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PARASHAH: M'tzora (Person afflicted with tzara'at)
ADDRESS: Vayikra (Leviticus) 14:1-15:33
READING DATE: Shabbat
AUTHOR: Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy
 

(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc.,
unless otherwise noted)

Let’s begin with the opening blessing for the Torah:

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher bachar banu m’kol ha-amim,

v’natan lanu eht Torah-to.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you, O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have selected us from among all the peoples,

and have given us your Torah.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

This is Parashat M'tzora. This portion functions as a continuation of the previous passages dealing with the deadly disease of tzara'at, commonly called leprosy. To be sure, the two Hebrew titles share the same root word. During regular years, the two short portions are read together; in leap years they are read separately.

The important lesson that must be appropriated from both Parashat Tazria and from Parashat M’tzora is that the disease of tzara’at could only be diagnosed and treated if it proved to be transitory. The job of the functioning cohen was to examine the patient, make notes on the condition, wait, reexamine the patient, make more notes, and finally pronounce the findings of his diagnosis. If you were fortunate his pronouncement was "tahor" (cleansed). For those unfortunate few who ended up with the chronic form of this skin malady their fate was sad indeed: banishment from the community of ritually clean people. The Torah prescribes no cure for chronic tzara’at.

Ismar Schorsch is Chancellor of the prestigious Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, New York. His mother, a survivor of the Shoah (the Holocaust), has had chronic psoriasis for as long as he can remember. He makes an interesting comparison between this disease tzara’at and his mother’s psoriasis, finally coming to this grim conclusion:

I am struck rather by the fate of the person who came down with psoriasis. What would have happened to my mother in the Israelite camp in the wilderness? Our material, which is entirely of priestly origin, focuses exclusively on diagnosis. The function of the priest is to distinguish between the chronic and temporary state of a skin ailment. That may require a period of quarantine, one or two weeks (everything in multiples of seven), after which a final determination is made. Should the person be lucky enough to be declared clean, he or she would be subject to no more than a rite of purification, which would eliminate all traces of impurity.

Our parasha, however, offers no hope for the person afflicted with something more grave than a passing skin eruption…

In short, my mother would have been banished from the camp permanently. Without benefit of a prophet's prayer, she would have been regarded as a source of constant danger to the purity of the Tabernacle and the safety of the community. The Torah leaves no doubt about her fate. It bluntly describes what was to be done to the victim of an incurable disease. "As for the person with a leprous affection, his clothes shall be rent, his head shall be left bare, and he shall cover over his upper lip; and he shall call out, `Unclean! Unclean!' He shall be unclean as long as the disease is on him. Being unclean, he shall dwell apart; his dwelling shall be outside the camp (Leviticus 13:45-46)." With its overriding concern for the purity of the Tabernacle, Leviticus made no provision for those thrown into an irredeemable state of impurity. It extended neither sympathy nor support to those most in need of both. Clearly the public good took precedence over the well-being of the individual."

This comment of his hits home when we realize that such individuals' lives were forever altered by the decision made by the priest. Such individuals might possibly fall into a state of bitterness and resentment against both the priest and against God for seemingly "cursing" them with this skin condition.

But HaShem is not without compassion. His Love is demonstrated in every generation, but has been demonstrated most completely and effectively in the generation that Yeshua lived in. Why? Because only Yeshua has been documented with curing an Isra’elite from the chronic form of tzara’at!

Again, quoting from my previous commentary:

The proof that the coming messiah was a genuine and not a phony was demonstrated not only in that he would heal the afflicted individual, but that he himself would not become defiled! In Yeshua’s example given in Mattityahu 8:1-4, our LORD instructed the former leper to go to the priest as a "testimony unto them" (KJV). This was done for at least two reasons: (1) in obedience to the very mitzvah found in [Parashat Tazria], vindicating Yeshua’s adherence to the Torah of Moshe, and (2) to authenticate the miracle—thus proving his claims to messiahship! In every single instance where he healed the inflicted, or raised the dead, his holiness did not decrease! His state of clean never diminished! On the contrary—disease and death always fled from his presence (…)! Surely he was The Messiah for those days! Surely he is The Messiah for us today!

