"Tazria-Metzora" (She Conceives), Leviticus 12:1–15:33; 2 Kings 4:42-5:19; Luke 5:12–31.

Welcome to Tazria (She Conceives), this week’s Torah / bible study section.   “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives [tazria] and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean [tameh] seven days.  As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean [tameh].”  (Leviticus 12:1–2). 

In last week’s study section, God issued a fire to consume the offerings on the altar, and the Divine Presence came to dwell in the newly built Sanctuary; which was set up in the first month of the following year. He also commanded the kosher laws, identifying which animals were fit for consumption. It also discussed some of the laws of ritual purity, instructing the Israelites “to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean.” (Leviticus 10:10). This week’s double portion of Scripture (Tazria-Metzora) continues with the laws of ritual purity (tahorah) and impurity (tumah). God provides Moses with the laws of purification after childbirth. He also gives the laws concerning afflictions of the skin (otherwise known as leprosy). The name of this week’s Torah portion, Tazria, is related to the Hebrew root word zarah (זרע), meaning seed; therefore, an alternative translation of Tazria is She Bears Seed or Bearing Seed, rather than She Conceives. When considering the purification rituals that God gave for mothers following childbirth, many questions naturally arise: Why is a woman ritually impure when she gives birth? Why is there a need for an offering? “When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. ... He shall offer them before the LORD to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood.” (Leviticus 12:6–7). Why are there 7 days of isolation following the birth of a boy, coupled with 33 days of ritual purity? Why are there 14 days of isolation following the birth of a girl, coupled with 66 days of ritual purity? “But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation.” (Leviticus 12:5). These questions regarding childbirth puzzle even Jewish scholars since being fruitful and multiplying is the very first of all commandments to humankind, and a woman giving birth to a child is fulfilling this God-given mitzvah (commandment). What is more, holding your newborn child in your arms for the first time has to be among the most exhilarating spiritual moments anyone can experience. It is also one of the most transformational; so many aspects of life, especially for the mother, can and do change following the birth of a child, particularly after the firstborn. In the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), we see that Miriam (Mary) observed this law after the birth of Yahshua. “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moshe [Moses], Yosef [Joseph] and Miriam [Mary] took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’” (Luke 2:22–24). The period of separation from the holy place of God is possibly something to do with the issue of blood during childbirth. Possibly in a similar way why a lot of salt was to be used in the meat sacrifices; salt then being the method of preservation. The differences in the length of isolation between the birth of a boy and the birth of a girl have been explained in a variety of ways; for instance, since Jewish boys undergo circumcision on the eighth day, the mother must recover more quickly. The burnt offering and the sin offering that are given following childbirth are seen as a means of transitioning from a period of isolation back into the community by first drawing close to God. In Lev 12:3 is the only place in the laws of God we see mention of circumcision. However, this is in relation to the law of purification of the mother not a law to do with circumcision. For example, if part of the law restricting parking on double yellow lines is for those lines to be capped at the end with a ninety degree line i.e. like a “T”. The “T” is not a law; but part of another. Without the “T” on the lines the parking ticket could be ruled invalid. LEPROSY Why is leprosy associated with uncleanness, and why was the healing of lepers such a central concern in the ministry of the Master? The symptoms described in the Torah that might potentially be diagnosed as biblical leprosy involve decomposition, decay, and putrefaction corruption of the flesh. The laws of the sacrifices teach that God’s Sanctuary shuns death, corruption, and decay. God’s Sanctuary represents immortality and incorruptibility. In His presence, there is no death, no decay, and no decomposition. Therefore, He bans from His Sanctuary the disease that represents a living decomposition. Leprosy involves an ongoing, visible progression toward physical corruption. It is the antithesis of the immortal and incorruptible world represented in God’s Sanctuary. Leprosy also acts as an archetype for all human sickness. Sickness results from the breakdown of the flesh. Death follows. Leprosy graphically represents that progression. Sickness, death, and decay have no place in God’s presence. His Sanctuary on earth reflects that heavenly Sanctuary. Yahshua provides the solution to the leprosy problem. Spiritually, He did not suffer the leprosy-like infection of sin. Physically, His flesh did not suffer corruption: “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol (hell); nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” Through His resurrection from the dead, His flesh passed from the mortal to the immortal and from the corruptible to the incorruptible. His resurrected body remains real human flesh, regenerated into an imperishable spiritual body. Therefore, He is the perfect, eternal priest, able to serve forever in the incorruptible Sanctuary. Perhaps this helps explain why the healing of lepers occupied such a central concern in the ministry of the Master. Not only did He heal many lepers Himself; but He gave His