Parshat Tazria

Torah Reading for Week of March 27 – April 2, 2011

“Resonating Congruence, Radiating Holiness”
By Mindie Jo Snyder, BFA, MAET, CAGS AJRCA First Year Rabbinical Student


“Oh G-d, the soul You have set within me is pure…”

How do we facilitate connection to G-d with this soul that is, at once, pure and hidden?

Leviticus addresses issues of holiness that were of great importance to our priestly ancestors. Since their understanding of the processes leading to the manifestation of holiness may be challenging for us now, it can be helpful to reflect upon what was meaningful to them, such as the belief that the encounter with G-d was a supreme privilege, requiring special protections. Purity was identified as a significant quality due to its perceived potential for manifesting holiness.

The title of this text, “Tazria,” has been associated with conception and childbirth.  Its root, “zera” has meant “seed/ semen.” Another possible root, “taadi,” means “to carry or to conceive.” Associated with this topic, is a history of vigorous rabbinic discussion involving male and female “seeds” producing a baby and what about this process is pure, holy…or not ready for holiness.

There are two other featured Hebrew words that introduce us to states of purity and impurity: tzara’at and tum’ah.

Tzara’at,” a form of “Tazria,” has also represented the biblical skin disease, “leprosy.” Although the term is familiar, it does not stand for the same disease we know today.  In referencing ritual purity, Rabbi Salanter has said that we should be as scrupulous about what enters our mouths as what emerges from our mouths.  “Tazria” engages in wordplay illustrating this teaching, depicting leprosy and gossip as contagious or contaminating. In Hebrew, “m’tzora” means “leper,” where “motzi shem ra” means, “one who gossips.” In Numbers 12:10-15, we learned that Miriam contracted “leprosy” subsequent to gossiping about her brother, Moses. Physical repercussions of gossip rendered her impure and placed her outside the community. In Ancient Israel, the identification of “tzar-at” served an important function related to purity, in rituals of separation and re-integration. University of Arizona Professor, Beth Alpert Nakhai, PhD, identified these rituals as containers of the life force at the point of illness.  Returning the person to a state of purity, after the illness, enabled them to re-enter G-d’s community, anew.

Then, there’s the word, “tum-ah.”  It can be understood as something a person can and cannot do, according to editors of Etz Hayim.  This is evidenced by coming in contact with something that would have made the person unsuitable for approaching The Sanctuary. Interestingly, Jewish sages have referred to “tum-ah” as embodying a sense of the miraculous. It is thought that over time, as people responded to events of illness and death, human fears have been attached to the term, altering its general perception.

One way of transporting the sacred traditions of our ancestors across time, is to look at our thoughts and behaviors and what actions can improve quality of life.  Consider what within us remains incongruent with what is outside of us, thereby creating a barrier to wholeness or holiness.  For example: What is it that causes us to choose people or circumstances that are not representative of true love, true kindness, true compassion? What is it that we perceive, conceive of, contaminate, that could generate seeds of harm or hurt, indifference or inauthenticity?  What is it that we are doing that diminishes us and distances us from G-d’s love?  What would happen if we were to embrace the miraculous and not push it away out of fear? What happens to us, then?

May this Shabbat and the days ahead present moments that unveil the beautiful purity of your soul. May new choices resonate with your soul’s mission, and accompany you toward radiant health, strength in all realms of being, profound connections to G-d and those you love.

 

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