Tazria-Metzora – “She Gives Birth-Concerning Lepers”

The name of this week’s Parasha is Tazria-Metzora, which means “she gives birth” (Tazria) and “concerning lepers” (Metzora). It takes us from Leviticus 12:1-13:59 (Tazria) and 14:1-15:33 (Metzora). God gives Moses instructions for a woman to become pure after giving birth in chapter 12. She remains unclean for seven days after giving birth to a boy, and he must be circumcised on the eighth day, after which the mother is unclean for 33 days. When she gives birth to a girl, she is unclean for 14 days, and remains unclean for 66 days afterwards.

After her uncleanliness has ended, she must present a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young dove or pigeon for a sin offering to the priest at the entrance to the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The priest will offer these animals to Adonai, and she will be clean.

In chapter 13, God then gives Moses and Aaron instructions on recognizing and dealing with infectious skin diseases. Anyone who may have a skin disease must come before Aaron or his sons. The priest declares the person unclean if the hair has turned white in the sore, and if the sore is judged as more than skin deep.

However, if the hair and sore don’t meet these conditions, the person is kept in isolation for seven days and remains in isolation for seven more days if the conditions don’t worsen. After these additional days, the priest pronounces the person clean if the hair and sore have healed. The person must also wash their clothes. But if the conditions worsen, the person is pronounced unclean.

If the sores expose the person’s raw flesh, they are considered unclean. However, if these sores heal while the person is in isolation, the person must go to the priest, who will pronounce the person to be clean.

If a person has a boil that has healed with a white sore or reddish-white spot in its’ place, they are to go to the priest, who pronounces them unclean if the sore is more than skin deep and the hair has turned white. If it doesn’t have these conditions but has faded, the person must wait an additional seven days in isolation and if it has spread, the person is pronounced unclean; however, the person is pronounced clean if the spot hasn’t changed. The same standards also apply for burns.

A person with sores on the head or chin is pronounced unclean by the priest if the hair has turned yellow and if the sore is more than skin deep. If the sore doesn’t meet this criterion, the priest puts the person in isolation for seven days. If the sore hasn’t gotten worse, the person is shaved except for the infected spot and stays in isolation for another seven days.

If the priest examines the person after these additional seven days and the sore hasn’t gotten worse, the priest declares the person clean, and the person must wash their clothes. But if the sore has become worse, the person is declared unclean.

If a man is bald or balding, he is considered to be clean. However, if he has reddish-white sores on his forehead, the priest examines him and declares him unclean if the sores appear to be infectious. Anyone who is unclean must live apart from the Jewish people and have a disheveled appearance. They must loudly announce that they are unclean and live by themselves.

If any clothes, woven material or leather becomes unclean by mildew and appears to be green or red, the priest must examine and isolate these items for seven days. If the mildew has spread after these seven days, the item must be burned. If it hasn’t spread, the priest orders the item washed and isolated again for seven days. If the mildew doesn’t change, it must be burned. If it fades, the area that had the mildew is removed, but the item must be destroyed if the mildew reappears. If the mildew is gone, the item must be washed again and then is declared clean.

Adonai gives Moses instructions on becoming clean from leprosy in chapter 14. A person healed from leprosy must appear before the priest with two living clean birds and cedarwood, scarlet yarn and hyssop. One of the birds is killed in a clay pot over running water, while the other bird is dipped with the cedarwood, scarlet yarn and hyssop into the dead bird’s blood. The person is then sprinkled seven times by the priest, who pronounces the healed person to be clean and lets the living bird go free.

The healed person must then wash their clothes and themselves in water and shave off all their hair. Although the person is allowed back in the camp, they must stay outside their tent for seven days.  On the seventh day, they must shave off all their hair, wash themselves and their clothes in water, and then they are clean.

On the eighth day, the healed person must bring two year-old unblemished male lambs, a year-old unblemished female lamb, and a grain offering of six quarts of flour mixed with oil, and one-third of a quart of oil. The priest takes these items to the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, and offers one of the male lambs with the oil for a guilt offering, and waves them both as a wave offering.

The priest kills the lamb in the place of the sanctuary and places some of its’ blood on the right ear lobe, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot of the healed person, symbolically covering the whole person and what he is capable of doing. The priest then places the oil on top of the blood, and pours the remaining oil on the person’s head. The priest kills the animal and burns it and a grain offering on the altar to make atonement for the healed person, who is now clean.

If the person is poor and can’t afford to give these animals, they can bring 1 male lamb for a guilt offering to be waved, two-thirds of a pint of oil, a fifth of a quart of flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and two doves or pigeons. The same procedure is then followed for sacrificing the lamb, but one of the pigeons or doves is sacrificed as a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, along with a grain offering.

Adonai then gives Moses and Aaron instructions on removing leprosy from houses. When the priest is notified of these conditions, he has everything removed from inside the house before inspecting the house. If there are greenish or reddish spots that are more than surface deep, he closes the house for seven days. If the priest sees that the leprosy has spread, he orders that the leprous stones are removed and the leprosy must be scraped away.

If the leprosy comes back, the priest orders the house to be torn down and destroyed, and the pieces of the house removed to an unclean place outside the city. Anyone who enters the house is unclean until evening. If the leprosy has left after the house is repaired, the priest pronounces the house to be clean, and takes two small birds with cedarwood, scarlet yarn and hyssop to perform the same cleansing procedure on the house performed on humans earlier in the chapter.

In chapter 15, Adonai gives Moses and Aaron instructions for the Jewish people to become clean after bodily discharges. Anyone or anything touched by the unclean person is unclean. The person with the discharge must wait seven days after cleaning themselves before washing again to be clean. On the eighth day, the person brings two doves or pigeons to the priest, who sacrifices one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and makes atonement for the person with the discharge.

In looking back at this passage, while these instructions may seem tedious, they help us see the importance God has placed on cleanliness and holiness. These standards were put into place by a holy God for a holy people to keep themselves clean, and to provide restoration for those who were healed from these conditions.

Yeshua emphasized the importance of following these standards to the man He healed from leprosy that’s recorded in Matthew 8.

But here is how Tazria-Metzora is relevant to us today. Sin is like spiritual leprosy. All of humanity, each and every one of us, are spiritual lepers. We are spiritually unhealthy, spiritually sick, spiritually unclean.

Like those with leprosy, Yeshua was isolated outside the camp when He died for our sins, so that we can be healed of our spiritual leprosy! His death is like the sacrifices used to cleanse lepers and cleanse those who were unclean.

Let’s avail ourselves of the atonement and cleansing God has proved through the Messiah. After that happens, let’s not re-infect ourselves by doing things that make us spiritually unhealthy, spiritually sick, spiritually unclean.

And let’s tell the other spiritual lepers that the Messiah can heal them and cleanse them and restore them and give them a new, healthy life. Amen?