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Parashat Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)

“And the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and
shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord.” (Leviticus 14:16)

We read two parashot (portions) this week because of how the Jewish calendar is calculated. The moon’s cycle determines the months, but the sun’s cycle determines the year. Therefore, a Jewish year (including leap years, which add an entire month) can have from 50 to 55 weeks. Since the number of parashot doesn’t change, some years require certain parashot to “double up” on a given Shabbat.

Parashat Tazria-Metzora focuses on ritual purity, a big deal in the Torah. Someone who becomes impure must immerse in a mikveh, or ritual bath, and then must wait until sunset to be ritually clean (Lev. 22:7). Why wait?

Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935; first Chief Rabbi of Palestine during the British Mandate) explains spiritual repair to regain purity is a two-step process. Immersion in the mikveh is the first step and compares to apologizing to a friend for hurtful behavior. This achieves tehar yoma, purification of the day, since it is no longer occupied by sin. That is why the rabbis comment, “The sun sets, and then it-the day-is clean.” (Babylonian Talmud B’rachot 2a)

But more spiritual repair is needed to restore purity; just as an apology is not enough to repair a still-fragile friendship. Offering the evening sacrifice is the second step and compares to a friendly gesture toward your friend that restores the closeness of the relationship. This achieves tehar gavra, purification of the individual. Of course, you must wait until sunset to offer the evening sacrifice (Lev. 22:7).

Jewish thought identifies God as the ultimate role model; Kook uses human relationships to remind us how to keep God close.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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