The Parsha for this week is Tazria (seeds)– Leviticus 12:1 to 13:59. The seeds here referred to are not seeds for planting in the soil, but the type of seed that continues the procreation of humanity from generation to generation. Following on from laws about clean and unclean food it is logical to continue with the matter of ritual purity in reproductive issues.
If a woman gets pregnant and gives birth to a boy, she is unclean for seven days in the same way that she is unclean and separated from her husband during her period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. This is followed by thirty-three days of uncleanness in the sense that she cannot approach the sanctuary or touch anything deemed holy during that time. If she gives birth to a girl, then the time of separation from her husband doubles to fourteen days and the time of ritual uncleanness as far as the sanctuary is concerned also doubles to sixty-six days.
At the end of that time, she is to present herself to the priest and bring a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or dove as a sin offering and she will become ceremonially clean.
Next are instructions about skin diseases that defile. The King James version describes it as leprosy which in modern terminology is called Hansen’s disease. However Hansen’s disease does not cause the skin to go white, so it’s hard to identify this disease in terms of something known medically today, The Hebrew calls it tzara‘at .
The rules were that if anyone had a rash it was to be examined by the priest. If the rash had spread and gone deeper and there were white hairs on the skin the person was to be pronounced unclean. If there were white hairs but the rash was still only skin deep, then the priest would isolate him and re-examine him after a further seven days. If it had spread the person was to be pronounced unclean but if it had receded, he would be pronounced clean.
The same procedure was to be applied for a sore in a burn wound or in the hair or a beard. The priest was to decide if it was infectious tzara’at or not.
An affected person was to remain unkempt, tear his clothes, cover his upper lip and shout ‘unclean’. In this way, everyone would know to keep away for fear of infection.
The procedure was also to be applied if the infection showed in a garment. An infected garment was to be burned but if the affected part of the garment did not spread, it could be cut out and the garment washed and reused.
Haftarat Tazria הפטרת תזריע
The Haftarah for this portion is 2 Kings 4: 42 to 5:19. The point in common is the skin disease for which the Torah gives instruction, and Naaman the high-ranking Syrian officer who suffered from tzaraa a disease with the same root word as the one mentioned in the Parsha.
Mrs Naaman had an Israelite slave girl who had been captured by the Syrians in battle. The girl is not named but she tells her mistress about Elisha the prophet who could perform miracles and heal people. Naaman tells his commander in chief the King of Aram who then decides the best thing is to write to the King of Israel. The King of Israel is not named but probably would have been Jehoram. In the Kingdom of Aram church and state are inextricably linked so the King of Aram could not understand why the King of Israel thought it was a ruse for him to pick a fight. In Israel it didn’t work like that. God’s prophet spoke the truth irrespective of who it blessed or who it offended. Elisha was the servant of God not the King.
So Elisha sought out Naaman and told him to bathe three times in the River Jordan. Naaman as a general in the army was used to things like that being done with great pomp and ceremony. Surely Elisha should have waved his hands, and why in the Jordan which is such a small river? His advisors sensibly tell Naaman that if that’s what the prophet said then he ought to do it. Naaman bathes in the Jordan and he is healed. Elisha refuses payment. Naaman takes some of the soil from Israel home with him as a souvenir and promises to worship only the God of Israel in future, apart from when he was obliged to go into the temple of Rimmon the god of his King as part of his civic duty.
Sin is very much akin to a contagious disease. While the blood of Messiah cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7 ) it is still important to take care about what we come in contact with. Our eyes and ears are the gate to our thinking and what we do and how we live our lives very much depends on what we encounter and allow into our thoughts. So study the word and make friends with those who will encourage godly living and burn anything that might make us unclean! It took forty years to get Israel into the promised land. God’s biggest challenge was not getting Israel out of Egypt but getting the habits of Egypt out of Israel. Rav Shaul (Paul) taught us to take great care as to how we live our lives Ephesians 5:15
Namaan is healed of his skin disease but not completely of the disease of his soul. Having been offended at the smallness of the river Jordan before his healing, he offers payment after being made whole. No amount of money can pay for the riches we have in Messiah. We must humbly accept the engrafted word which is able to save our souls. (James 1:21)
No monetary value can be placed on what Yeshua did for us hence any price offered, no matter how great, would be derisory compared with the price paid when he died for us.
Then Namaan decided to take some earth from Israel so as to build an altar back home as if soil from Israel was any different to the soil in his own country. He could not accept that there was absolutely nothing he could do to contribute to the healing he had received. It was all of God and nothing of himself. Finally, he begs leave to go to worship at the house of Rimmon with his King when he goes back home. While he recognised the power of the God of Israel, he was not willing to forsake everything to become a disciple.
Yeshua wants us for himself with no competition from anyone or anything else.
“If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers, and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26 NLT
Let’s go for it!
This article originally appeared on the BMJA website and is reposted with permission.