Parashat Tazria-Metzora – Erev Shabbat 21 April 2023 (5783)
Week of 16-22 April 2023.
Torah portion: Lev. 12:1-15:33; Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24
Theme: Guard your tongue!
The first name of the Parashah, “Tazria,” means “to conceive” and is found in Leviticus 12:2. The second name, “Metzora“, is often translated as “leper” and is found in Leviticus 14:2. Tzaraat (often mistranslated as leprosy) is a supernatural plague, which can afflict people as well as clothing or homes, thus being understood as both physical and spiritual.
This week, continuing the discussion about the ritual of purity and impurity, we find that not only does this refer to physical illness, but also spiritual illness, which is mainly caused by maleficence. We will see this in the book of Numbers (12:1-2) when the text refers to Miriam, sister of Moses. Another reference is the text of Deuteronomy (24:8-9) which says, “Avoid the disease of leprosy with the greatest care […] remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam when she left Egypt”.
This should make us reflect on the fact that even Miriam a prophetess and leader of all women in that period, fell into sin for having spoken badly about her brother Moses. Maleficence is the person’s lack of self-control over his/her own language, which causes internal and external effects. Therefore, Tazria-Metzora reminds us that we must always think before speaking and, of course, it is always better to remain silent when what we say does not contribute to the edification of our brothers and sisters; after all, there is nothing better for the body than silence.
The tongue has the power to curse and to bless. Let’s control our language, so that our existence is not set on fire by cursed words. Let us use our tongues not to destroy but to build up.
The Torah shows us that if a Jew has made his soul impure by committing a serious sin, God also makes his body unclean with leprosy. This in a way helps a person to realize that he has sinned and that he should make the return movement: Teshuva. When manifesting leprosy, the sinner should look for a priest, not a doctor, another sign of the spiritual nature that we can mention.
We must remember that in all the creatures that God has made, human beings are the only ones who have the privilege of being able to express themselves through speech, a gift from God. Therefore, He also commands us to keep our tongues pure. Nowadays, in this age of social networks, we must also remain vigilant with what we “speak” when we write. So many times, we hide behind our cell phone and computer screens and offend people. We must remember that it is through the way we express ourselves that we show the kind of people we are. May we all be cleansed of the leprosy of arrogance, judgment and prejudice, and so have pure tongues!
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Have you ever experienced what gossip can do to a person’s life? Relate briefly. 2. In what area do you need to guard your tongue? What do you intend doing?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Nayon Nigel Cezar, NDS, Israel, Bat kol Contributor.