There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Metzorah, aliyah by aliyah.
Metzorah Leviticus 14:1-15:33
Aliyah 1 – Leviticus 14:1-12
Leviticus 14:2 “This is to be the law concerning the person afflicted with tzara‘at on the day of his purification. He is to be brought to the cohen,
The cohen clearly has the sole authority declare someone as having tzaara’at or not
Leviticus 14:3 and the cohen is to go outside the camp and examine him there. If he sees that the tzara‘at sores have been healed in the afflicted person,
The cohen will meet the unclean person where they are in an attempt to bring them back into the community
Leviticus 14:4 Then the cohen will order that two living clean birds be taken for the one to be purified, along with cedar-wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop leaves.
Despite the fact that the person is declared to be clean they still need to be purified through this additional process. Why is that?
Leviticus 14:5 The cohen is to order one of the birds slaughtered in a clay pot over running water.
Is the clay pot to catch the blood? Why over running water? Is there a designated spot outside the camp that has running water? Israel had about 40 stops on their sojourn, if I recall correctly. They almost always had the “well of Miriam” with them, and because water is so essential to human life, I suppose wherever anyone settled they would have to be near living water. I was wondering about the practicality of being near lving water, but it makes sense in context, water is life, so they would always be near it. Once settled in the Temple, I wonder if the running water used for this part of the cleansing ritual was one of the springs that came out from underneath the Temple.
Leviticus 14:6 As for the live bird, he is to take it with the cedar-wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird slaughtered over running water,
Why dip the bird in blood? The bird didn’t do anything wrong. It didn’t need atonement.
Leviticus 14:7 and sprinkle the person to be purified from the tzara‘at seven times. Next he is to set the live bird free in an open field.
Perhaps the living bird and dead bird are meant to represent the individual healed of tzaara’at. They were cut off from the camp and the normal liofe of Israel. I previously called them the living dead becuase of how they have to live in isolation from community life and far from the presensce of HaShem in the midst of the camp. Maybe the dead bird and free live bird covered in blood are a sign to drive home the point to this person that they are getting a second chance at a real life, not just eke out an existence outside of the camp.
Leviticus 14:8 He who is to be purified must wash his clothes, shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water. Then he will be clean; and after that, he may enter the camp; but he must live outside his tent for seven days.
This feels like a rebirth process, further supporting my idea that this person was nearly dead and has been brought back to life in a way. The immersion, the shaving, the 7 days outside of their own tent within the camp. ll these things feel like the individual is going through their own personal re-creation.
Leviticus 14:9 On the seventh day he is to shave all the hair off his head, also his beard and eyebrows — he must shave off all his hair; and he is to wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; and he will be clean.
Is this a second shaving or is the fist shaving delayed for dignity?
Leviticus 14:10 “On the eighth day he is to take two male lambs without defect, one female lamb in its first year without defect and six-and-a-half quarts of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with olive oil, and two-thirds of a pint of olive oil.
Like with the 7 days of consecration for the Tabernacle, we again have an 8th day coming out of nowhere. Why is this not the first day of the rest of the former-leper’s life?
Leviticus 14:11 The cohen purifying him is to place the person being purified with these items before HaShem at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
The cohen judged the person be put pout of the camp, the cohen went outside of the camp to examine the person and declare him clean and now the cohen is presenting the person before the Almighty to declare him clean and ready to live in the presence of the Most High.
Leviticus 14:12 The cohen is to take one of the male lambs and offer it as a guilt offering with the two-thirds-pint of olive oil, then wave them as a wave offering before HaShem.
The sins that lead to tzaara’at must be serious. The cleanising process and so involved and has so many animals, even more than just the simple “sin” or “guilt” offerings. The sin or sins of the Metzorah//Biblical leper must have been profound. What healed the leper of his condition? It never says. All this is just how he is to be cleansed and returned to normal life after the leprosy has gone from him. Isn’t that odd?
Aliyah 2 – Leviticus 14:13-20
Leviticus 14:14 The cohen is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the tip of the right ear of the person being purified, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.
Just like the cohenim who consecrated to serve, the former-leper has blood placed on his ear, thumb and big toe. See LEV 8:23. That is peculiar.
Aliyah 3 – Leviticus 14:21-32
Leviticus 14:21 “If he is poor, so that he can’t afford to do otherwise, he is to take one male lamb as a guilt offering to be waved, to make atonement for him; two quarts of fine flour mixed with olive oil for a grain offering; two-thirds of a pint of olive oil;
I love the consistent access HaShem gives to the poor to be brought close. It’s beautiful.
Aliyah 4 – Leviticus 14:33-53
Leviticus 14:36 The cohen is to order the house emptied before he goes in to inspect the infection, so that everything in the house won’t be made unclean; afterwards, the cohen is to enter and inspect the house.
I love how merciful HaShem is, even to a sinner who is so bad they get tzaara’at. He makes a provision for them to not have to have to deal with a house-full of unclean items that would require immersion. If the cohen were to declare the house unclean, all the items in it would become unclean and need to be cleansed. Torah says to remove the items first and even if the house has a leperous spot, the items that were removed do not have to be immersed and cleansed. This is a truly spiritual malady and the rules surrounding it reflect that. If this were mold or fungus, everything would need to be cleansed for health reasons, but it is something not of this world and the therefore it has its own logic. It is almost as if the tzaara’at does not become real until the cohen says it is so.
Aliyah 5 – Leviticus 14:54-15:15
Leviticus 14:54-56 Such is the law for all kinds of tzara‘at sores, for a crusted area, 55 for tzara‘at in a garment, for a house, 56 for a swelling, for a scab and for a bright spot,
It is wild to me that this affliction can strike a house, garments and a person’s flesh. A person needs shelter and clothes as part of their survival and both of those are servants to the body, so the message is load and clear that this affliction is in response to something going on with the person who they belong to.
Aliyah 6 – Leviticus 15:16-28
Leviticus 15:18 If a man goes to bed with a woman and has sexual relations, both are to bathe themselves in water; they will be unclean until evening.
It is interesting that semen is seen as unclean as it has the potential for life. Especially because it makes both the man and woman unclean, even though their act of intercourse may spark a life within her. Is semen unclean because of the great number of sperm within it that do die?
Aliyah 7 – Leviticus 15:29-33
Leviticus 15:31 In this way you will separate the people of Isra’el from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in a state of uncleanness for defiling my tabernacle which is there with them.
Why does any of this matter? It is for the sake of having HaShem’s presence dwell in the midst of the people. He demands a certain level of purity in order to interact with Man in a intimate way. Why do these types of defilement matter? They shouldn’t, that’s an old way of seeing G-d
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- How is Biblical Leprosy healed?
- Do you see Messiah in the cleansing of the Leper?
- Why does purity matter to the LORD?
That concludes my journey through Metzorah for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.