Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Parshat Tazria

Tzara'a – a Physical or Spiritual disease

This week's parsha deals with an issue which does not seem to be relevant to our modern lives – tzara'at – often translated as leprosy, though the symptoms described in the Torah bare little resemblance to Hansen's disease.

The Torah goes into to great detail describing the symptoms, quarantining the patient from others and the procedure of purification. Indeed, when the patient was in the vicinity of others, he had to call out "unclean, unclean" (VaYikra 13:45)

The assumption to be drawn from here is that in the ancient world, tzara'at was a common highly contagious disease. Nevertheless, the abbis contend that this illness was a physical illness that was inflicted by God as result of sin. How do they come to this conclusion?

Torah brings us two episodes of people with tza'rat:

The first person was Moshe: "put your hand into your bosom," and he put his hand into his bosom, and he took it out, and behold, his hand was leprous like snow" (Shemot 4:6).

The second was his sister, Miriam: "The cloud departed from above the Tent, and behold, Miriam was afflicted with tzara'at, [as white] as snow" (Bemidbar 10).

Both the illnesses were inflicted as resulted of speaking the ill of others, Moshe claimed that Israel would not believe Israel him when he promised them freedom form slavery (see Rashi on Shemot 4:6), while Miriam had spoken ill of Moshe and his wife.

Therefore, even though the illness had a physical manifestation, its origins lay in sin.

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Tazria, entitled: "Seven Followed by Eight" appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Tazria, entitled: "The Sin-Offering of the Mother" appears at

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