twelve disciples authority to heal leprosy as evidence of the kingdom of heaven. Leprosy symbolizes the sin-laden human condition, destined for death and decay. Each time the Master healed a leper, it betokened a reversal of that corrupted, mortal state. Every leper healed of his affliction was a testimony that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. “Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Yahshua the Messiah our Master”! (Romans 7:24-25). Periods of Isolation For Purification.. “And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lip, and shall cry: ‘Unclean, unclean [tameh, tameh]. All the days wherein the plague is in him he shall be unclean; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his dwelling be.’” (Leviticus 13:45–46). Both Tazria and Metzora focus on the laws of leprosy, a spiritual condition that causes the afflicted to become impure. These portions outline laws regarding how to handle the metzora, the one who is infected, as well as how he or she may be purified once healed. The Hebrew word that is translated leprosy, tzaraat, does not actually correspond to the modern day affliction of leprosy. Its origin is spiritual, but it obviously has a physical manifestation. The condition is identified by a priest, not by a doctor. In fact, tzaraat can afflict a person, house, or article of clothing. The condition can affect persons and buildings. Reading the chapter instructs on how to treat the condition i.e. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘This shall be the torah [instructions] for the leprous person [תּוֹרַת הַמְּצֹרָע] for the day of his cleansing.’” (Leviticus 14:1–2) and for buildings Lev 14:44-45. The chapters should be read in their entirety as they contain too much information to cover in this short article i.e make an atonement for him before the LORD for his issue. Lev 15:16 And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. Lev 15:17 And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even. Lev 15:18 The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even. The Hebrew word may be derived from the Aramaic word segiruta, meaning isolation, and have a linguistic root that means smiting. Some consider it a collective term for various skin diseases that might include eczema, psoriasis, and ringworm. Tzara’at also can show up on clothing as green or red patches and even on walls, as perhaps mildew. It causes spiritual defilement and requires purification and a time of isolation to prevent the spread of contamination. If after a 7-day period of quarantine, the Cohen (Priest) sees that the disease is spreading, the “leper” is to be isolated from the community in order to prevent defiling and infecting others by contact. “And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lip, and shall cry: ‘Unclean, unclean [tameh, tameh].' All the days wherein the plague is in him he shall be unclean; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his dwelling be” (Leviticus 13:45–46). Leprosy was inflicted by God as a punishment for Miriam’s slanderous actions on Moses in Num 12:1-2, 8-10 and king Jeroboam in 1 Kings 13:4 (type of leprosy). Without going into a teaching on leprosy, it should be noted it is not a change in colour of the skin surface; but damage to the skin and flesh Lev_13:14 But when raw flesh appeareth in him, he shall be unclean. When the skin is healthy, it is smooth like flesh fallen snow. When unhealthy, it has scabs or like imprints in the snow Lev 13:20 And if, when the priest seeth it, behold, it be in sight lower than the skin, and the hair thereof be turned white; the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague of leprosy broken out of the boil. Isolation and quarantine is still practiced today as a medical necessity and in property repairs; yet many Christians think the laws of the Old Testament nolonger apply. A defiled, unclean or sinful person is separated from God. We should avoid being in that state when we die in sin as we may be permanently separated from Him. The Purification of Tzaraat Once it is confirmed through a series of tests that the condition is indeed tzaraat, the metzora is declared tameh (impure or unclean). The afflicted one is then isolated from the community in order to prevent defiling and infecting others through contact. The metzora must dwell alone outside the camp until completely healed. It is the role of the priest to periodically check on the afflicted person to determine when he or she can return to the community, so it can once again be whole. In terms of a house, however, if the tzaraat spreads after a week of quarantine, the infected stones are removed and thrown in an impure place. If the lesions reappear after the stones are replaced and the house is scraped and re-plastered, then the entire house is destroyed. Its stones, wood, and dust are carried away to an impure place. “Behold, if the plague be spread in the house, it is a malignant leprosy in the house; it is unclean. And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the mortar of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place.” (Leviticus 14:44–45). Once a metzora is healed, he or she then goes through the purification process outlined in the Torah. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘This shall be the torah [instructions] for the leprous person [תּוֹרַת הַמְּצֹרָע] for the day of his cleansing.’” (Leviticus 14:1–2). For the healing process to be complete, and the metzora reintegrated into the community, a complex series of offerings are made, beginning on the first day with two clean birds — one that is killed and one that is released. Although the metzora may now return to the community, he must live outside his tent for seven days. On the seventh day, the metzora shaves off all hair, including the eyebrows, and bathes in water. As part of the ceremony, on the eighth day of the purification process, the priest (Kohen) places some of the oil and blood of the guilt offering (male lamb) upon the tip of the right ear of the one being cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot (Leviticus 14:10–14 Yahshua, Purification, and Restoration “Now on His way to Jerusalem, Yahshua (called Jesus by many) travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Yahshua, Master, have pity on us!’ When He saw them, He said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” (Luke 17:11–14). HOW TO BAPTISE. The New Testament tells several stories about people being baptized, but the stories do not spell out the details of how the baptism was accomplished. The apostolic writers thought that the method and procedure of baptism was so well known that they felt no compulsion to record any of the details of the ritual. Because the apostles were all Jews, they considered baptism to be a basic part of daily life which required no description. Baptism was originally a Levitical purification rite. Most purification ceremonies, such as the purification after leprosy, require immersion into a mikvah. The Greek New Testament expresses immersion into the mikvah with the term baptizo (βαπτίζω), the word from which we derive the English term baptism. Leviticus 15 prescribes baptism as the mode of purification for a variety of ritual contaminations. Baptism means different things to different forms of Christianity. Disagreements about the mode and meaning of baptism can be blamed, in part, on the New Testament’s scanty descriptions of the ritual. The apostles say very little about the mode, never explaining exactly how a person is to be baptized. They say a bit more about the symbolism, but they leave most of that as if it is already taken for granted. A person needs to be ritually pure before he or she can enter the Sanctuary or eat of the sacrifices. At a minimum, purification from ritual uncleanness required a full-body immersion into mayim chayim (מים חיים): Living water, that is water collected from a natural source like a spring, a river, or rainwater, but not drawn from a cistern or well. A pool of living water is called a mikvah. A person undergoing immersion descends into the mikvah (or river, or lake, or ocean, or whatever the case may be). The person immerses himself or herself by wading into chest-deep water and bending the knees to completely submerge himself or herself. The dunking is repeated two more times for a total of three consecutive dunks. A person who immersed himself in this manner washed away his ritual uncleanness. All worshipers going up to the Temple underwent immersion before entering the holy place. Archaeology has unearthed the remains of many apostolic-era immersion facilities near the entrance to the Temple. These are the same immersion baths that Yeshua and His disciples used as they went up to the Temple when in Jerusalem. Archaeologists have found remains of apostolic-era immersion baths all over the land of Israel, and they consider the presence of a mikvah in an excavation as key evidence of a Jewish population. All of this indicates that baptism was not a Christian invention or even an apostolic innovation. From the days of Moses, Jews regularly practiced ritual immersion. Anyone who became ritually unclean needed to undergo a baptism before he or she could enter the Temple or eat from the sacrifices. The priests immersed every day. After a woman completed her monthly cycle, she needed to immerse herself before she could rejoin her husband. Some pious Pharisees went beyond the letter of the law and attempted to maintain a constant state of ritual purity which necessitated regular, daily immersion. The immersion ritual symbolizes death and resurrection. When a proselyte converts to Judaism to become legally Jewish, he passes through an immersion in the mikvah. His legal identity as a Gentile dies in the water of the mikvah, and the proselyte emerges from the mikvah reborn as a Jew. Likewise, John the Immerser employed immersion as the physical token of repentance. The penitent entering the water of the Jordan died to sin and emerged from the water reborn to a life of repentance and righteousness. Paul attached similar symbolism to the immersion in Messiah: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Messiah Yeshua have been baptized into His death? … Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin”. (Romans 6:3-7). Yahshua the Messiah, during the time of His ministry on earth, healed many people who were afflicted by this terrible condition. He upheld the process of purification found in this study section when He healed a leper, declaring him tahor (clean). “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Yahshua reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:12–13). Keeping God’s law, Yahshua told the man, “Show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” See also Luke 17:11. Although contagious diseases are definitely cause for concern, the Bible makes it plain that we have been infected by something that is far more lethal and contagious than any physical disease. Since the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, we have all been infected with the venom of the serpent and all are subject to sin that separates us from God. We are so defiled by sin that even our righteousness is like filthy rags. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). Only the blood of the Messiah, Yahshua, the Passover Lamb, can cleanse us from our defilement and uncleanness to come into true fellowship with the living God. Just as Yahshua made the lepers pure and whole once again, so too can He cleanse us and present us holy and without blemish to the Father. “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch — as you really are. For Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). 2 Kings 7:4 – 205: Also has an event regarding leprosy. Shalom.

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