This Week’s Torah Portion: Tazria-M’tzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)
This week’s Torah Portion, Tazria-M’tzora, is so complex, so filled with slime and ooze, so disgustingly convoluted, that it drives even the great biblical commentator Rashi to simply say:
“I don’t know what this means.”
Seventy-seven times in his commentary on the Bible, Rashi admits this, which is something about Rashi which I have always admired. I mean, after all, he could have simply remained silent, ignored the quagmire of questions about bodily functions too gross to discuss in polite company, and simple moved on in his commentary to the next verse. Yet Rashi tells us, “I don’t know”, so that we would see there is a problem in the verse, even though Rashi himself could not figure out the answer.
It says in the Talmud (Berachot, 4a): “Teach your tongue to say: “I do not know”, from which we learn that it is an essential Jewish value to recognize that we can only know what we know – to know that there will always be more to learn, more to question, more we must struggle to understand.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who commands us to engage with words of Torah.
God describes the rituals of purification for a woman after childbirth. (12:1-8) God sets forth the methods for diagnosing and treating a variety of skin diseases, including tzara-at (a leprous affection), as well as those for purifying clothing. (13:1-59) Priestly rituals to cure tzara-at when it afflicts humans are described. (14:1-32) Rituals to rid dwelling places of tzara-at are presented. (14:33-57) The parashah denotes male impurities resulting from a penile discharge or seminal emission. (15:1-18) The parashah concludes with accounts of female impurities caused by a discharge of blood. (15:19-33)