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Mysterious Impurities ~ Tazria

April 16, 2010

The wonderful thing about the Torah is that each portion comes around again and again, giving a person the chance to think more about what it means.  The bad news is that each portion comes around again and again, meaning a person has to write about it AGAIN.  Tazria Metzorah is not a pretty portion and I have written on it at least 3 times, I think 4.  I have tried to avoid the obvious as I cannot begin to compete with the incredible semantic “parsing” that is out there about this portion.  This portion deals with the “impurities” of childbirth and menstruation ~ an entire subject in itself; and rituals for purification.  It also deals with a leprosy-like affliction that appears mysteriously.  What I wrote about this last year had to do with the concept of evil speech as the genesis of the impurity.  It was written for a talk I gave to my Sisterhood and focused on gossip and backbiting.  In looking at this portion again, I am still intrigued by the way in which the mysterious impurity manifests itself.  It begins with the most impersonal of all ~ the outer walls of the home, moving to the clothing of the person and finally to the body of the person themselves.  What struck me this year was the idea that the afflicted person was being given opportunities to avoid the ultimate and most personal affliction of their body.  G-d gives the afflicted, apparently, several opportunities to avoid the final disgrace.  So if the affliction is due to some behavior, as many scholars see it, the evil speech for instance, then theoretically stopping the behavior will halt the spread of the affliction.  We humans are a stubborn bunch.  We clearly need more than one warning and often even the multiples are not enough.  We persist in thinking we are right and good no matter what the consequences.  We say what we say despite the hurt it may cause.  We fail to stop and reflect that some of our “afflictions”, sadness, lonliness, isolation, fear, may be the result of our inability to open our minds and our hearts to the problems and perspectives of others.  In this way Tazria can be read as a metaphor.  The afflictions we cause ourselves are small at the onset, perhaps affecting our “outside” lives, our marginal and fleeting interactions with people we do not have lasting or substantial relations with.  Next are our friends and family, those we are close to, and our closed mindedness and stubborness may begin to damage our relationships with them.  They are the layer around us, much like the afflicted clothing.  Finally, we lose ourselves and our relationship with G-d.  The impurities in our minds, hearts and attitudes growing so great that we cannot find our way back to faith.  I have digressed, but that is what the study of Torah is all about.  Shabbat Shalom.

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One Comment
  1. Yasher Koach to Treinah Gorman. She has a capacity to get to the heart of Torah,her insights are thought provoking.I Sometimes wonder why in God's creation was there no room for female commentary? did our forebears viewwith suspicion or even competition a woman's perspective?Keep up the good work.

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