Parashat Tazria-M’tzora- Leviticus 12:1-15:32
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Questions for Young Children
• The Torah says if someone has a rash or sore that doesn’t go away, he or she has to be separated from the others. Is that a good idea?
• How do you feel when you have to stay away from your friends when you’re sick?
• What’s the hardest part about being away from friends when you’re sick?

Questions for Older Children
• Why does the kohen have to check for skin diseases in addition to working and serving in the sanctuary?
• Why do you think that the kohanim had to send people with skin disease outside the camp to heal? Why bring sacrifices when he or she is healthy?
• Why doesn’t the Torah deal with other diseases? Why focus on the skin?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• Why does the Torah distinguish between giving birth to males and females?
• Why do you think there is a specific ritual for acknowledging that one is no longer impure and a specific sacrifice for that event?
• What do you find humane in the medical examination and treatment of the Israelites with skin diseases? What do you find distressing?
• When we think of lepers, we think of outcasts. Do sick people ever feel needlessly outcast or isolated from society? Is there anything we can do to lessen that feeling of being “outside the camp.”

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More colors!

The parasha mentions white, black, green, and yellow in addition to red.  You can think of ways to create dishes with the other colors

  • Yellow squash and white onions sautéed with green peppers and garnished with black olives is a side dish that includes all four other colors.
  • Black bean soup with Tofu Sour topping and green chili garnish covers three of the other colors.

 

 

 

 

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Clean or unclean? This is the theme running through this double parasha. Tazria-M'tzora opens with rules defining how long a woman is impure after childbirth and then turns to a discussion of skin lesions and eruptions on cloth. The parasha describes the states of impurity and how one is purified. When discussing tzara’at (sometimes translated as leprosy),the parasha delves into specifics seemingly to provide the kohen a guide when examining individuals. One can only imagine how panicked a community could be in ancient times when disease struck. The no-nonsense tone summarized by verse 13:59 –“Such is the procedure for eruptive affections of cloth, woolen or linen…” reassures the community that the diseased will be identified and cared for and the community will be protected.

M’tzora focuses on the treatment of the leper and inanimate objects considered leprous, but we’re not sure if it’s true leprosy. Notice how involved the purification process is, an indication of how serious tzara’at was considered. Chapter 15 defines precisely when men and women are considered impure due to discharges resulting from disease. As with people afflicted by tzara’at, there is a way to move from impurity to purity. Like its partner, Tazria, M’tzora concludes in the non-nonsense tone: “Such is the ritual..”

Find the food connection...
 שְׂאֵת לְבָנָה, אוֹ בַהֶרֶת, לְבָנָה אֲדַמְדָּמֶת...

…and a white swelling or a white discoloration streaked with red develops…
--Leviticus 13:19

Red food!
There are five colors mentioned in this parasha: white, red, black, green, and yellow. I chose a dessert that’s reddish in color-adamdemet.

The Side Dish

This parasha seems blatanly sexist. Why is a woman unclean twice as long after delivering a female baby than a male? Moms know that there is little difference in delivering a male or female child. It’s called “labor” for a reason. The parasha delineates two stages of impurity. The first stage, defined in Vayikra, k’nidatah, “as in her menstruation.” The second stage, called demei tohara, is less clear. Any ideas why the number of days differs based on the child’s gender?
Is the parasha sexist when it comes to diagnosing and treating tzara’at? When reading 13:1 or 13:9 and seeing the Hebrew word adam (man), one might assume, women are not included until they are specifically mentioned in 13:29 -–ish o isha (man or woman). I subscribe to the JPS translation of adam in this parasha—as person rather than man. I want to believe that the kohanim treated afflicted men and women equally.
Gender bias has not completely disappeared from the treatment of disease in the 21st century either although modern medical research has made good strides since the 1948 Framingham Study which addressed cardiovascular disease in men only. Still, in 2015 an article appeared with the title: “How medical research is failing women and making them less healthy.” Food for thought.

 

 

 

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A Dash of Biblical Dermatology
There is debate about the translation of tzara’at which has often been translated as leprosy. Experts who examine the text of Leviticus claim that the symptoms described don’t match Hansen’s disease or leprosy, a bacterial infection. Some dermatologists claim the descriptions better fit a diagnosis of vitiligo or psoraisis. If your Shabbat table includes doctors, especially dermatologists, that may be an interesting discussion. 

A Dash of Medical Etymology
When the Hebrew Tanakh was translated into Greek (the Septuagint), the term tzara’at was translated as lepra. It was the Septuagint that was the template for the translation to Latin (the Vulgate) and from the Latin came the translations in German, English, etc.

A Dash of Hebrew
The color red (adom), the word for man (adam), and the word for ground (adamah) share the same Hebrew root, a-d-m. It’s also the root for the word, Edom, the nation descended from Esau. To understand the literary connections, return to Genesis 2:7, 25:25, and 36:1. Can you create a midrash based on the connections among these words?

A Dash of Textile Science
Tzara’at (Leprosy) of clothes and other inanimate objects was probably caused by fungus or spores. Note how the section on the diseased fabric and leather parallels the procedure and description of human tzara’at. From this section we learn of the three types of clothing available to B’nei Yisrael—wool, linen, and leather (13:48).

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Pareve and vegan--serves 8

Crust (or buy a pareve frozen crust and skip to the filling recipe)  rsz 04 tazria strawberries copy copy

Ingredients

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/8 c. cold pareve margarine
  • 2-1/2-3 Tbsp. cold water

Directions

  1. Mix flour and salt in a food processor.
  2. Add margarine through the tube, 1 Tbsp. at a time.
  3. Add water 1 Tbsp at a time until dough forms a ball. Do not overprocess.
  4. Place the dough on a lightly floured piece of wax paper and flatten.
  5. Refrigerate at least 15 min.
  6. Remove from refrigerator and roll into a circle and place in pie pan.

Filling

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lb. frozen or fresh rhubarb cut into 1/2 “ slices
  • 1 pint strawberries, halved
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/3 scant c. orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. quick cooking tapioca or 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. grated orange peel
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and allow to sit 15-20 min.
  2. Preheat oven to 375º and spoon rhubarb mixture into pie crust.
  3. Bake 1 to 1-1/4 hours until pastry is golden and fruit is bubbling.
  4. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. Serve topped with pareve whipped cream.

The dough recipe can easily be doubled and a top crust added to the pie. If using a crust on top, sprinkle with sugar before baking. 

 

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