Two Minutes of Torah | Parashat Tazria – M’tzora | Leviticus 12:1-15:33

Tazria-Metzora, perhaps the most challenging parsha of the most challenging book of the Torah for us moderns. This double portion completes the Levitical laws about ritual impurity (i.e. the conditions in which a person must find themselves in order to come before the sacred spaces of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle). According to The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, the Torah is concerned with certain actions and physical conditions that might produce, “an invisible, airborne pollutant that invades the sanctuary, the selling place of the Divine Presence… [which could] cause Israel’s God to abandon the Sanctuary, an event thought to bring about national disaster.”

All of these concerns around ritual purity and impurity focus primarily on the nexus between life and death; a mysterious liminality not only for the ancients, but for us still. While many of these laws were used over the centuries to keep certain groups of people (namely, women) away from proximity to sacred spaces and ritual items a kinder reading of the text could see them as primitive ways that our ancestors went about trying to restore peace of mind and spiritual wholeness after the destabilizing effects of birth, death and disease. No matter how we parse it, though, these are parshiot with which we are meant to wrestle, question, and as Progressive Jews, from which we are invited to take our distance and argue with the Torah; it can handle us reading against it from time to time.

– Rabbi Callie Schulman

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