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Parashat Tazria-Metzora - 5773

My friends,

This Shabbat we have a double portion - Tazria and Metzora. These two portions are read separately when it is a Jewish Leap Year; that is, when an extra month is added.

At the end of chapter 11 in Leviticus, read last week, following the description of which animals are kosher and which we may not eat, we are commanded, "For I the L-rd am your G-d. You shall sanctify yourself and be holy for I am holy." Tazria and Metzorah discuss the purification process for people and things that are "Tameh" - impure - and must, therefore, be removed from the camp of the community. They include "Tzara-at", a form of leprosy that can affect a person, a house or clothing. The priest is the one who determines whether the skin disease is a Tzara-at. If it is, the afflicted person is placed in isolation for seven days. Since the priest is the one who determines the disease rather than a doctor, and since the treatment is only isolation, our sages emphasize that this is a spiritual affliction rather than a disease that can be contagious. They play on the word Tzara-at which has the same Hebrew words of "Motzie Shem Rah" - one who slanders or gossips. They further explain that the reasoning for this law following the laws of what is kosher and what is not kosher is that, just like you watch what you put in your mouth, you must also watch what comes out of your mouth. Following the isolation period, the person who was Metzora brings a modest offering and the Kohen purifies that person and he/she is now permitted to rejoin the community.

The message is clear. Our words have the potential to make tremendous difference on those around us. It urges us to say only positive things and to find the good in others. Slander and gossip hurts three - the slandered, the slanderer, and the person who hears the slander. And when someone has been or feels isolated, we must find ways to welcome him/her back into our community. We learn that from the extra efforts the priest made in finding ways to welcome back the Metzorah into the community.

Everyone of us can be that priest. Welcome and encourage those who feel isolated because of a loss or other reasons. By welcoming others we purify ourselves, we follow the Mitzvah of 'Be Holy, Because I, G-d, am Holy.'

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram