Parshiot Tazria and Metzora (She will conceive & Leper)


By Baruch:

Parshiot Tazria and Metzora (She will conceive & Leper)

Leviticus 12:1-13:58 & 14:1-15:33

Haftarah: I Samuel 20:18-42

Shabbat Erev Rosh Chodesh Iyar

This week we have a double reading from the Torah. The primary subject is leprosy. One reads that a person who has leprosy must behave in a certain manner.

And the one who has an affliction of leprosy— his garments shall be raveled and his head shall be unkept and until his lip he shall be wrapped, and ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ he shall cry out.” Leviticus 13:45

This verse has many explanations. Some translate that his garments are torn as in mourning. In regard to his head, some understand it to mean uncovered or dealing with the condition of his hair. The language here is very similar to what a person finds later on in this same book of Leviticus.

The High Priest from his brethren, he shall be anointed upon his head (with) the anointing oil and he will fulfill the role, putting on the garments; his head shall not be unkept (or uncovered) and his garments shall not be unraveled.” Leviticus 21:10

The issue is what the words ויפרום יפרע mean. The word יפרע is in relation to his head. This same word also appears in Numbers 5:18 in relation to a woman suspected of committing adultery. The priest is told to do this same act with her hair. Most English translations render this word as “uncover”. This implies that married women covered their hair. However, the simple meaning of the word has to do with her hair not being kept in place. Some Christian scholars understand this to imply that married women wore their hair up (a statement of modesty) and therefore the priest would undo her hair, signifying a woman of impropriety. Therefore there are two possible explanations concerning the meaning of this word in relation to the leper. Either this one is to cover his head as he did with the rest of his body (until his lip) or he is not to groom his hair. Perhaps dealing with the second word will offer some insight.

The word used in regard to his garments, does not usually relate to the concept of “tearing.” It carries the idea of something “undone”, “unraveled” or “frayed.” Throughout the Bible (Old and New Covenants), those who are afflicted with leprosy are prideful individuals who are selfish or who have doubted G-d. If one understands the meaning of this verse to be that the leper must present himself in public with garments which are falling apart, and his hair must be unattended, this could have a humbling effect upon him. Likewise, the High Priest must make sure his hair is groomed and his clothes are in the best condition, as he is anointed by HaShem.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov


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