Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #27: Tazria (She conceives) Vayikra (Leviticus) 12:1-13:59
Haftara: M’lakhim Bet (2 Kings) 4:42-5:19
Brit Chadashah: Luke 2:22-4; 5:12-16
• This parashah is read with #28 in regular years
This week we are going to focus on the first two paragraphs of this parashah in depth, then discuss tzara’at which can imply either a physical disease or a manifestation of a sin such as l’shon hara (evil tongue/gossip) allowed by G-d to show humans the importance of and affect on others when we sin. More on this in a few minutes.
To begin, mothers were and are special, deserving special attention as we read in this parashah. Specific guidelines were provided by G-d after the woman gave birth to either a male or female infant. The mother who had just given birth was required to go through the purification process because she had passed blood and had brought another sinner into the world. Author Louis Goldberg maintains that another reason for the purification requirement was that she had brought another sinner into the world, citing Job 25;4 and Ps. 51:5. I do not agree with this latter explanation but do agree that we are sinful , from our youth ( Isaiah 53:6; Ps. 51:5;58:3; Prov. 22:15, John 3:3, and Rom. 5:12; 22:15.
If the child was a boy, the mother remained outside the camp for seven days which was in accordance with the laws regarding a woman’s monthly menses. The boy child was circumcised on the eight day which is significant for at least two reasons. The eighth day represents the day the Mishkan was consecrated, new beginnings in the gematria, and interestingly the time at which the infants immune system is sufficient to heal from the circumcision procedure in the least amount of time. Another possible reason for circumcising the male child on the eighth day would be that the child would be considered no longer unclean from the mother’s blood.
The mother was able to rejoin the family when the days of her purification were over but with restrictions. She was not allowed to touch any holy thing or go into the sanctuary for another 33 days. Interestingly, if she bore a girl, she was unclean for two weeks with partial restoration to the family in 66 days. An obvious question is why the difference in the time mandated between the length of purification for a male versus a female birth? Many texts are silent on this but there are a few possible explanations that I will present for your consideration.
According to the Jewish Study Bible(1999), “the reason the length of each phase is doubled when a female child is born is difficult to determine. Modern medicine recognizes no difference between the postpartum genital flow of the mother and a boy and that of the mother of a girl. The ancients, however, may have noted that there is occasional vaginal flow from the infant girl herself and viewed this as necessitating a longer purification by the mother (p.233).” An explanation in Bible Study Commentary Leviticus by Louis Goldberg (1980) posits that “it is difficult to assign a reason for this. Perhaps we might see a lesson in that when a mother gave birth to a female, other children would be born in the future, two females were involved in the birth, and therefore the periods of cleansing and for purification were doubled. There was then a double reminder of the transmission of sin (pp. 68-9).” The Chumash indicates that Rabbi D.Z. Hoffman suggests that a two- week period should have applied to the birth of a son also. However, the Torah removed the contamination from the mother of a boy after only seven days so that she would be purified before the bris milah [circumcision] celebration of her son.” So, we can see that there are areas in G-d’s Torah , the rationale of which is difficult to explain. However, we should learn and trust that it is enough that G-d’s instructions are perfect while we continue to ask, seek, and knock for knowledge and wisdom from above to use that knowledge for G-d’s glory.
Next comes the instructions for the offerings that the mother must make; a burnt offering and a sin offering. Why are these necessary? The birth of a child is not a sin or a spiritual contaminant in any way. The burnt offering was an expression of her dedication to G-d to bring her child up in the ways of G-d. The laws regarding purification provided a stark contrast between those of the pagan nations around the Israelites who used prostitution and immoral rites to their gods and goddesses in order to prosper the people. In contrast, Israel’s religion avoided all sexual connotations by keeping sex and worship separate. They worshipped G-d as their Provider and Creator, thanked Him for their blessings, including safe childbirth, and followed the commands for the sacrificial system that addressed issues of the mind, heart, and physical being.
