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QUESTIONS ON THE CONTENT AND COMMENTARIES TO PARASHAT TAZRIA
1. Why, in Temple times, did a woman have to bring both (a) a sin offering (following Talmud Nidah 31b) and (b) a burnt offering (following Ibn Ezra) after purification following childbirth?
2. The word 'tzaraat' is popularly translated as 'leprosy'. Why does Hirsch disagree with this rendering, and what does he suggest as a more accurate meaning?
3. A small amount of 'tzaraat' qualifies for the status of 'metzora' - therefore impure. A maximum amount of 'tzaraat' - full body cover - however renders the sufferer 'tahor' - clean. How is this apparent contradiction viewed by (a) Rabbeinu Bachye, and (b) Hirsch?
4. Following the Kli Yakar, for what sins was 'tzaraat' a Divine punishment?
5. Why, according to Rashi, is a certified Metzora excluded from community?
6. What categories of garments could acquire 'tzaraat'?
7. What lesson is the presence of 'tzaraat' in garments meant to teach the owner, according to the Rambam?
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT TAZRIA
1. The sin offering, following Nidah 31b), was to atone for the possibility that in her agonies of childbirth she may have sworn never to live with her husband again. The burnt offering (following Ibn Ezra) after purification following childbirth atones for resentful thoughts she may have had against her husband, or against G-d, during her labor pains.
2. The word 'tzaraat' is popularly translated as 'leprosy'. Hirsch, however demonstrates that both its physical symptoms and spiritual causes are not connected with leprosy. Instead, he understands it as a unpleasant Divine-induced experience, so that the may experience the anguish his conduct caused others (see answer to #5), which should lead him to the right frame of mind, repentance, and eventual recovery.
3. According to Rabbeinu Bachya, this aspect of the law of Tzaraat is a decree of the Torah which is beyond human understanding. Hirsch, however, regards his skin becoming completely covered in Tzaraat as indeed a more severe stage than partial cover. Why is he then declared pure? He is, in effect, being spared the pains of being isolated as a Metzora because he has sunk to such a low spiritual level that the painful Metzora experience will not persuade him to change his personal conduct for the better.
4. Tzaraat, according to the Kli Yakar's quoted sources has its spiritual roots in anti-social conduct - namely haughtimess, evil gossip, and greed.
5. According to Rashi, a certified sufferer of Tzaraat is excluded from community because his affliction is a punishment for slander. As slander destroys relationships between family and friends, it is fitting that he, likewise, should know what it is to suffer isolation from family, friends, and from the whole community.
6. The categories of garments that may acquire 'tzaraat' include those made of wool and linen (including the processed threads not yet woven into the garment), and leather. (13:47-8)
7. The presence of 'tzaraat' in garments is meant to be a warning to its owner of the evils of selfish behavior and gossip. According to the Rambam (Hilchot Tumat Tzaraat 16:10), the first stage of Tzaraat affects property, and if that message goes unheeded, it will occur on the body of the offender himself.
ADDITIONAL ISSUE TO LOOK AT ON PARASHAT TAZRIA
Regarding the laws of a woman immediately after childbirth…
The Talmud (Berachot 54b) brings the following tradition, based on Psalm 107. Four categories of people are required to bring a thanksgiving offering: those surviving journeys by sea, or desert, and those who recovered from dangerous illness, or were freed from perilous imprisonment. Surely it would be more fitting for a woman who survived the rigors and pains of childbirth to also bring a thanksgiving offering, rather than to have to bring a sin offering?
Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/index.htm
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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