As I stated at the close of the previous commentary, "When our uncleanness encounters the holiness of the Prophet from Natzeret—our disease must flee! We have no need to go about crying, "Tamei! Tamei!" (Unclean! Unclean!) Rather, we have the freedom to proclaim, "Tahor! Tahor! (Cleansed! Cleansed!) This wonderful truth is a result of our placing our trusting faithfulness in the hands of the Healer of healers! Just like the leprous individuals in our two portions, we need to come before the Priest, for only his office was given the authority to make the pronouncement, "Tamei!" upon the inflicted individual (from Parashat Tazria, read Vayikra 13:6, 13, 17, 23, 28, 34, 37, 38, 41, 58, and 59; and from Parashat M’tzora, read Vayikra 14:8, 9, 18-20, and 29-32). How is this solution made available for us today, seeing that the earthly priesthood has been dissolved by Yeshua’s own heavenly priesthood?

It must be individually internalized by each and every one of us that:

In our Messiah Yeshua, the Torah calls all genuine believers a "Kingdom of Cohanim (priests)", a title also designated unto ‘Am Yisra’el (Sh’mot 19:6) but now extended unto the entire Body of our LORD." (Revelation 1:6)

As priests we have the awesome responsibility of showcasing the Glory of HaShem to the surrounding nations, as well as ministering to one another in the Body. This means, that the healing of the person afflicted with tzara’at among us takes place when the genuine flow of mercy and grace from the Healer flows through us! Yes, today Yeshua still seeks to touch those lepers among us, yet his hands and feet are actuated within our hands and feet! We have become his extension of mercy and healing among the inflicted!

This also means that a heavy price will be paid by those charlatans who claim to have a healing touch from God, but whose very lives testify otherwise. While it needs to be realized that not every "show-and-tell" healer is a phony, unfortunately many unsuspecting sheep are rapidly being caught up in the sweeping wave of "sensationalism", without having any real depth of understanding of the grander purposes of our Almighty Father. As such, many unsuspecting believers are sometimes duped into giving up all that they own to follow these individuals from city to city as a sort of "disciple", only to discover in the end that they have been following a cult of some sort. In its extreme case, it can lead to corporate suicides and the like (recall Jim Jones and Guyana, or more recently David Koresh and the Branch-Davidians). On a level closer to our own neighborhood, it can assume the guise of the popular faith healer on our own Christian television broadcasts! We simple cannot and must not be caught up in sensationalism!

But don’t misunderstand what I am teaching here. We are about to experience a genuine flowing of the charismata (the supernatural sign gifts)! Before our LORD returns to take his bride unto himself, I believe that the Ruach HaKodesh will again be poured out in abundance among his faithful followers (reference Joel 2:28-32). The great and terrible Day of the LORD is fast approaching, and his genuine talmidim (disciples) will again witness in power and in Truth to prepare the earth for his coming. Surely this will involve a resurgence of supernatural miracles—to include healings. Yet, the B’rit Chadashah also makes it frighteningly clear that the counterfeit signs will also abound (read 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12)! We need, therefore, to learn in this day and age how to spot the genuine and how to avoid the counterfeit.

And how shall we accomplish this?

Allow me to make a midrash on the current parashah. When a person afflicted with tzara’at was recognized as such, he was banished to a place "outside of the camp" (see Vayikra 13:45; 14:3) until he could be examined by the cohen and thus receive the announcement of "tahor". Today, we don’t really encounter too many within our midst of believers (remember, the unclean individual came from among their own!) with the deadly disease of leprosy…. Or do we?

The rabbis taught that leprosy was actually an outward manifestation of a greater personal and inward spiritual disease! In particular, they believed that tzara’at was brought on by slander, gossip, and a haughty (proud) spirit. How did they arrive at this postulation? The methods of cleansing mentioned in our current portion included various plants and tree wood, to include the noble cedars (usually from Lebanon; read 14:4 and 6). The Talmud states in Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7, …this is what Solomon said, ‘Why are the most majestic and most humble of plants, cedar wood and hyssop, combined in these rites of purification? Because man is stricken with leprosy as a punishment for being haughty and arrogant as a cedar, and when he humbles himself like the lowly hyssop he will ultimately be cured’."

