. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2003. ISBN 1-57819-606-X. See also Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 5b.Reprinted in, e.g., Koren Talmud Bavli: Berakhot. Commentary byAdin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz), volume 1, page 29. Jerusalem: Koren Publishers, 2012. ISBN 965-301-5630.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Menachot 110a. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Yosef Davis, Eliezer Herzka, Abba Zvi Naiman, Zev Meisels, Noson Boruch Herzka, and Avrohom Neuberger; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 60, page 110a3–4.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Menachot 104b. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Yosef Davis, Eliezer Herzka, Abba Zvi Naiman, Zev Meisels, Noson Boruch Herzka, and Avrohom Neuberger; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 60, page 104b2.
    1. Mishnah Keritot 6:9. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, pages 850–51.Babylonian Talmud Keritot 28a.
    1. Mishnah Avot 3:18. Reprinted in, e.g.,The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 681.
    1. Mishnah Kinnim 1:1–3:6. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, pages 883–89.
    1. Mishnah Arakhin 2:1. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 811. Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 8a.
    1. Mishnah Zevachim 10:4. Reprinted in, e.g.,The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 722. Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 89a.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 90a.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Yoma 41a.
    1. See Exodus 6:13, 7:8, 9:8, 12:1, 12:43, 12:50; Leviticus 11:1, 13:1, 14:33, 15:1; Numbers 2:1, 4:1, 4:17 14:26, 16:20, 19:1, 20:12, 20:23.
    1. Numbers Rabbah 2:1. 12th century. Reprinted in, e.g.,Midrash Rabbah: Numbers. Translated by Judah J. Slotki, volume 5, page 22. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
    1. Mishnah Negaim 1:1–14:13. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, pages 981–1012. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4. Tosefta Negaim 1:1–9:9. Land of Israel, circa 300 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, volume 2, pages 1709–44. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002.ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
    1. Leviticus Rabbah 15:4.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 15b. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Mendy Wachsman, Feivel Wahl, Yosef Davis, Henoch Moshe Levin, Israel Schneider, Yeshayahu Levy, Eliezer Herzka, Dovid Nachfolger, Eliezer Lachman, and Zev Meisels; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 67, pages 15b2–5. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2004. ISBN 1-57819-650-7.
    1. Deuteronomy Rabbah 6:8.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16a.
    1. Leviticus Rabbah 17:3.
    1. Numbers Rabbah 7:5.
    1. Sifra Aharei Mot pereq 13, 194:2:11. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifra: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, volume 3, page 79. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. ISBN 1-55540-207-0.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 64b.Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Eliezer Herzka, Asher Dicker, Nasanel Kasnett, Noson Boruch Herzka, Reuvein Dowek, Michoel Weiner, Mendy Wachsman, and Feivel Wahl; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 30, page 64b3. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000. ISBN 1-57819-648-5.
    1. Mishnah Negaim 2:5. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 984. Deuteronomy Rabbah 6:8.
    1. Mishnah Negaim 3:2. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, pages 984–85.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 30a.
    1. E.g., Michael Pitkowsky, “The Middle Verse of the Torah” and the response of Reuven Wolfeld there.
    1. See Mishnah Horayot 3:5. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 695. Babylonian Talmud Horayot 12b.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 14b.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 5a.
    1. Leviticus Rabbah 17:4. Ruth Rabbah 2:10.
    1. Tosefta Negaim 6:7. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, volume 2, pages 1731–32.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16b.
    1. For more on medieval Jewish interpretation, see, e.g., Barry D. Walfish. “Medieval Jewish Interpretation.” In The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, pages 1891–1915.
    1. Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed, part 3, chapter 47.Cairo, Egypt, 1190. Reprinted in, e.g., Moses Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed. Translated by Michael Friedländer, page 368. New York: Dover Publications, 1956. ISBN 0-486-20351-4.
    1. Maimonides. Mishneh Torah,Positive Commandments 76, 112, 215;Negative Commandment 307.Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, volume 1, pages 88, 123–24, 230–31; volume 2, pages 283–84. London: Soncino Press, 1967.ISBN 0-900689-71-4.
    1. Leviticus 12:3.
    1. Leviticus 12:6.
    1. Leviticus 13:33.
    1. Leviticus 13:45.
    1. Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, volume 2, pages 201–33. Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 1984. ISBN 0-87306-296-5.
    1. Leviticus 12:2.
    1. Leviticus 12:4.
    1. Leviticus 13:12.
    1. Leviticus 13:47.
    1. Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for the Sabbath and Festivals with an Interlinear Translation, page 556. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-697-3.
    1. Davis, Siddur for the Sabbath and Festivals, page 239.
    1. Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for Weekdays with an Interlinear Translation, page 241. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-686-8. Yosaif Asher Weiss. A Daily Dose of Torah, volume 7, pages 139–40. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2007. ISBN 1-4226-0145-5.
    1. 2 Kings 4:42.
    1. 2 Kings 4:43.
    1. 2 Kings 4:44.
    1. 2 Kings 5:1.
    1. 2 Kings 5:2–3.
    1. 2 Kings 5:4–5.
    1. 2 Kings 5:5.
    1. 2 Kings 5:6.
    1. 2 Kings 5:7.
    1. 2 Kings 5:8–9.
    1. 2 Kings 5:10–11.
    1. 2 Kings 5:12.
    1. 2 Kings 5:13.
    1. 2 Kings 5:14.
    1. 2 Kings 5:15–16.
    1. 2 Kings 5:17–18.
    1. 2 Kings 5:19.
    1. See Leviticus 13.
    1. See 2 Kings 5.
    1. Leviticus 13:3, 8, 9, 11,12,13,15,20,25,27,30,42,43,49,51,52,59;2 Kings 5:3, 6, 7.
    1. Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael, tractate Amalek, chapter 3. Land of Israel, late 4th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael. Translated by Jacob Z. Lauterbach, volume 2, page 280. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1933, reissued 2004. ISBN 0-8276-0678-8.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Gittin 57b. Reprinted in, e.g., Koren Talmud Bavli: Gittin. Commentary by Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz), volume 21, pages 324. Jerusalem: Koren Publishers, 2015. ISBN 978-965-301-582-1. Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 96b.Reprinted in, e.g., The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition. Commentary by Adin Steinsaltz (Even Yisrael), volume 20, page 164. New York: Random House, 1999. ISBN 0-375-50247-5.
    1. Exodus 12:2.
    1. Exodus 12:3–20.
    1. Exodus 12:7; Ezekiel 45:19.
    1. “Parashat Tazria-Metzora”. Hebcal. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
    1. 2 Kings 7:3–4.
    1. 2 Kings 7:5–7.
    1. 2 Kings 7:8.
    1. 2 Kings 7:9–11.
    1. 2 Kings 7:12.
    1. 2 Kings 7:13–14.
    1. 2 Kings 7:15.
    1. 2 Kings 7:16.
    1. 2 Kings 7:17–20.
    1. Leviticus 14:2; 2 Kings 7:3, 8.
    1. 2 Kings 7:3.
    1. Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 107b.
    1. Leviticus 14:35.
    1. Leviticus 14:36–37, 39,44.
  1. See Lainie Blum Cogan and Judy Weiss. Teaching Haftarah: Background, Insights, and Strategies, page 203. Denver: A.R.E. Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-86705-054-3.

