Having described, in the previous Parshah of Tazria, the manner in which the affliction of tzaraat is identified and the laws pertaining to a person thus afflicted, the Torah now proceeds to outline the process of the metzora’s purification and rehabilitation:

G‑d spoke to Moses, saying:

This shall be the law of the metzora on the day of his cleansing; he shall be brought to the priest.

The priest shall go out of the camp; and the priest shall look and see if the plague of tzaraat has been healed in the leper.

Then the priest shall command to take, for the one who is being cleansed, two live and kosher birds, cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop. The priest shall command that one of the birds be slaughtered over an earthen vessel with fresh spring water.

The live bird, the piece of cedar, the scarlet thread and the bundle of hyssop are then dipped into the blood of the slaughtered bird and the spring water in the earthen vessel. The blood-and-water mixture is also sprinkled seven times on the metzora, and the live bird is “let loose into the open field.”

Then the one who is being cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and be clean, and after that he shall come into the camp; but he shall remain outside his tent seven days.

On the seventh day, the metzora-in-purification once again washes his clothes, shaves his hair and immerses in a mikvah.

On the eighth day he bring a series of offerings: two male sheep—one as a guilt offering and the other as an ascending offering—and a female sheep as a sin offering; all three are accompanied with meal offerings consisting of fine flour, olive oil and wine. A pauper who cannot afford three sheep substitutes two birds for the sin and ascending offerings.

Blood from the guilt offering is sprinkled on the cleansed metzora’s earlobe, and on the thumbs of his right hand and foot. Oil from the meal offering is placed on these parts of his body ands on his head, after being sprinkled seven times in the direction of the Holy of Holies in the Sanctuary. Thus, “the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be purified.”

Tzaraat of the Home

Not only persons can be afflicted with tzaraat. In Tazria we read how garments too may be deemed “leprous”; now the Torah sets down the law of the contaminated house:

G‑d spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying:

When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I will put the plague of tzaraat in a house of the land of your possession,

then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, saying: “It seems to me there is something like a plague in the house.”

The priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest goes into it to see the plague, so that all that is in the house be not made impure; and afterward the priest shall go in to see the house.

He shall look at the plague, and behold: if the plague is in the walls of the house in greenish or reddish depressions, which appear lower than the wall, then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house, and shut up the house for seven days.

On the seventh day, the kohen again examines the marking. If it has faded or disappeared, then that area is scraped clean and the house is pure. If it remains unchanged, he locks up the house for another week. However,

If the priest comes back on the seventh day and looks, and behold, the plague has spread in the walls of the house,

then the priest shall command that they remove the stones in which the plague is, and they shall throw them into an unclean place outside the city. He shall have the inside of the house scraped all around, and they shall pour out the dust that they scraped off outside the city in an unclean place.

They shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones; and he shall take other mortar, and plaster the house.

After the removed stones are replaced with new stones and the house is replastered, it is closed for a second seven-day period. And the end of these seven days,

If the plague comes back, and breaks out in the house . . . it is a malignant tzaraat in the house: it is unclean.

He shall demolish the house, its stones, its timber and all the mortar of the house; and he shall carry them out of the city into an unclean place.

If the tzaraat does not return, the “healed” house undergoes a purification process similar to that of the healed metzora:

. . . [The kohen] shall take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the scarlet and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slaughtered bird and in the spring water, and sprinkle the house seven times. . . . He shall then let go the living bird out of the city into the open fields; thus he shall make atonement for the house, and it shall be clean.

The Zav

Concluding the series of laws on ritual purity of the sections of Shemini, Tazria and Metzora are the laws of the zav, the niddah and the zavah.

The zav is a man who has a whitish, non-seminal discharge from his reproductive organ. The zav remains in a state of ritual impurity throughout the time that the discharge continues, and for seven days after it has stopped. During this time, anything he touches, moves, sits or lies upon, or that is touched by any of his bodily fluids, is rendered tamei, ritually impure.

On the seventh evening he immerses in a mikvah and becomes pure. On the eighth day he bring two birds as offerings.

A seminal discharge (whether in coitus or otherwise) renders the person ritually impure for one day—until the next sunset and immersion in a mikvah.

Niddah and Zavah

And if a woman has an issue, and her issue in her flesh is blood, she shall be seven days in her menstrual separation . . .

A menstruant woman is a niddah; a woman who has a discharge of blood at a time other than her regular period is a zavah. Both are rendered ritually impure: the niddah for seven days (provided she has stopped bleeding); the zavah until the end of seven “clean days” which she begins counting after her flow has ceased completely. A man having relations with a niddah or zavah, in addition to transgressing a severe biblical prohibition (cf. Leviticus 18:19), is also rendered ritually impure. Both the niddah and the zavah are purified through immersion in a mikvah.

(In practice, Torah law rules that since it is very difficult to determine whether a discharge occurred precisely “in its time,” every woman seeing blood should count seven “clean days” before immersing.)

You shall separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness, that they not die in their uncleanness, when they defile my Sanctuary that is among them.

This is the law of he who has an issue; of he who emits semen and is thereby rendered impure;

of she who is ailing in her menstrual flow; of one who has an issue, whether man or woman; and of he who lies with a woman who is ritually impure.