Parashat Metzora (Leprosy)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 14:1–15:33
Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24 (4:6 English Bibles)
This week we have a special reading from Malachi 3:4–24 for what is called the “Shabbat HaGadol” (Great Shabbat) which is the Shabbat before the Passover. The name comes from two possible sources. The sages believe that the Shabbat HaGadol took place on the tenth of Nisan right before the first Passover as we read in Exodus 12:1–6:
ADONAI spoke to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt; he said, “You are to begin your calendar with this month; it will be the first month of the year for you. Speak to all the assembly of Israel and say, ‘On the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb or kid for his family, one per household — except that if the household is too small for a whole lamb or kid, then he and his next-door neighbor should share one, dividing it in proportion to the number of people eating it. Your animal must be without defect, a male in its first year, and you may choose it from either the sheep or the goats. You are to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month.’”
Another possibility is found in the special Haftarah portion when we read in Malachi 3:23 (4:5 in English bibles):
Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.
The word “great” in this verse is a translation of the Hebrew word “gadol”, which means great or big; hence, this could explain the term “Shabbat HaGadol” (“Great” or “Big” Shabbat).
As I read the Parasha and the Haftarah, I was reflecting on the possible connection between the two. In general, the Parasha speaks about the issues of leprosy and various bodily discharges, while the Haftara speaks of God’s judgment over the “sorcerers, the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, those who oppress the wage earner in his wages or the widow or the orphan, and those who turn away the stranger from justice and do not fear [God]” (Malachi 3:5), and over the children of Israel’s for misuse of God’s money (Malachi 3:6-12) . In my understanding, what connects both Scripture portions is the separation between righteous/pure and unrighteous/defiled in the coming day of judgment.
But, the connection doesn’t stop there. It tells us something about God’s heart and what He desires for His kingdom. As I wrote, the Parasha speaks of those who were impure due to physical ailments; they were the outcasts of society. God, in His mercy and kindness, provided a way for them to be purified and cleansed. This, I believe, is the reason that in Malachi 3:22 (4:4), we read of the importance of remembering the Torah of Moshe (Moses):
Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant, the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.
While some followers of Messiah tend to view the Torah of Moshe negatively, I would like to suggest that it is a wonderful gift — it is God’s Word, after all — because it shows us who God is, and because God never changes, we know that His precepts handed down through Moses still hold spiritual value. The Torah of Moses also points us to Yeshua as He Himself said, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me” (John 5:46).
I don't believe it is coincidental that, when we connect the two portions with Passover, we find a form of redemption through God’s provision of purification. I also believe that as Malachi speaks of the importance of returning to God as the “gadol” (great) day of the LORD approaches, we, His followers, need to be reminded of our role to be salt and light so that those who aren’t yet purified & redeemed by the blood of the Lamb have an opportunity to do that.
As followers of Messiah, we often seek and expect perfection rather than repentance, purification and holiness. But let’s not be deceived; the Kingdom of God is not about perfect people but about people who have been purified & cleansed by Yeshua, and are free to live holy lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, having been reconciled to the Father.
He seeks purified hearts — not perfect people.
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