Touch and Go: Tazria-Metzora 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What sorts of things “give you the creeps”? Do you know why those things bother you so much? Have you tried to do anything to minimize your negative reactions to those things?

In the first of our Torah portions this week, we are introduced to the concept of “blood purification,” in which a woman who has just given birth is, to an extent, “off-limits” for an extended stretch of time:

The Pitch: “She shall remain in a state of blood purification for 33 days: she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until her period of purification is completed.” – Leviticus 12:4

Swing #1: “This is to teach you that you, too, must not touch hallowed things, much less be in a place where the Shekhina dwells as long as you have not completed your own ‘days of purification’ by cleansing yourself of sin and baseness. Without purity there can be no holiness.” – Noam Elimelekh

Swing #2: “Elsewhere in the Torah, notably in the case of the Red Heifer, we find similar examples of this paradox: contact with holiness, perhaps because it is so fraught with the danger of death, makes a person ritually impure. Here the woman, through her newborn, has forded the dangerous birth canal – and survived. Before she rejoins the community, she needs times to recover from her near-death experience.” – Ellen Frankel, The Five Books of Miriam

Swing #3: “The next verse doubles the time [of blood purification] if a baby girl is born. Whether such legislation was perceived by mothers as a hardship or a blessing cannot be determined. Some may have wanted to go to the temple to express gratitude; some may have appreciated the month or two months of separation from cultic activities, or sexual ones for that matter.” – Douglas A. Knight and Amy-Jill Levine, The Meaning of the Bible

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators look favorably upon the rules of blood purification? How might they benefit the woman in question? How might they harm her? Can it be beneficial to separate ourselves from the greater community after a big change in our lives? If so, should such separation be mandated?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: With Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) taking place Monday night and Tuesday, let us celebrate this Shabbat with the best of Israeli cuisine! Our Kiddush after Saturday morning services will feature Israeli foods. Let us toast the continuing miracle that is the State of Israel!

The Big Inning at the End: The baseball season is in full swing, yet once again, the NFL took center-stage last night with the first round of its annual draft. What might baseball do to capture public attention the way football does on a regular basis, even when games are not being played? Or is this too much to ask of baseball?

Shabbat Shalom!