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Leprosy. Male Discharges. Menstruation. OY!
If nothing else, I'll say this-our ancestors did take on some common, everyday issues. The way they approached them may seem alien and strange to us, but surely it is a sign of a healthy society that they could talk about these things.
Imagine the outcry today if you wanted to publicly talk about these issues. Although in recent decades our society has loosened up somewhat, we still have a lot of taboos against discussing things like sex, bodily functions, etc. openly and publicly.
So while we may view these rituals and proscriptions in Tazria-Metzora with disdain and confusion, I ask - who is the healthier society: the one in which a mother talks to her daughter about "their friend" coming to visit them each month, or the one in which subjects like menstruation, discharges and leprosy are dealt with openly?
For many, it is troubling that the Torah declares the impurity from giving birth to a girl to be greater than the impurity from giving birth to a boy. While that troubles me too, I think one fact often overlooked about this portion is the fact that it talks about both male and female occurrences that make one impure. No one is really singled out. I think that is a more important fact than any perceived gender bias.
Although these are very real issues, perhaps they are a metaphor as well. As some commentators suggest, "tzara'at" could be a metaphor for a "spiritual sickness" in a society. Similarly, the passages about menstruation and male discharges could be seen as metaphors for those things that we do that cause us to be separated from the community-immoral acts, selfish acts, hateful acts. And, the sad reality is, we all find ourselves in that situation once in a while. Just as women will find themselves menstruating and men will find themselves having discharges. Torah is maybe telling us that when we are dealing with these kinds of metaphorical impurities that perhaps it is best for us to step away for a while and work to purify ourselves before we continue our everyday contact with the people around us.
There's usually something else we miss in all this, especially when these two parashiyot are combined. We think mostly of the "m'tzora." We tend to forget the "tazria." Tazria. Implanted, or perhaps impregnated are more modern translations of the word. Yet the focus of the opening words are on childbirth and what happens in its wake. So while we read of leprosy, molds, skin rashes, male discharges, menstruation, et al--let's remember that what started out this whole parasha is CHILDBIRTH. That should be hopeful enough to get us through all the rest of the messy stuff.
We also have another chance to be hopeful amidst all the "messy stuff." It comes every week. I pray that this Shabbat provides you with hope to deal with all the "messy stuff" in your life.
©2004 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some other musings on this parasha:
Tazria-Metzora 5766 -
Comfort in Jerusalem
Tazria-Metzora 5758/5764-Getting Through the Messy Stuff
Tazria-Metzora 5761-Lessons For Our Stuents
Tazria-Metzora 5762-Sing a Song of Leprosy
Tazria 5765-If Naaman Can
Tazria 5760-Preventing Spiritual Rot
Metzora 5765-Defiling the Tabernacle
Metzora 5763-Not So Irrelevant
Metzora 5760-Even Lepers Bring Good News
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