A critical connection between our discussion and what Miryam and Yosef did after Yahshua’s birth is found in Lev. 12:6, “When the days of her purification are over, whether for a son or for a daughter, she is to bring a lamb in its first year for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or dove for s sin offering to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to the Cohen.” Let’s compare this to Luke 2:22 where we are talking about Yahshua’s birth and the events shortly after. Luke 2:22-3 read, “When the time came for their purification according to the Torah of Moshe, they took him up to Yerushalayim to present him to Adonai (as it is written in the Torah of Adonai, Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to Adonai) and also to offer a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons, as required by the Torah of Adonai.” In our parashah the mother is to bring a lamb in its first year for a burnt offering. In Luke we have Yahshua in his first year as the Lamb who would be sacrificed for our sins as a burnt offering. In our parashah the mother also brings one pigeon or dove for a sin offering to the entrance of the tent of meeting. In Luke it is a pair of doves or pigeons to be sacrificed as a sin offering. Another statement that needs explanation is Luke 2:22 that reads, “When the time came for their purification.…”
Let’s first address the subject of a mother who is required to bring one dove or pigeon, and the pair required in Luke 2:23. We are talking about Miryam (Mary) and Yosef (Joseph). As humans they were both impure. Could it be that the purification process required of a mother was also required for Joseph as the purification process of the heart and soul that we must all go through since the arrival of Yahshua? Typical of the Bible, the comparison of these passages from the Old Testament to the B’rit Chadashah illustrates the logical extension and conceptual consistency of the Bible. The impure state of both Maryam and Yosef is confirmed by the fact that each must offer a dove or pigeon for a sin offering. We can also see the profound significance of Yahshua’s birth in Luke 2:22-3. Note in our parashah the birds are to be offered in addition to the lamb. In Luke 2:22-3 there is no mention of a lamb as a burnt offering. Again, there was no need for Miryam and Yosef to procure a lamb for the required burnt offering. Although they could not understand the full meaning of that which was revealed to them by the Gavri’el (G-d is my Guide), they would one day look on as their son became the only acceptable burnt offering for the past sins of the world. They would not realize the reality of what Gavri’el told Miryam in their physical lives.
Moving to the subject of tzara’at, the Sages teach that tzara’at is not actually a disease of organic origin. Rather, it is a variety of physical manifestations of various levels stemming from spiritual issues. Tzara’at is a punishment designed to show the one undergoing the process that he must repent. The Sages say the primary cause of tzara’at is slander because the word mitzora is a contraction of motz’ra, one who spreads slander. Similarly, the Sages teach that the affliction is a punishment for the sins of bloodshed, false oaths, sexual immorality, pride, robbery, and selfishness; seven sins in all. G-d rebukes this antisocial/anti-Torah behavior by isolating him from society, so that he can experience the pain he has imposed on others- and heal himself through repentance. I submit that G-d intervenes in our lives in a similar manner although we often fail to recognize the connection between the consequences of our sin in our mental and physical health. That being said, we must also acknowledge the reality that we must go through adversities in our lives to develop our faith in Yahshua’s sacrifice, and trust in His faithfulness for our ultimate good and His glory.
