פָּרָשַׁת תַּזְרִיעַ Parashat Tazriyaՙ
Parashat Tazriyaՙ (Lev. 12:1-13:59) contains the following sidrot:
Eighty-Sixth Sidra՚, impurity from childbirth, the curse of Ṣaraՙath, chronic Ṣaraՙath, Ṣaraՙath on an infection, and Ṣaraՙath on a burn;
Eighty-Seventh Sidra՚, Ṣaraՙath of the head or of the beard, dim white spots, baldness, separation of a Meṣoraՙ, and Ṣaraՙath on garments.
Eighty-Sixth Sidra՚ (Lev. 12:1-13:28): Impurity from childbirth, the curse of Ṣaraՙath, chronic Ṣaraՙath, Ṣaraՙath on an infection, and Ṣaraՙath on a burn.
Parashat Tazriyaՙ continues with the ordinances and regulations concerning purity and impurity.
When a woman bears a male child she is impure for seven days, her impurity being no different from that of niddah [separation; the seven days that a woman is impure due to her period]. On the eighth day the boy is circumcised, and the mother remains "in the blood of purification" (Lev. 12:4) for thirty-three days. Until the fulfilment of the thirty-three days she is not to touch any thing holy nor is she to enter the Holy Place [i.e. Mishkan and later the Temple]. Thus, if a woman gives birth to a male child she is impure for a total of forty days; seven like her niddah, and thirty-three in the blood of purification. If she bears a female child, she is impure for two weeks, just as when she is in niddah, and for sixty-six days (i.e. twice as many days as that of a male child) she remains in the blood of purification. Thus, for a female child she is impure for a total of eighty days; fourteen like her niddah, and sixty-six in the blood of purification. Once the mother has fulfilled the days of her purification she is to bring a lamb in its first year for an ascent-offering, and a young dove or a turtledove for a sin-offering. The kohen is to make atonement upon her behalf, "and she shall be purified from the source of her blood; this is the instruction for one giving birth, to a male or to a female" (Lev. 12:7). However, if she cannot afford a lamb she may bring two turtledoves or two young doves instead; one for an ascent-offering and the other for a sin-offering.
The Torah now discusses the various impurities caused by the curse of Ṣaraՙath [צָרַעַת/צָרָעַת also called צָרוּעַ; someone with ṣaruwaՙ is known as a מְצֹרָע]. The meaning of the word ṣaraՙath is unsure. It is usually translated as leprosy (Hansen’s disease), but when one considers all the circumstances of ṣaraՙath this translation seems unlikely. Ṣaraՙath is an impurity sent by YHWH due to certain sins committed by the afflicted, an understanding that can be justified by Deuteronomy 24:8-9 where it refers to the case of Miriam being struck with ṣaraՙath because she spoke ill of Moses.
If someone has on the skin of their flesh a swelling, scab, or bright spot, and there is a possibility that it is the mark of ṣaraՙath, they are to be examined by a kohen. If the hair in the mark has turned white and the appearance of the mark is deeper than that of the skin it is the mark of ṣaraՙath. The kohen who performed the examination is to declare the one with the mark impure. If the bright spot is white and its appearance is not deeper than the skin, and the hair has not turned white; then the kohen is to isolate the one with the mark for seven days. On the seventh day the kohen is to re-examine the mark and if it has remained unchanged not spreading in the skin, then the one with the mark is to be isolated for a second set of seven days. On the seventh day of the second set of seven days the kohen is to again examine the mark. If the mark is dim and has not spread on the skin then the kohen shall declare them pure; it is only a scab, but first they must launder their garments. But if sometime latter the scab does spread on the skin then the kohen shall examine them once again, and if the scab has spread the kohen shall declare them impure, as it is ṣaraՙath.
If someone afflicted with ṣaraՙath has a white swelling on the skin turning the hair white with a spot of raw flesh in the swelling; it is inactive ṣaraՙath and the kohen shall declare them impure. If the ṣaraՙath erupts on the skin entirely covering the one with the mark from head to foot, then the kohen upon seeing that the ṣaraՙath has in fact covered all of their flesh shall declare them pure seeing that all of their flesh has turned white. But on the day that raw flesh appears on them, they are impure. Upon seeing the raw flesh the kohen declares them impure; for the raw flesh is ṣaraՙath. If the raw flesh turns back to being white then the kohen is to examine the mark and if it has turned white the kohen shall declare them pure.