The genuine healing brings with it a healing of the mind and spirit as well as the body! If the person remains outside of the camp (of genuine believers), then his healing was probably a show, and in the end it won't be just his body that perishes…

His soul will also perish.

A genuine and complete healing of body by the genuine Healer of hearers should be followed by a genuine healing of the sprit. The healings described in our parashah allowed the individual to come back into the community—and this was mainly on the physical level. An individual who surrenders to the Master Physician, and becomes supernaturally cured of his physical and spiritual tzara’at likewise becomes a member of the community of called-out ones. Let's do our part in helping these precious new members feel welcomed.

I want to build on the rabbis interpretation and further suggest that the tzara’at infecting many believers today is indeed a spiritual sickness. We belong to the community. Yet, when we (knowingly or unknowingly) allow our various members to be used as instruments of unrighteousness, we open the door to spiritual defilement. The sages mentioned pride and arrogance in our above example, but allow me to share a personal example that just may hit close to home, especially with you male readers. The following incidents are true and happened to the author, therefore, the names have NOT been changed.

Just before I began to prepare this commentary, I decided to do some research using an Internet search engine. These computer-assisted researches use key words to collaborate a wealth of information and then display the various resources for you to browse through. The word I was using for my search engine had to do with psychological disorders, as my midrash is purporting that the serious illness of physical tzara’at can be compared to a sort of spiritual sickness of sorts. My query yielded a host of various web sites where psychology was mentioned. I clicked on one of those sites, and to my surprise a mural of half-naked men and women invaded my computer screen! The link was mistakenly cross-referenced to a web site dealing with "psycho-sexual disorders" and the topic of "sexual bondage" was the opening image. Needless to say, I assessed the mistake and quickly began to "browse back" so that I did not lose my initial query, wanting to get rid of the current web site graphically displayed across my screen…. But was I quick enough? Apparently not.

The image of males and females doing things that our God did not create them to do—especially with partners who were obviously not their own, superimposed itself onto my mind in a matter of seconds! I felt violated. Why would Yeshua allow this mistake to make its way to Rabbi Ariel’s computer? —a computer dedicated to spreading the Good News of the Messiah’s atoning death, burial, and resurrected life! Well, I decided to forget about it and go on to type this very commentary that I am sharing with you today, but the image wouldn’t let me focus on the Torah. My mind had contracted a small form of tzara’at, and it was beginning to make my whole body feel infectious! I needed a cohen (priest) fast!

Thanks be unto our God, I no longer have the mind of my former self! I no longer need to allow my members to behave in the manner of an unredeemed man of this world’s corrupt system. Because of who I am in Messiah, I have the mind of Messiah! Romans 12:1, 2 informs me that I have been transformed by the renewing of my mind! My Cohen HaGadol is the Only, Unique Son of the Father himself! I put down my keyboard, and picked up my Sword—my Torah! I thumbed through the current parashah looking for that blessed phrase…

…thus the cohen will make atonement for him; and he will be clean." (14:20b)

Those comforting words exploded upon the soul that was tainted with this world’s leprosy. I humbly accepted my High Priest’s cleansing pronouncement, "Tahor!", basking for a moment in the light of this glorious Truth. But HaShem wasn’t finished cleansing me just yet. I felt as if he were saying that my body itself needed to be immersed in this cleansing power….

I took a shower.

It is amazing what the physical manifestation of a spiritual truth can do for the soul! I felt "re-charged" and freshly prepared to write this commentary! The Holy One, Blessed be He, turned an otherwise trivial incident into something for me to personally be thankful for.

The following incident may not ever happen to you. It may have already happened to you. You may believe that a leprous condition has infected your spirit and soul, until you feel violated and dirty. It may be the leprosy of greed, or lust, or anger, or jealousy, or unforgiveness; you may be infected with the leprosy of pride, or ill intent towards your neighbors, friends or family, or you may just feel like you need a renewed and refreshing touch from the Healer of healers!

Go see the Priest.

His name is Yeshua.

His Words are Spirit….

And his Words are Life!


Nehar Deah

Four Stories of Leprosy
Professor Yair Zacobitz, Bible Department

There are four stories in the Bible that tell of a person being struck with leprosy (Translators note: the common translation of the Biblical term “tzara’at” as leprosy has been used here, but there is some doubt as to whether it bears any similarity to what we today call leprosy) and three of them deal with their healing too. Two of the stories deal with the father of all prophets, Moses (Sh’mot 4:6-7; B’midbar 12:1-16), the third deals with another prophet, Elisha (Kings II 5), and the fourth story, which speaks only of contracting leprosy, is the story of the illness of King Uziyahu (Chronicles II 26:16-21).

The longest and most extensive of these is the story of the prophet Elisha, who cures Na’aman, the military leader to the Aramean king, of his leprosy (Kings II 5). At the end of this story, Na’aman’s leprosy attaches itself to Geichazi, Elisha’s servant, who displeases his master and is punished and goes away from him “covered in leprosy like snow (Verse 27).

The story of Na’aman’s leprosy contains a message: it comes to teach us that all are subject to God and take their strength from Him - both military strength, even that of the army of an enemy, and also the ability to perform miracles. The viewpoint that miracles are the handiwork of the prophet is unfounded. The prophet is only a man of God, who is His messenger and does His will. Even when God’s name is not invoked by him when performing the miracles, the miracle is still God’s miracle and praise is fitting to Him.

The heroes of this story reach this conclusion: Na’aman the Aramean declares God’s greatness, as a result of his being healed, “'Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel” (verse 15), and the prophet vows on God’s name and declares that he stands before God (verse 16) and even refuses to accept payment, in order to teach that he is not the one who created the miracle. Before the miracle of the curing of the leprosy, they were both vain men: Elisha announced “let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (verse 8), note: “prophet in Israel” and not “God in Israel”! While Na’aman presents himself at the door of Elisha’s home in all his strength and glory, “with his horses and chariots” (verse 9) and expects that Elisha will come out to him in order to heal him. The person that spoils the joy in the awareness that all are subject to God is Geichazi. The greedy Geichazi is upset that his master sends Na’aman away without partaking of his wealth and he lies to both Na’aman and Elisha when he goes out to take bounty from Na’aman’s wealth. The punishment of Geichazi, who did not recognize his master’s authority, came swiftly: he and his descendants are struck by leprosy (verse 27).

The keyword in the story, which emphasizes that greatness is something relative and that everything eventually is subject to God, is the word “before”. Na’aman is a great man “before his masters” (verse 1); a young girl from the land of Israel serves “before Na’aman’s wife” (verse 2) and tells her of the greatness of Elisha; Na’aman needs, according to the young girl, to appear “before the prophet who is in Samaria” (verse 3) in order that he heal him. Only after he has been healed does Na’aman come to Elisha “and he stood before him” (verse 15) and then the prophet also refers to his subordination “before” God (verse 16). Geichazi, whose subordination to his master was not genuine, does not stand before him but rather “towards” (“and he stood towards his master”, verse 25) and therefore he was punished with leprosy and went out “from before him covered with leprosy like snow” (verse 27).

Leprosy is therefore the disease and punishment of those who do not recognize the authority of their superiors. This idea appears in a different form in the rest of the stories of leprosy mentioned above.

The incident of leprosy on Moses’ hand and its healing (Sh’mot 4:6-7) is the second sign given to Moses who fears that the nation will not recognize him as the messenger of God (verse 1). The double sign - the leprosy and its cure - ensure the nations faith in the messenger: “And it will be that if they do not believe you and do not heed to the voice of the first sign, and they will heed the voice of the latter sign” (verse 8).

This story therefore also deals with issues of subordination and authority, but here, unlike in the story of Na’aman, the messenger-prophet knows his place in the hierarchy and fears only that the nation will not understand it and will not believe that he acts in God’s name. For this reason God gives a sign to his messenger and in his messenger. God is the operator, while the messenger is completely passive and symbolizes with his body, the authority of his sender. This story too has two stages: contracting leprosy and being healed of it, but here it is opposite to the story of Elisha, Na’aman and Geichazi, and here the two actions happen to the same subject - Moses. The story of the sign is connected to the story of Na’aman in terms of a number of phrases: “and behold his hand was covered with leprosy like snow” (Sh’mot 4:6) - “went out from before him covered with leprosy like snow” (Kings II 5:27); “and behold it had returned to be as his [other] flesh” (Sh’mot 4:7) - “and it shall return to you as your [other] flesh” (Kings II 5:10), “and his flesh returned to be like the flesh of a young boy” (ibid, verse 14).

The story in B’midbar 12 also deals with the issue of prophetic authority. Miriam and Aaron question their subordination to Moses: “And they said: 'Has God indeed spoken only with Moses? Has He not also spoken with us?'” (verse 2). Miriam is punished in the same way as Geichazi, but is healed through the intervention of the intermediary, Moses, who prays for her. This story also has two stages, contracting leprosy and being healed of it. Miriam does not question the authority of God, but rather that of Moses and God punishes her in order to bring her to recognize her subordination to her brother. It is specifically the healing, a revealing of kindness, that is the fitting time for Moses’ intervention; by this he proves to Miriam that only he (and not him or Aaron) can pray to God on her behalf.

This story also contains expressions similar to those appearing in the story of Na’aman: “And behold Miriam was covered with leprosy like snow” (verse 10), “and after that she shall be gathered” (verse 14), “until Miriam is gathered” (verse 15) - “and he stretched out his hand to the place and the leper was gathered” (Kings II 5:12).

In the last story in the series, the story of Uziyahu, only the stage of contracting leprosy appears. The redactor of the book of Chronicles wanted an explanation for the fact that it is written in the book of Kings that Uziyahu was a leper (Kings II 15:5), and therefore created the tale of Uziyahu who does not recognize the limits of the authority of and subordination to the priesthood and to God with respect to the holy worship service: “But when he was strong, his heart was haughty to do corruptly, and he sinned against the Lord his God and he went into the temple of God to offer incense” (verse 16). The priests put him in his place in terms of what should be his correct subordination: “It is not for you Uziyahu to offer incense to God, but only the priests sons of Aaron” (verse 18), and when the king does not accepted their view of things, he is struck with leprosy “before the priests in the house of God” (verse 19).

This story, which characterizes the viewpoint of the redactor of Chronicles, diverts the focus of honor from the authority of the prophets to the authority of the priests. The story of Uziyahu makes use of the story of Miriam, which also takes place on sacred ground, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. In addition: there is a similarity the text “and Azariyah the priest, head of all the priests, turned to Uziyahu and behold, he had leprosy on his forehead” (Chronicles II 26:20), and it is written as a result of what is told of Miriam: “and Aaron turned to Miriam and behold she had leprosy” (B’midbar 12:10).

Even before he is struck with leprosy, the priests instructed Uziyahu “go out from the temple” (verse 18), and after he is struck with leprosy it is written “and he also made haste to go out” (verse 20), a fact that is reminiscent of Geichazi standing before Elisha: “and he went out from before him covered in leprosy like snow” (Kings II 5:27).

From what is written above, it seems therefore that all the stories of leprosy deal with a lack of recognition of authority, both prophetic authority and priestly authority, and a person that does not learn their lesson is not healed of the leprosy, like Uziyahu who has leprosy until he dies and Geichazi whose punishment is for all generations.

The closing blessing is as follows:

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher natan lanu Toraht-emet,

v’chay-yeh o’lam nata-b’tochenu.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have given us your Torah of truth,

and have planted everlasting life within our midst.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

"Shabbat Shalom!"

Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy

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