Lev.13:13 describes a condition in which a person is so completely covered with tzara’at that he is declared clean. How can this be? Does this mean that the more we sin, the more grace that will be given to us such as was promoted by Martin Luther? On the contrary, this represents a person who is so morally corrupt that he doesn’t even think of changing. An example of this type of person was Pharaoh. He was so corrupt, G-d allowed him to harden his own heart past the point of repentance and subsequent forgiveness. There is no point in isolating this person. But by telling him he is clean the Torah forces him to admit how low his spiritual condition has become. As hopeless as this may seem, Lev. 13:14 tells us that there is yet hope for one who repents. For “On the day healthy flesh appears in it, it shall be contaminated, it is tzara’at.” Isolation can be a wonderful thing. Consider why G-d took the Israelites through a desert instead of an oasis filled with beautiful waterfalls, plants, and gourmet food. Consider why Yahshua did not look like a Male model of the year or offer peripheral types of “frills” during his ministry. Isolation from people or the environment tends to foster introspection or a willingness to listen to whatever is most manifest at the time. In the desert, G-d planned for the people to focus on Him, serving Him, and loving Him. Most of them remained obstinate and continued to focus on selfish desires and their past lives that included quail, leeks, and such. I find it sad how we can become so easily obsessed with food, entertainment, and other externalities of our physical universe and so resistant to developing the character and life our G-d mandates and will ultimately reward. The plethora of reality shows that have no merit provides sufficient evidence. Even more so, people who walked in the very presence of G-d and Yahshua, manifested as a pillar of fire and a cloud respectively failed to focus on the “direct object” of the sentence. Yahshua’s unattractive appearance was designed to draw people to His message, not His physique (Isaiah 53:2). His desire was and is for people to focus on Him, serve Him, and love Him. Most will fail for the same reasons all but those under the age of the census, Joshua (Y’hoshua), and Caleb (Kelev) failed. We are so easily distracted by the world around us, that we mistakenly perceive it as reality. As we are pulled into a black hole of spiritual depravity, we become so contaminated we are considered “clean” where isolation is no longer helpful. Yet, Yahshua provides us the mental capacity to recognize our lost state, turn to Him and accept His sacrifice for our past sins and rejection of His Torah; indeed, YHVH/Yahshua himself. Like Miryam and Yosef, we can be purified, but not through the sin sacrifice of doves or pigeons. Our purification is accomplished through the blood of the Lamb in its first year by way of a burnt offering that is a complete offering (Yahshua’s sacrifice). YHVH /Yahshua demands the same level of complete sacrifice of our humanity as He did of Miryam and Yosef. Miryam was required to die to self by allowing herself to be placed in a situation that could have brought death. Yosef had to accept that he was not the father of the Messiah; he had to place all of his trust and faith on the angel’s message and forget about manly pride. YHVH/Yahshua expects no less from us. He does not honor our efforts to overlay our current lifestyle with a religious façade. We have to kill our selfish, egotistical selves on a daily basis and make ourselves fit vessels for housing the ways of G-d.
Haftarah: 2 Kings 4:42-5:19
This week’s haftarah describes how a prophet miraculously cured an Aramite General of his tzara’at. The beginning of the passage briefly mentions one of the prophet Elisha’s miraculous accomplishments through the power of G-d. He received a mere twenty loaves of bread and a sack of grain. At Elisha’s insistence, this gift was shared among 100 men. The food was enough and there was more to spare.
Naaman, who was an Aramite general, contracted tzara’at. A young captive Israelite maid advised him saying “I wish my lord could go to the prophet in Shomron! He could heal his tzara’at. Acting on her suggestion, the king of Arman sent a message to the King of Israel telling him Naaman was on his way and that he was to cure him of his tzara’at. The king panicked, until Elisha sent him a message after he heard of the King tearing his clothes. Naaman was sent to Elisha and was advised to immerse himself seven times in the Jordan River. At first Naaman was outraged that Elisha would not come to him personally and wave his hands over the sore and call on the Name of G-d. Ironically, his servants had the right idea telling him that if Elisha had asked him to do something difficult, he would have done it, so why not follow simple directions? The root of the problem is a common one; one that cost hasatan his position and standing with G-d. It was pride. Naaman relents and does as Elisha told him and he was immediately healed. What else does this teach us? Note that Naaman wanted to stay in one spot and have Elisha come to HIM. But Naaman wound up going to the river instead. We must learn to be obedient to G-d’s commands just as Naaman finally followed Elisha’s command. Naaman had to go out to the water instead of Elisha coming to a stationary Naaman. Faith is action based on belief. The formula is simple and cannot be altered.
Elisha refused any gifts from Naaman, and Naaman essentially converted. He promised Elisha that he would no longer serve any deity other than the One G-d. Elisha sent him on his way in peace.