Further reading

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:

Biblical

Philo

Early nonrabbinic

Josephus

Classical rabbinic

  • Mishnah: Megillah 2:4; Nazir 7:3; Sotah 3:8; Avot 3:18; Horayot 3:5; Zevachim 10:4; Arakhin 2:1, Keritot 6:9; Kinnim 1:1–3:6; Negaim 1:1–14:13.Land of Israel, circa 200 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, pages 319, 444, 453, 681, 695, 722, 811, 851, 883–89, 981–1012. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Tosefta: Bikkurim 2:6; Shabbat 8:27; Megillah 2:4; Sotah 6:7; Eduyot 2:4; Negaim 1:1–9:9. Land of Israel, circa 300 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, volume 1, pages 350, 385, 857; volume 2, pages 1253, 1709–44. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Sifra 121:1–147:16. Land of Israel, 4th century CE. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifra: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, volume 2, pages 231–323. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. ISBN 1-55540-206-2.
  • Jerusalem Talmud: Kilayim 76a; Maaser Sheni 46b; Shabbat 10b, 19a, 98a; Pesachim 14b, 45b, 55a, 78a; Rosh Hashanah 5b; Megillah 12a, 25b. Land of Israel, circa 400 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, volumes 5, 10, 13, 15, 18–19, 24, 26. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2008–2013.
  • Mekhilta of Rabbi Simeon 10:2. Land of Israel, 5th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. Translated by W. David Nelson, page 31. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2006. ISBN 0-8276-0799-7.
  • Leviticus Rabbah 2:6; 5:5; 14:1–16:1; 16:3–4, 6; 17:3–4; 18:2, 4–5; 21:2; 27:1, 10; 36:1. Land of Israel, 5th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Leviticus. Translated by Harry Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 4, pages 24, 70, 177–98, 202, 205–07, 216–17, 219, 229, 232–33, 266, 344, 354, 456. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.

Talmud

Medieval

Rashi

Nachmanides
  • Abraham ibn Ezra. Commentary on the Torah. Mid-12th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Ibn Ezra’s Commentary on the Pentateuch: Leviticus (Va-yikra). Translated and annotated by H. Norman Strickman and Arthur M. Silver, volume 3, pages 85–102. New York: Menorah Publishing Company, 2004. ISBN 0-932232-11-6.
  • Hezekiah ben Manoah. Hizkuni. France, circa 1240. Reprinted in, e.g., Chizkiyahu ben Manoach. Chizkuni: Torah Commentary. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, volume 3, pages 713–28. Jerusalem: Ktav Publishers, 2013. ISBN 978-1-60280-261-2.
  • Nachmanides. Commentary on the Torah. Jerusalem, circa 1270. Reprinted in, e.g., Ramban (Nachmanides): Commentary on the Torah. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, volume 3, pages 156–85. New York: Shilo Publishing House, 1974. ISBN 0-88328-007-8.

The Zohar
  • Zohar 3:42a–52a. Spain, late 13th century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 volumes. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
  • Bahya ben Asher. Commentary on the Torah. Spain, early 14th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbeinu Bachya: Torah Commentary by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, volume 5, pages 1621–52. Jerusalem: Lambda Publishers, 2003. ISBN 965-7108-45-4.
  • Jacob ben Asher (Baal Ha-Turim). Commentary on the Torah. Early 14th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Baal Haturim Chumash: Vayikra/Leviticus. Translated by Eliyahu Touger; edited, elucidated, and annotated by Avie Gold, volume 3, pages 1113–37. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000. ISBN 1-57819-130-0.
  • Jacob ben Asher. Perush Al ha-Torah. Early 14th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Yaakov ben Asher. Tur on the Torah. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, volume 3, pages 852–67. Jerusalem: Lambda Publishers, 2005. ISBN 978-9657108765.
  • Isaac ben Moses Arama. Akedat Yizhak (The Binding of Isaac). Late 15th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Yitzchak Arama. Akeydat Yitzchak: Commentary of Rabbi Yitzchak Arama on the Torah. Translated and condensed by Eliyahu Munk, volume 2, pages 577–87. New York, Lambda Publishers, 2001.ISBN 965-7108-30-6.

Modern

  • Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno. Commentary on the Torah. Venice, 1567. Reprinted in, e.g., Sforno: Commentary on the Torah. Translation and explanatory notes by Raphael Pelcovitz, pages 538–49. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89906-268-7.
  • Moshe Alshich. Commentary on the Torah. Safed, circa 1593. Reprinted in, e.g., Moshe Alshich. Midrash of Rabbi Moshe Alshich on the Torah. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, volume 2, pages 659–67. New York, Lambda Publishers, 2000. ISBN 965-7108-13-6.
  • Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, 3:40. England, 1651. Reprint edited by C. B. Macpherson, pages 503–04. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Classics, 1982. ISBN 0-14-043195-0.
  • Avraham Yehoshua Heschel. Commentaries on the Torah. Cracow, Poland, mid 17th century. Compiled as Chanukat HaTorah. Edited by Chanoch Henoch Erzohn. Piotrkow, Poland, 1900. Reprinted in Avraham Yehoshua Heschel. Chanukas HaTorah: Mystical Insights of Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel on Chumash. Translated by Avraham Peretz Friedman, pages 219–21. Southfield, Michigan: Targum Press/Feldheim Publishers, 2004. ISBN 1-56871-303-7.
  • Shabbethai Bass. Sifsei Chachamim. Amsterdam, 1680. Reprinted in, e.g., Sefer Vayikro: From the Five Books of the Torah: Chumash: Targum Okelos: Rashi: Sifsei Chachamim: Yalkut: Haftaros, translated by Avrohom Y. Davis, pages 211–48. Lakewood Township, New Jersey: Metsudah Publications, 2012.

Dickinson

Luzzatto

Mann

Herzfeld

External links

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Texts

Commentaries