This week is a combined parashah of Tazria and Metzora, but today we only read from Tazria. Parashat Tazria talks about many gross skin conditions and diseases that people could get in the Torah. It also speaks about what women needed to go through in order to become pure again after giving birth. Parashat Tazria tells us how these people dealt with their conditions or impurities by going to the Cohanim. In addition, it tells us how they became pure again and if they need to be isolated. The Cohanim, or priests, were like the doctors in the Torah, and they were the ones who made decisions.
In my opinion, Tazria-Metzora is the most disgusting parashah in the Torah. When I was reading over the parashah, I found something interesting. I looked through the text, and I counted how many times it had the words with the root meaning “טמא” (which means “impure”) and טהור (which means “pure”). I counted 49 of those words in total. I think this shows that the main idea is about purities and impurities.
The rabbis interpreted getting leprosy as a punishment for speaking lashon harah. Just as in Bamidbar Chapter 12 verse 10, Miriam was punished for speaking badly about Moses’s wife.
“וְהֶעָנָ֗ן סָ֚ר מֵעַ֣ל הָאֹ֔הֶל וְהִנֵּ֥ה מִרְיָ֖ם מְצֹרַ֣עַת כַּשָּׁ֑לֶג וַיִּ֧פֶן אַהֲרֹ֛ן אֶל־מִרְיָ֖ם וְהִנֵּ֥ה מְצֹרָֽעַת׃”
This tells us that Miriam was stricken with tzaraat, or leprosy, as we understand today. For me, it is hard to think that God would purposely put an illness on someone. I do not view someone who is sick as someone who is being punished. For example, I have lost two of my grandparents because of illnesses. I do not think that my grandparents did anything wrong at all to have deserved these sicknesses.
Today, some people have to be isolated because they physically need it, like when they are sick and sometimes contagious. For example, the coronavirus. This virus is very contagious, and it is very scary to everyone. Because this virus is very contagious, anyone who has it needs to be isolated and treated before they can re-enter the community. In my opinion, this out of control and scary virus is like a modern day version of leprosy, but even worse.
Although some people are isolated to protect others, some people are isolated for themselves, like my grandma. She was isolated because if she was near too many people, especially anyone sick, then she would get even sicker than she already was.
In the Torah, because it was believed that the impurity of the people could be spread to others, the Cohanim isolated the person with the infection from the community. You may not realize it, but people are isolated even today in our everyday lives. Even for a lot simpler reasons than the coronavirus. For example, when little kids are put into time out they are isolated because they have done something wrong. As we all know, when we are little we do not see this as something good. However, being put in time out hopefully teaches little children not to repeat what they did wrong. And this helps them grow to be a better person. Lashon Harah is bad to do and maybe one reason people in the Torah were sent away was so that they could learn their lesson not to do it again.
Yet, sometimes it is not good for someone to be isolated. Some examples of people who are isolated are people in wheelchairs, people in hospitals, people who are homebound, and people who are sick and weak. Although we cannot magically cure these people, we can help them by following one of the mitzvot of the Torah: “ביקור חולים”, or visiting the sick. Having company can make a person feel un-isolated and not alone. Starting when I was about 7, my grandparents started to get sick. My family and I visited them as frequently as possible. I saw how happy it made them to even just get a quick visit from us, and I think that this made them feel less isolated, whether it was physically or mentally.
Lastly, I would like to talk about how we can welcome people back from isolation. When the people from Bnai Yisrael with leprosy were released from isolation in the Torah, they were checked again by the Cohanim to see if they could become 100% pure again. This would allow them to bring sacrifices and re-enter the community. In terms of my grandma’s isolation, she was welcomed back differently. Right when she was released from the hospital after being there for about 79 days, she drove right to my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah with my grandfather, my aunt, and my family. Right away she was welcomed back into the community of my family and her friends and everyone who knew her. I think that during her time of illness, it was very important to my grandma to be around her community and family. She was determined to be there for my cousin, and this taught me the lesson of always showing up. My grandma was released from the hospital, and she was welcomed back with of course a lot of love. However she was also welcomed back with her own strength and determination.
At first, this parashah seemed like it was just about gross skin diseases, and I wasn’t so excited to learn about it. But after learning this parashah, I realized that I could connect it to my life in a few different ways.