B’rit Chadashah: Luke: 22-24; 5:12-16
We addressed Luke 22:24 and its close relationship to the parashah. Let’s move on to Verse 12-16 in Chapter 5; “Once, when Yahshua was in one of the towns, there came a man completely covered with tzara’at. On seeing Yahshua, he fell on his face and begged him, “Sir, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Is it not interesting that this man does not bargain with Yahshua, and he doesn’t beg Yahshua to heal him? He doesn’t proceed to tell Yahshua of all the things he did in Yahshua’s Name or otherwise attempt to justify his lifestyle. Note that from our parashah reading, a man who was completely covered with tzara’at was declared clean because his spiritual state was so low. But this man, although completely covered, knows he is not clean. Furthermore, he is attempting to repent and recognizes Yahshua as the only One who can cure him. The man went to Yahshua; Yahshua did not go to the man. He was simply in the town at the time. Consistent with Yahshua’s humility, he told the man not to broadcast what he had done for the man. Instead, he tells the man, “as a testimony to the people, go straight to the Cohen and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moshe commanded.” Yahshua is showing the people that the commands of HaShem remain in force. The healed man was to follow what was written in the Old Testament about offerings made through the Cohen. This would send a message to the religious establishment that the Messiah had come and was at work, doing what only the Messiah can do. Healing a leper, casting out a deaf, dumb, and blind demon were signs noted in 1st century Judaism that would identify the Messiah. Yahshua did not make a public spectacle of himself as the Messiah in the early part of his ministry because He knew the people expected a Messiah who would liberate Israel from Rome and rule in glory, not one who would die the death of a common criminal. Had everyone known he was the Messiah, they would have focused on making him king then and there, instead of what He was trying to teach. However, word got out about Yahshua and His healing the infirm, so “huge crowds would gather to listen and be healed of their sicknesses. However, he made a practice of withdrawing to remote places in order to pray.” Even Yahshua needed a break from healing the sick so he could draw on the strength of his Father. He never advocated for dog and pony shows such as those we often see today.
This parashah is a stark reminder of what we are experiencing today more than ever. A healthcare system going bankrupt testifies to the diseases plaguing our world that never existed, and the resurgence of those we thought were eradicated. What may have appeared to us as superficial infections that we took pride in eradicating are in fact uncleanliness that remains manifest in the deepest tissues of humanity. We must acknowledge our uncleanliness before YHVH/Yahshua and clean up our acts before the final curtain. We must never give up in our quest to ascend in our relationship with G-d. We shouldn’t need to be afflicted with tzara’at to realize we are unclean sinners who need to repent and keep watch on our hearts and minds on a daily basis. Furthermore, the lesson on tzara’at shows us that once we are purified, we can still become unclean. Tzara’at is an effective way to grab our attention. Patients who cancel appointments or who generally do not follow a prescribed plan of care typically show up when the problems they were warned would happen if they continued their current lifestyle sometimes to their complete demise. The sad part is that the complications occurring as a consequence of ignoring G-d’s Torah in any venue could have and can be avoided. So it is with sin and our relationship to YHVH/Yahshua. The process of repentance and purification is an ongoing race because we still have the sinful nature within us. However, through acceptance of Yahshua’s sacrifice, we have a way to overcome the sin nature .We know that G-d can and does use adversities in our lives for His glory. Sometimes that means a total surrender to His will, no matter the physical consequences. However, G-d gives wisdom to those who follow Him. We are then armed with discernment and common sense that helps us to make wise lifestyle choices as the Ruach HaKodesh guides us. We must come to a point where prayer, Torah study and selflessness dominate our lives and become our “second nature.” We can accomplish this change with constant prayer, Torah study, obeying the commands of G-d, and carrying the testimony of Yahshua according to the seven-fold witness in the book of Revelation. No matter how our modern secular humanistic society tries to manipulate and destroy social mores based on G-d’s Torah; teach our children there are no longer any laws, no wrong, no sin, “not one jot nor one tittle shall pass from the law, until all is fulfilled” (Matt: 5:18), only G-d can accomplish such a feat that will not occur until after the Millennial Reign.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart