Leviticus 12:1 to 13:59
Ritual impurity can result from many factors as described in Torah. This week’s text describes the symptoms and treatment of a person with a skin disease that results in ritual impurity.
This week’s parsha, Tazria, is usually combined with the next, M’tzora, to form a double reading. But, because this is a leap year with an extra month, portions like this are separated to read over a two week period.
Tazria begins with the statement that a woman who has given birth to a child is ritually impure. No reason why is given in the text. It continues to tell what offerings can be made to remove this impurity. Then, the rest of this week’s and next week’s portions mainly deal with a skin disease that makes a person ritually impure. But, as we read, we learn that this disease is not only limited to people, it also appears on fabrics which could have a plant or animal origin. Next week we will read how a dwelling can also be infected.
The text describes the symptoms of this disease in great detail – way too much information from the viewpoint of this writer. No cure is offered. But, we are informed that the priest must verify the existence of the disease and then send the infected person out of the community… burn an infected fabric … or destroy an infected structure.
A person may re-enter the community only if the ailment subsides…. Otherwise they are doomed to a life outside the community until the disease subsides or the person dies.
This entire situation has troubled and confused Torah students through the ages. Why are there no other ailments treated this way or even mentioned in Torah? We know that there were more dangerous, more contagious diseases, but only this one is mentioned in Torah.
It also seems odd that the content is treated in a so “matter-of-the-fact” way. All emotion or regard for those involved is missing. Are there any cures or treatments? What happens to those who do not lose the symptoms? Do they stay isolated for the rest of their lives? The “humanity” present in most of Torah seems totally missing in this week’s and next week’s readings.
Maybe the observation of this a lack of “humanity” can lead us to a favorable result for today’s world. For people with some diseases, this problem of separating the afflicted from the community still exists today. Yes, we have treatments. But, with many ailments – even some non-contagious diseases – people tend to shun or avoid the afflicted. This may result from a fear of contracting an ailment ….. or maybe a person just doesn’t know how to respond or relate to the person with an illness – and have no contact with that person because it is the easiest path. This non-contact may have a result of worsened mental and possibly physical conditions.
This is not only a person-to-person problem, it can also take on community wide proportions. In recent years, one is reminded of the Ebola victims. Many people didn’t even want them treated in U. S. hospitals. The same was true of AIDS patients a few years ago.
I don’t think that a request for treatment of the afflicted is the intended result of the readings for this week and next…. But, maybe after studying them we should think more of the afflicted. This can be accomplished through work for cures… improvements in quality-of-life for the afflicted … and personal, one-on-one contact that demonstrates concern and love.