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Friday, April 11, 2008

Parashat Metzora

Parasha: Metzora – Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33
Haftara: 2Kings 7:3-20
Reading date: 12th April 2008 – 7th Nisan 5768

Let us start this parasha with Rabbi Hirsch’s reflections. “Being alone outside the camp lets the afflicted reflect on his spiritual deficiencies, causing him to repent. Then YHVH removes the mark of his degradation and he can begin the process of returning to his people”.

What characterizes the pure as opposed to the impure? This can be deduced from the characteristics of the impure. Impurity stems, firstly, from contact with a corpse. Likewise, it stems, secondly, from a leper, a live person who has lost some of his flesh and who appears to be at death's door. Impurity also stems, thirdly, from any discharge of liquids that represent life - semen and menstrual blood - which are the source of life. In other words, when a liquid of life is lost from a living organ - a sort of partial death - this leads to impurity. Thus impurity is associated with death, while purity is associated with life. Therefore, the most potent substance needed for purification is blood, and next after that, flowing water, known as "living water." This is water that is closest to its condition at the time of Creation. Embodied in the notions of pure and impure are qualities characteristic of YHVH: life and creation. That which promotes creation and life is associated with purification, and that which is detrimental to creation and life is associated with impurity. In other words, life and creation represent the will of YHVH, whereas death and degeneration are contrary to His will. One could say, as it were, that YHVH likes to be in a setting of purity and that He will not tolerate too much accumulation of impurity. When the level of impurity rises, YHVH abandons the Tabernacle until it is purified once more.

The cure, as the Torah describes, for impurity is isolation. Let’s have a look how and why isolation is so important for restoration and healing.

Many of the sages refer to the impurity of the ‘tzarat’ as being as the result of sin. Rabbi Aba opened a discussion on this with a verse from Job19:29 “Be afraid of the sword: for wrath brings the punishment of the sword that you may know that there is judgment (‘shadun’ – Hebrew) as an illustration of the spiritual influence on the impurity. What is of interest is that it is pronounced ‘shadun’ – judgment- but spelled ‘shadin’ - demons or evil spirits.
The reason that impurity is not tolerated within the camp is that these impurities spread - both the physical and the spiritual. As we well know there is always a connection between the physical and the spiritual.

Isolation gives the impure a time to reflect and most importantly to prepare for repentance. It is a place where you are with people in the same or worse situation than you are yourself. There comes a time to choose. The choice is to continue to wallow in the pity of oneself or to take a conscious decision to step up out of the mess and do what is required to make right and accept and receive healing.

Many people died in leper colonies or in places of isolation but many too came out with a testimony of healing.

If this time of isolation is a punishment or judgment there are judgments for both the soul and the body. The Hebrew word ‘metzora’ contains two Hebrew words ‘motzi’ and ‘ra’, literally to ‘remove evil’ or ‘take out evil’ or ‘speaks evil’ as in ‘lashon haRa’.

‘Lashon haRa’ or slander is a serious problem that needs to be addressed within the body. How many times have we not found ourselves listening to hurtful rumors been started by people saying things out of context and without full knowledge of the truth. To entertain these rumors is as bad as starting them!

When the one who is to be declared clean comes with his two birds (14:4) the sages tell us that this is symbolic of YHVH and the ‘Shekinah’ returning to him.

The purpose of the high priest in this action is to bring the Kingdom to perfection. So too the action of Yeshua, our current high priest is to bring about the perfection of the Kingdom within us and in the world.

Of interest the word to cleanse in Hebrew ‘lechate’ comes from the same root as the word for sin ‘chet’. The act of cleansing or disinfecting is to do with the removal of sin and its consequence.

Isolation is not only to do with being punished but also gives us a time to reflect inwardly. So if we are sent to a place of isolation let us question YHVH as to the reason for us being placed in such a hard place and deal with it!

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