Pronounced Pure: Parashat Tazria-Matzora Reflections

Hebrew Vision News Exclusive

by Miykael Qorbanyahu aka The End Time Scribe

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The human condition is described as frail from both a moral and physical perspective, and this is brought into relief upon examination of purification requirements. Impurity is inevitable as it wells up by means of natural processes within human beings. Human inadequacy is forever in full view and requires [Elohim]’s [favor] for atonement as well as complex purification rituals. Nevertheless, the hope of the community lies not in the present wretched state of humanity but in messianic fulfillment and apocalyptic victory. At present, purity enables the group to receive ongoing revelation, and, in the future,  purity will ignite [Elohim]’s holiness in military battle. Purity makes it possible for holy angels to reside among the sectarians and aid them in their fight against evil.

Purity Texts. Hannah Harrington. pg. 129

This is the Torah of the infection of leprosy in a garment of wool or linen, or in the warp or in the weft, or in any leather object, to pronounce it clean or to pronounce it unclean.

Leviticus 13.59

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Image result for cleanliness is next to godlinessMost, if not all of us, are familiar with the age old adage cleanliness is next to godliness. Suggesting that the order of one’s life and condition of their hygiene is important when it comes to communing with the Creator, the veracity of this statement is confirmed with this week’s double Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora. Focusing on issues concerning the purification of women after childbirth, leprosy, its varieties and symptoms, the purification of lepers and leprous houses, as well as various bodily discharges, this reading provides prescriptions for dealing with each of these circumstances as outlined in order to preserve purity and cleanliness in the encampment of Israel. We will see that the creation and preservation of cleanliness and purity, both individually and communally, is one of the ultimate endeavors of humanity necessary, as prerequisite conditions, to experience the manifest the presence of יהוה, heaven’s Host.

Image result for hebrew word tahorWith Tazria-Metzora, which translates to she will conceive and leper, respectively, we are introduced to a new set of Torah instructions for the purpose of directly dealing with social situations which would potentially contaminate the entire community, not only physically, but also morally, if actions were not taken to prevent its spread. Interestingly, these instructions relating to human cleanliness follow the parashat which covers the Levitical code of torah h’kashrut, or the dietary laws, regarding the eating of animals which are considered clean. As the Scripture mandates, the process of determining the quality and condition of both food and people was undertaken by the Levitical priesthood who were intensively trained to distinguish between that which was considered  clean or unclean.

Image result for hebrew word tahorWe find that the word in Hebrew for unclean is tamei (טָמֵא) and denotes ethical, religious and ritual defilement or impurity. Idiomatically, this words carries with it the notion of spotting—a flow of debris that causes dark spots on the transparent image of Elohim, thereby causing it to be obscure, or darkened. Therefore, it is when this state of being exists that the Shekinah presence of יהוה is unable to be made manifest in the life of the individual or the community where impurity is found. It is like a blockage in an artery which prevents the flow of blood through the cardio-vascular system which thereby risks the occurrence of a stroke or heart attack to occur due to the build up of foreign debris known as plaque which blocks the flow of blood, the very substance of life for humanity. Spiritually, this is akin to the blocking of the anointing of the Ruach h’Qodesh from entering the soul as a result of an overshadowing of the flesh/self which enshrouds the Spirit. Of this reality, rav Shaul tells the assembly of Thessalonika

For Elohim did not call us to uncleanness, but in set-apartness.

I Thessalonians 4.7

Image result for hebrew word tahorConversely, to be pure, or tahore (טָהוֹר) in Hebrew, is to achieve self-mastery which then gives one access to that which is hidden, namely the Shekinah presence of יהוה. Furthermore, to be pure is to also have an association with the arrangement of light according to the mastery of thought when joined inseparably with all components of the illumination of Messiah’s mind. This state consequently becomes present when one has fully learned, internalized, attached themselves and adhered to the Torah’s instructions, precepts, and prescriptions. Ultimately, being tahore translates to one bringing forth a state of physical, ceremonial and moral purity and cleanliness.

In light of these terms, it is innerstood from this parashat that the condition of leprosy, or zara’at (צָרַעַת) in Hebrew, was the consequence of slander, disobedience, immorality and thus transgression of the Torah. As a result of a person contacting this unclean and impure disease, or the symptoms thereof, a restrictive quarantine was placed on the individual until it was conclusively determined that the individual was either tamei or tahore. If tahore, the person was allowed to return to the community at-large; if tamei, then the person was placed in strict quarantine until the condition was remedied. Of this fact in Israelite social structure, the Jewish Encyclopedia has this to say about the matter;

There is much reason to believe that the segregation of lepers was regarded, at any rate at certain periods, more in the light of a religious ceremonial than as a hygienic restriction. Ẓara’at was looked upon as a disease inflicted by [Elohim] upon those who transgressed His laws, a divine visitation for evil thoughts and evil deeds. Every leper mentioned in the Old Testament was afflicted because of some transgression. “Miriam uttered disrespectful words against [Elohim]’s chosen servant Moses, and, therefore, was she smitten with leprosy. Yoab, with his family and descendants, was cursed by David for having treacherously murdered his great rival Abner. Gehazi provoked the anger of Elisha by his mean covetousness, calculated to bring the name of Israel into disrepute among the heathen. King . . . Uzziah was smitten with incurable leprosy for his alleged usurpation of priestly privileges in burning incense on the golden altar of the Temple” (Kalisch). It would have been quite natural for the people by a posteriori reasoning to have regarded persons afflicted with ẓara’at as transgressors; they had violated the laws of [Elohim] and their transgressions had been great, else they would not have been so afflicted.

Image result for biblical quarantine of lepersThis isolation was intended to cause the person who was diagnosed with leprosy to reflect on their misdeeds which would ultimately lead to their repentance and restoration to society. It was then that the disease was remedied and the markings of this affliction were then removed. This first occurrence of this type of marking of individuals for their transgression in Scripture is Qayin the son of Adam. After the Torah records him murdering his brother, it goes on to provide us with this narrative;

And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” And Qayin said to יהוה, “My punishment is too great to bear! See, You have driven me from the face of the ground today, and I am hidden from Your face. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and it shall be that anyone who finds me kills me.” And יהוה said to him, “Well, if anyone kills Qayin, vengeance is taken on him sevenfold.” And יהוה set up a sign for Qayin, lest anyone finding him kills him. So Qayin went out from the presence of יהוה and dwelt in the land of Noḏ on the east of Ěḏen.

Genesis 4.10-16

That the sign which was placed upon Qayin was that of leprosy is attested to in an excerpt from Genesis Rabbah xxii.12 which states

And [יהוה] set a sign for Cain. R. Judah said: He caused the orb of the sun to shine on his account. Said R. Nehemiah to him: For that wretch He would cause the orb of the sun to shine! Rather, He caused leprosy to break out on him, as you read, ‘And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, etc. (Ex. iv.8).

Furthermore, as regarding the sign that was set up for Qayin, the Artscroll Stone edition provides us with additional certainty that it was indeed leprosy that he was afflicted with which was often the result of such sinful acts as murder. The exegetes state that

Zara’at is the physical manifestation of a spiritual malaise. The primary cause of zara’at is the sin of slander. Similarly, it is a punishment for the sins of bloodshed, false oaths, sexual immorality, pride, robbery and selfishness (Arachin 16a, Midrash). Thus zara’at is a Divine retribution for the offender’s failure to feel the needs and share the hurt of others. [Elohim] isolates him from society, so that he can experience the pain he has imposed on others – and heal himself through repentance.

Artscroll Tanach. pg. 229

Image result for teshuvah repentanceThat afflictions and judgments which are carried against individuals to bring forth a rectification of their behavior is the result of the Most High lovingly chastising His offspring for engaging in what is considered, according to the first epistle of John, a sin not unto death. The work of repentance is indeed one of the most serious undertakings that humanity must engage for not only reorienting human behavior but also repairing creation. Yet, in regards to working repentance and the restoration of one’s health, the Torah lists three stages when dealing with leprosy which were to cause the person or group so afflicted to be made whole and pronounced clean. Those stages are

