Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Torah Connection - Tazria/Metzora

Ah, the "Skin Disease Parsha", just what every Bar/Bat Mitzvah kid dreads!

Tzara'at, normally translated as leprosy, was understood by rabbinical scholars as a spiritual rather than physical affliction.  Specifically, it was said to be a divine punishment for "lashon hara" - gossip, or badmouthing others.

This seems strange.  Why would these intelligent leaders claim something that was so easily disproven?  How many people are relentless gossips, spreading vicious rumors about everyone, with nary a pimple to show for it?  How many children fall victim to rashes and other diseases of all sorts who have not even had the chance to talk yet, much less talk evil?

It occurred to me that this might be an ancient formulation of "I am rubber, you are glue, what you say bounces off me and sticks to you."   People frequently talk disparagingly of those who look different from them. Those who are... ugly.  Is this a way of saying, "That which you say about them, will befall you"?  What does this say about people who call others "R******"?

The cures for the various afflictions generally involve washing and quarantine, generally reasonable medical approaches before the advent of modern medicine.   So contrary to the gossips' hype, the afflicted people should actually be treated with compassion, helped to heal without causing epidemics, and then welcomed back to the community.

This brings us to Metzora, the second parsha covered in this week's combined reading.  Here we learn about the various offerings that the "leper" must bring upon recovery, as well as the prescriptions for both men's and women's reproductive discharges.  Again, washing and quarantine - from a day to a month - are prescribed.    So just being a man or a woman can bring on the kind of impurity that is akin to leprosy.  Many modern people see the female side of this - the laws of Niddah - as being somehow misogynistic.  Reading the text as a whole, though, shows that men and women have parallel requirements, and in fact, the men's rules are given first.  In light of the discussion above about leprosy, what does this suggest about the way men and women should view each other?

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