General Overview: The bulk of this week's portion, Tazria-Metzora, discusses various forms of tzara'at, skin maladies which are contracted as a result of engaging in forbidden gossip. Also discussed are garment discolorations which constitute "clothing tzara'at," and the symptoms and laws of "house tzara'at," indicated by certain stone discolorations. Following is a discussion of various ritual impurities, including the laws of the menstruating woman.
First Aliyah: The Jewish people are instructed regarding the ritual impurity contracted by a woman who gives birth. The timeframe of this period of impurity differs depending whether the child is a boy or girl. At the conclusion of this period, the woman immerses in a mikvah and is required to bring certain offerings in the Temple. Incidentally, the Torah mentions the obligation to circumcise a male child on the eighth day of his life. The Torah then begins discussing the laws of tzara'at, a skin discoloration -- often inaccurately translated as "leprosy" -- which renders a person ritually impure. This aliyah discusses various forms of white skin discolorations. A person who has the symptoms of tzara'at must be seen by a priest. If the discoloration is deemed "suspicious," the priest will immediately declare the individual impure or quarantine him for up to two weeks. At the conclusion of the quarantine period, the priest either declares the individual pure or impure. The Torah then discusses what is done in the event that the tzara'at spreads after the individual was declared pure, or if there is raw skin within the tzara'at, or if the tzara'at has spread over the entire body. We learn the laws of tzara'at which appears following an inflammation on the skin.
Second Aliyah: We learn the laws of tzara'at which appears following a burn to the skin. We discover that tzara'at can also affect the areas on the body covered by hair. The symptoms and laws of such a tzara'at are quite different than standard tzara'at. This section concludes with the laws of a person afflicted by multiple dull white areas on his skin.
Third Aliyah: This section discusses tzara'at which appears on a bald spot, as well a white discoloration streaked with red, which can appear anywhere on the body. Also discussed is the procedure followed by an individual who is afflicted with tzara'at, the main requirement being that he must remain outside the city until his condition clears up. The Torah then discusses "clothing tzara'at," a green or red discoloration which can affect certain types of materials. The garment is shown to a priest who quarantines it for up to two weeks.
Fourth Aliyah: At the conclusion of the quarantine period, depending on the circumstances the garment is either declared pure, or completely burnt, or only the part which was discolored is torn out and burnt. The Torah then describes the purification procedure for a person who contracted tzara'at. After the priest determines that the tzara'at has been healed, a ceremony involving two birds, a cedar plank, a scarlet thread and water from a live stream, is used for the initial stage of the purification. The individual also shaves his entire body. After a seven day wait, the person shaves again, and brings three animals and an oil offering to the Temple. The priest processes the offerings in the manner prescribed in this section. With this the purification process is completed.
Fifth Aliyah: If the individual suffering from tzara'at cannot afford the above sacrifices, two birds can be substituted for two of the animals. This section describes the slightly different purification process reserved for the impoverished person.
Sixth Aliyah: Homes, too, can be afflicted with tzara'at. If stones on a home become discolored -- acquiring a strong red or green pigment -- a priest is summoned. If indeed the discoloration seems to be tzara'at, the priest quarantines the home for up to three weeks. Depending on the spread of the discoloration, the home is either declared to be pure, or the specific stones are removed from the house, or, in the most extreme situations, the house is demolished. The Torah then describes the purification process for such a home -- which is very similar to the initial stage of the purification of the human afflicted with tzara'at (described in the First Aliyah). After concluding the subject of tzara'at, the Torah discusses the ritual impurity of a man who issues a sickly and unnatural seminal discharge, as well as the method by which this person attains purity when the condition passes.
Seventh Aliyah: This section discusses the ritual impurity contracted by a man who issues a (normal) seminal discharge, the ritual impurity of a menstruating woman, and of a man who cohabits with her. All such people must immerse in a mikvah (ritual pool) in order to be purified. Under certain circumstances a menstruating woman was required to bring to the Temple two bird offerings in order to attain purity.