If someone has had a boil on their skin, which has healed, and in the place where the boil was there is now a white swelling, or a bright spot white-reddish; it is to be shown to the kohen. If its appearance is lower than the skin and its hair has turned white the kohen shall declare him impure since it is the mark of ṣaraՙath that has erupted in the boil. If upon examination no white hair is found and it is not lower than the skin but is dim, the kohen shall isolate them for seven days. If it spreads in the skin the kohen shall declare them impure; it is the mark of ṣaraՙath. But if the bright spot has not spread it is just an inflammation of the boil and the kohen shall declare them pure.
If someone is burnt by fire and a raw spot develops on the burn - bright spot white-reddish or white - the kohen shall examine them. If the kohen sees that the hair has turned white in the bright spot and its appearance is deeper than the skin, ṣaraՙath has erupted in the burn, they are impure. If, however, there is not a white hair in the bright spot nor is it lower than the skin but is dim, then the kohen shall isolate them for seven days. On the seventh day if it has spread the kohen shall declare them impure, it is a mark of ṣaraՙath. But if the bright spot has not spread in the skin and it is dim, it is a swelling or inflammation from the burn and the kohen shall declare them pure.
Eighty-Seventh Sidra՚ (Lev. 13:29-59): Ṣaraՙath of the head or of the beard, dim white spots, baldness, separation of a Meṣoraՙ, and Ṣaraՙath on garments.
If someone has a mark on their head or beard the kohen shall examine the mark. If it appears deeper than the skin with a thin yellow hair in it, then the kohen is to declare them impure, as it is a scall; it is ṣaraՙath of the head or of the beard. If the appearance of the mark of the scall does not appear deeper than the skin and there is no black hair in it, then the kohen shall isolate them for seven days. If on the seventh day the scall has not spread and there is no yellow hair in it, and the appearance of the scall is no deeper than the skin, then the one with mark shall shave but the scall is not to be shaved. The kohen is then to isolate them for a second set of seven days. On the seventh day the kohen is to re-examine the scall and if it has not spread and its appearance is not deeper than the skin then the kohen declares them pure; they shall launder their garments then they are pure. However, if sometime later the scall spreads the kohen is to examine them once again, and if the scall has indeed spread the kohen does not need to look for the yellow hair - they are impure. But if the scall has not spread and a black hair has sprung up in the scall, it has healed, he is pure.
If someone has bright spots - white bright spots - on the skin of their flesh, the kohen is to examine them. If it is just bright spots dim white on the skin, it is an eruption that sprouted on the skin; they are pure.
If a man completely looses the hair on his head or has any form of male pattern baldness, he is bald - he is pure. However, if there is anywhere on his baldness a white-reddish mark it is sprouting ṣaraՙath. The kohen shall examine him and if the swelling of the mark is white-reddish - like the appearance of ṣaraՙath on the skin - he has ṣaruwaՙ, the kohen shall declare him impure.
Anyone on whom there is the mark of ṣaruwaՙ is to rent their garments, let their hair grow wild, place a covering over their upper lip, and is to call out "impure, impure". They are to do this all the days that the mark of ṣaruwaՙ is on them, they are impure and are to settle outside of the camp i.e. any settlement.
After instructing about the various marks of ṣaruwaՙ that can afflict a human, the Torah now deals with ṣaraՙath of objects. If there is a mark on a garment of wool or linen even if it is just in the warp or the woof, or in hide, or an item made of hide, and the mark is greenish or reddish it is the mark of ṣaraՙath; it is to be shown to the kohen. The reason why the Torah only mentions wool and linen is simply because these were the only two materials used for textiles at the time, cotton and silk were not introduced to the Near East until much latter. After the kohen has inspected the mark on the item it is to be isolated for seven days. On the seventh day if the mark has spread it is the mark of malignant ṣaraՙath, the item is impure and is burnt in fire. However, if the mark has not spread, then the item is to be laundered and isolated for a further seven days. At the end of the seven days the kohen again inspects the item, if the mark has not changed its aspect and has not spread the item is impure and is to be burnt in fire, "it is decay" (Lev. 13:55). If upon inspection the mark has become dim then the kohen is to tear it out of the item. If it reappears in the item it is sprouting ṣaraՙath and the item is to be burnt in fire. However, if after the second set of seven days the mark has departed from the item, then the item is to be laundered a second time and is pure.
