These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

תזריע, tazria

Posted on March 29, 2011 by Avi Strausberg

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this week’s parsha, parshat תזריע, focuses on the nitty gritty details of how the cohen diagnoses someone as unclean, either as result of some scaly infection, inflammation, or good ol’ leprosy.  after analyzing the tell-tale signs on the skin, more than not, the confirmed or even suspected leprous person is sent out of the camp for seven days to clear up.  on the seventh day, he is subjected to another examination at which point he’s either pronounced free and clear or still held suspect, requiring another seven days of isolation.

as if it wasn’t bad enough to be covered in scaly eruptions, red streaks blazing across abnormally white patches of skin, the priest slaps on the צרוע (leprous person) the label of unclean.  you are scaly, flaky, discolored, mottled, inflammated, and also, unclean.  the Torah instructs that the צרוע himself must then warn others to distance themselves from him, crying out, “טמא טמא, unclean, unclean!” (vayikra 13: 45).   i can only imagine the shame and humiliation of this poor person having to cry out on behalf of oneself “stay away, stay away.”

collapsing inward,
shame imprinted on my skin,
separate from me.

here, in the silence,
i’m no longer the leper.
i blend in just fine.

may none of us feel the part of the leper,


ps. check out this beautiful song by girls in trouble:snow/scorpions and spiders