Weekly Reading Insights:
Tazriya 5774

Overview of the Weekly Reading

To be read on Shabbat Tazriya, 27 Adar II 5774/March 29, 2014

Torah: Leviticus 12:1-13:59; Maftir Ex. 12:1-20 (HaChodesh), Haftorah: Ezekiel 12:1-20 (HaChodesh)

Tazriya 4th Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 27th overall, 48th out of 54 in overall length.

Tazriya opens with childbirth laws, followed by a long discussion of the distinguishing signs of tzara’at* on skin, hair, and garments.
*tzara’at is a discoloration appearing on skin, hair, garments, and houses, and is sometimes (inaccurately) translated as 'leprosy'

An essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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This week's and next week's portions both speak primarily about tzara'at, a discoloration appearing on skin, hair, garments, and houses (sometimes inaccurately translated as leprosy). Indeed, most years these two readings are combined. Tzara'at was a physical affliction which often was caused by inappropriate speech. While this manifestation does not exist today, we can still learn from the Torah's description of it.

In the laws of tzara'at is an amazing detail: if some of a person's skin is afflicted with one of the many blemishes that the Torah describes, the individual becomes spiritually impure. However, if the affliction covers his or her entire body, they are deemed pure! "If it all turned white, it is pure" (Lev. 13:9). This does not make sense. More of a bad thing should make a situation worse, not good!?

It is written in the Talmud concerning the imminent redemption, "In the generation when the son of David (Mashiach) will come...the entire kingdom will convert to heresy and there will be no rebuke..." (Sanhedrin 97a). This means that when the world will be ruled not partially but totally by a belief that denies G-d and his providence, this is an indication that the redemption is imminent. The proof cited is the above law of tzara'at! Isolated blemishes of tzara'at are a sign of spiritual failing and are a consequence of our sins, yet when it covers the person totally - "when it all turns white - it is pure!"

Let's ask again from this new angle. How is it possible that such a low spiritual perception - when evil has the upper hand - is indicative of the Redemption?

Either it is divine will, regardless of our logic and reality, or, specifically when the world will be at a very low ebb, G-d will come with His infinite power and bring the redemption, as the verse says, "For Myself I will do it" (Isaiah 48:11).

These explanations apply to our lives. When evil will spread over the entire world, immersing us in its influence, this will not be just an extreme situation. If this were so, we would find some remnants of good somewhere, struggling for survival.

The fact that everything is crazy tells us that all of the forces of evil are emerging, making their very last stand, because they know their end is near. This is the final purification of the world, as the verse says, "The many will be purified and whitened and cleansed" (Daniel 12:10). Evil will separate from good and show itself. The inner reality will have become ready to accept the light of the Redemption and automatically reject evil from its midst. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy, "All of the nations will call out the name of G-d with a clear voice and serve Him united" (Zephaniah 3:9).

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


This week's story from Yerachmiel Tilles, managing editor of ascentofsafed.com and kabbalaonline.org

From the Kabbalah Commentaries on the Chumash ("5 Books of Moses")

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar

a sample for this week:


"And it will be when a man shall have on the skin of his flesh a swelling, a scab, or bright spot, and it be on the skin of his flesh the plague of tzara'at; then he shall be brought to Aharon the priest, or to one of his sons the priests" [13:2]

Why are the words 'and it will be on the skin of his flesh' necessary in verse 2, when we have heard the same thing i.e. 'when there will be on the skin of his flesh etc.' in the first half of the same sentence?
How does the rule of our sages (Megillah 10) that the expression ve-hayah, and it will be, denotes something positive, joyful, apply here? Surely, suffering from such a social disease is not joyful?

When a human being, adam, is of the caliber that a sin is something exceptional to him, something not really part of his character, then such a sin creates a visible affliction, becomes noticeable because it is so alien to the rest of his body. When a person however, commits sins as a matter of routine, his whole skin is such that an affliction would be usual and therefore hardly noticeable, since it is essentially only a new variation of an existing condition.

The tzara'at phenomenon, applied in times when the average Jew qualified for the term adam, and was of high moral stature. Such a Jew could be called to order through the incidence of a skin disease which would remind him that he had been guilty of some misdemeanor. Any Jew, however, who denies the concept of impurity, where it originates, what causes it etc. is certainly not on the level where such affliction would have a moral effect on him. The expression 'and it will become an affliction on the skin of his flesh', then is the supreme compliment that the Torah can pay a person. It is gratifying for a person afflicted with this tzara'at to know that G'd has put him in the class of human beings who are sensitive to any physical disorder being a product of their own shortcomings.

(Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

For the rest of "The Masters of Kabbala and Chumash" on this Weekly Reading; and on all the other Readings.


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,
click to Shemini

one sample:

Mystical Classics
Birth-Pangs of the Messianic Era

From the Ohr HaChaim commentary by Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) ibn Attar

Due to the inadequacy of the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus, it is described as G-d's wrenching one people from the midst of the same people. It was thus difficult to justify and did not endure, ending in the Temple's destruction. This is not true of the redemption of the Future which will occur as a direct result of Israel's merits

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