TEACHINGS OF HAKHAM REKHAVI:
Ṣaraՙath the mysterious plague - a chastisement straight from YHWH sent as an admonishment to the afflicted. Contracting the mark of ṣaruwaՙ brought with it physical, social as well as psychological ramifications and consequences; in addition to issues of purity. In reality ṣaraՙath was a spiritual ailment that had physical manifestations, rather than the other way round. Since ṣaraՙath rendered the one afflicted impure, the meṣoraՙ - being in a state of impurity - needed to be separated from the general population; taking up residence outside of the city. The meṣoraՙ went about their daily life with torn garments, uncut and unkempt hair, a covered upper lip, and called out "impure, impure" when away from the abode of those with the mark of ṣaruwaՙ. Then there's the shame, everyone knew that the mark of ṣaruwaՙ was an affliction sent as a punishment from YHWH. The mark of ṣaruwaՙ thus becomes by its very nature what it is intended to be - a social stigma, a badge of humiliation for all to see.
Can you imagine the remorse that the meṣoraՙ would eventually come to feel due to their plight? Surely it would be enough torment to bring even the most stiff-necked individual to inner reflection and thus repentance!
So can you imagine the embarrassment and degradation felt if you had been wrongly diagnosed with ṣaraՙath?!
Nobody wants to be misdiagnosed by an incompetent healer, doctor, or some other health professional who mistakes a physical ailment for the mark of ṣaruwaՙ. Therefore, as a spiritual disease the diagnosing of ṣaraՙath fell under the jurisdiction of the kohen rather than that of the health professional. The kohen was meticulously trained in the diagnosis of ṣaraՙath, in fact the Torah even provides us with an example of where a physical ailment could have been mistaken for ṣaraՙath. In Leviticus 13:13 we are introduced to the case of someone whose entire body has been engulfed with ṣaraՙath, a condition that results in them being pronounced pure. This begs the question; why does partial coverage of the body with ṣaraՙath cause impurity, while being entirely engulfed renders one pure?
Leviticus 13:13 describes a de-pigmentation of the skin over most of the body. The physical ailment which corresponds most closely to these symptoms is vitiligo (acquired leucoderma), in which patches of skin lose their normal colour and become white. The condition is due to a simple loss of pigment in the skin, and apart from the presence of white patches the skin is normal; thus justifying the kohen to declare them pure. However, if the person with vitiligo developed raw flesh over the white patches subsequently to being declared pure by the kohen, they were suspected of having developed ṣaraՙath. Therefore, Leviticus 13:13 is informing the kohen how to differentiate between vitiligo and ṣaraՙath, in addition to informing him that vitiligo does not make one impure.
Today, ṣaraՙath is no longer sent as a Divine punishment; being dependant upon the Glory of YHWH dwelling within our midst - no Temple, no ṣaraՙath! Thus ṣaraՙath, just like the various types of sacrifices, has no relevance in a world without the Temple and a functioning kohanim. However, we would do well to remember one of the lessons that the mark of ṣaruwaՙ conveys; the closer, both physically and spiritually we are to the Glory of YHWH the direr the consequences when we mess up.
The history of the Jewish people has been one of Divine chastisement followed by Divine forgiveness all due to the fact that as a people we still have not heeded our true calling. Has not the Galuth [Exile] been like the mark of ṣaruwaՙ upon us; forced to wear distinctive clothing and badges, placed in ghettos away from the residential quarters of the locals. We, as a nation were given the Truth on Mt. Sinai by YHWH the creator and master of the universe, for YHWH gave the Torah to Israel with the intention of making them into "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). By being a kingdom of priests and a holy nation we become "a light to the nations" (Isaiah 42:6). YHWH's destiny for Israel is simple; let us embrace it.