“The priest shall order two live clean birds, cedar wood, crimson stuff,
and hyssop to be brought for him who is to be cleansed.” (Leviticus 14:4)
We read two parashot (portions) this week because of the way the Jewish calendar is calculated. Months are determined by the moon’s cycle, but the year is determined by the sun’s. 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 opens by stating, “This shall be the teaching of the metzorah, the leper.” (Lev. 14:1) Rabbi Asher Tzvi of Ostrog (?-1816; a disciple of the Maggid of Mezrich and a Chassidic leader in Poland/Ukraine) explains metzorah can be read as motzi ra, or someone who speaks ill of others. This is an example of a classic human failing. The way to combat this urge is to do the opposite. That is why the parasha, or portion, continues: “On the day he is to be purified, he shall be brought to the priest.” (Lev. 14:2) The performance of the mitzvah, or commandment, brings you into God’s presence.
Arthur Green (1941-; American scholar of Jewish mysticism and Neo-Hasidism) sees in this explanation a commentary on the Exodus, the purpose of freedom, and human nature. God frees the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to be free to live a life of Torah. But living a spiritually fulfilling life can’t be only about avoiding things; there also must be things to approach. So when the Book of Psalms says, “Turn from evil and do good,” (Ps. 34:15) it’s a reminder the most effective way to eliminate a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom