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Parshat Tazria-Metzorah

Chodesh Tov! This week's parsha is a double Parsha: Tazria and Metzorah. During a leap year, these portions would be split over two weeks. This year however, we will read both in one sitting. The main topic of these portions is the idea of purity which is incredibly important to our narrative (there is no escaping this). Now this is evident in these portions in two categories:

a. Spiritual

b. Health (physical)

The first category is dealt with in typical biblical style. An impurity/transgression is cured via a sacrifice and some sort of isolation. Category (b) is more to do with medical purity, in which the Israelites, for obvious reasons, tried to ensure that plagues did not spread. And so, some impurities were judged to be only in need of physical healing and not spiritual healing.

I would like to focus on two taboo concepts which are discussed more specifically. The Torah discusses two natural parts of being which cause impurity. Namely, menstruation and seminal emissions. Many people take issue with viewing natural systems as the cause for impurity. How could it be that an innate part of being is to make one impure?! In addition to this, why is it that a natural part of being would lead to public segregation of an individual?

Personally, the second question is more compelling. Purity is an intimate concept between an individual and the divine. To transcend this from a divine relationship to reality in which people can be secluded as a result of natural systems seems problematic to me.

To understand how impurity can lead to segregation one need look no further than the unfortunate situation in which a young child wets the bed and an unsympathetic sibling shares this information at school. This is what nightmares are made of.

The Torah does not present a satisfactory answer to solving impurity that does not have the potential to embarrass an individual and yet it remains so important. What often happens is we adopt the "don't ask" policy. Does this fulfil all of the requirements?

It would seem that we need to balance two things when decided how to approach impurity:

a. ensuring impurity does not spread

b. ensuring the individual is not shamed

And so, I end this dvar torah quite unsatisfyingly by claiming that whilst I do not have an answer as to how to properly approach impurity, I believe that when we examine how people relate to impurity and community members that it would assist in our understanding of these individuals to investigate how they balance these two requirements.

Shabbat Shalom!

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