  1. Purification: This shall be the Torah of the leper for the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look and see, if the leprosy is healed in the leper, then the priest shall command, and he shall take for him who is to be cleansed two live and clean birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop. And the priest shall command, and he shall kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water. Let him take the live bird and the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the live bird loose in the open field.
  2. Shaving: And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his garments, and shall shave off all his hair and wash himself in water, and shall be clean. Then after that he comes into the camp, but shall stay outside his tent seven days. And on the seventh day it shall be that he shaves all the hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shaves off. And he shall wash his garments and wash his body in water, and shall be clean.
  3. Purification Offering: And on the eighth day he takes two male lambs, perfect ones, and one ewe lamb a year old, a perfect one, and three-tenths of an ĕphah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering, and one log of oil.

At this point, let us redirect our attention to a matter of prophecy relating to lepers being cleansed of their condition. Interestingly, as prophecy would have it one of the Messianic Miracles that would take place when the Redeemer of Israel would appear is the healing of lepers. This is in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah found in chapter 35 verses 3-6 which lists the Messianic Miracles asImage result for matthew 11 healing

  1. opening the eyes of the blind
  2. opening the ears of the deaf
  3. healing the lame (aka the leper)
  4. healing the tongue of the mute/dumb

These miracles were to to be carried out only by the Messiah himself at his appearance. According to Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Russian Orthodox Jew who came to accept Yahoshua as Messiah at an early age,  his article The Three Messianic Miracles says of leprosy that

Although the priesthood had all these detailed instructions as to how they were to respond in the case of a healed leper, they never had the opportunity to put these instructions into effect, because from the time the Mosaic Law was given, no [Yahudi/Israelite] was ever healed of leprosy. As a result, it was taught by the rabbis that only the Messiah would be able to heal a[n Israelite] leper. The healing of the leper was classed as the first of the three messianic miracles.

We see Yahoshua going about his healing ministry lepers recorded in the Witness of Matthew providing us with the following account;

And when He came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And see, a leper came, and bowed before Him, saying, “Master, if You desire, You are able to make me clean.” And stretching out His hand יהושע touched him, saying, “I desire it. Be cleansed!” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And יהושע said to him, “See, mention it to no one. But go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moshe commanded, as a witness to them.”

Matthew 8.1-4

Image result for priest shall pronounce him cleanFollowing the Torah’s prescriptions for confirming the healing, Mashiyach Yahoshua demonstrated his critical insight of יהוה’s instructions and therefore fulfilled the requirement of the individual taking the initiative to undergo the investigation as well as receive the confirmation of their healing. What is most powerful about this particular incident is the witness of the miracle that it provided to those in the Temple precinct. With such an uncanny healing taking place, there must have been speculative notions circulating that the Messiah had indeed appeared. Even in the historical records of the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds refer to the healing power that was said to be present with Yahoshua and his disciples. These references are mentioned in tractates

  • Tosefta Hullin 2:22f
  • Jerusalem Abodah Zarah 2:2/12
  • Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/13
  • Qohelet Rabbah 1:8(3)
  • Babylonian Abodah Zarah 27b
  • Jerusalem Abodah Zarah 2:2/7
  • Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/8

In the final analysis, the significance and true intent of this week’s parashat is to encourage the entire community to strive for religious, physical and moral purity and cleanliness. For when this state of being is present within the collective body of Israel, then the presence of יהוה is able to reside within each individual member as well as upon the presence of the assembly. This is what will cause the humanity to be restored, the world to be repaired, and, ultimately, the wicked to be done away with. The essence of our nature in its primordial state is one that is unified, whole and pure. Only by returning to that state of being will be able to experience the fullness of life in all its mysterious manifestations. For it is then that we will see the reflection of the image in which we created emanating from within each of those who undertaken the process of cleansing themselves so that the world will once again be the habitation of the righteous and holy offspring of יהוה El Elyon, and the words of the Master, Mashiyach Yahoshua come to pass when He stated,

Blessed are the clean in heart, because they shall see Elohim.

Matthew 5.8

Selah…

Additional related information

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Jerusalem Talmud

Soncino Babylonian Talmud

Law of Purities

Tahoroth Chapter 1

Purity Texts

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