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Tazria-Metzora in a Nutshell

Tazria-Metzora in a Nutshell

Leviticus 12:1–15:33


The Parshahs of Tazria and Metzora continue the discussion of the laws of tumah v’taharah, ritual impurity and purity.

A woman giving birth should undergo a process of purification, which includes immersing in a mikvah (a naturally gathered pool of water) and bringing offerings to the Holy Temple. All male infants are to be circumcised on the eighth day of life.

Tzaraat (often mistranslated as “leprosy”) is a supra-natural plague, which can afflict people as well as garments or homes. If white or pink patches appear on a person’s skin (dark pink or dark green in garments or homes), a kohen is summoned. Judging by various signs, such as an increase in size of the afflicted area after a seven-day quarantine, the kohen pronounces it tamei (impure) or tahor (pure).

A person afflicted with tzaraat must dwell alone outside of the camp (or city) until he is healed. The afflicted area in a garment or home must be removed; if the tzaraat recurs, the entire garment or home must be destroyed.

When the metzora (“leper”) heals, he or she is purified by the kohen with a special procedure involving two birds, spring water in an earthen vessel, a piece of cedar wood, a scarlet thread and a bundle of hyssop.

Ritual impurity is also engendered through a seminal or other discharge in a man, and menstruation or other discharge of blood in a woman, necessitating purification through immersion in a mikvah.

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Anonymous Florida April 13, 2013

Interesting. Isn't a requirement for a mikveh that the water has a natural source--such as a spring? The oceans certainly do. It is written (in English, Genesis 7:11) that the flood of Noah's day came not only from rain but from "all the springs in the deep"? (If Hebrew is different, please let me know.) Oceanographers tell us that the ocean floors are studded with enormous springs -- geysers, if you will -- which pump out huge amounts of fresh water into the world's salt seas. Speaking for myself, even if that qualifies the beach as a mikveh it doesn't hold much appeal given the other requirements of a ritual bath. Reply

Anonymous the netherlands April 13, 2013

If your intentions are valid, right, pure and Torah; then the Ocean is a Mikvah. : your life will be a Mikvah. Reply

David Mark FL April 12, 2013

After years of teaching this passage, in both traditional and modernistic interpretations-- that is, literal leprosy (which could have been psoriasis, Hansen's Disease, mold on the wall, or merely a bad rash, in an age before cortisone drugs were discovered) or lashon ha-ra, vile gossip-- I am convinced, now, that the leper's quarantine is not his fault. We are the ones who must embrace the outcast, or we will all be guilty of tsaraat, of tumah, of uncleanliness. We live on a very small planet. Reply Staff April 10, 2013

For the purposes of immersion for married women, some authorities permit using the ocean as a mikvah if there is no other option. It is advisable to consult with a rabbi and to try to avoid having to use the ocean if possible. Reply

Anonymous April 9, 2013

I think the ocean is a Mikvah, when you can go to a close one. Reply