Too Much Information?: Metzora 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What topics embarrass you the most? Are there topics you’re only willing to talk about in front of a select group of people? Are there topics you’ll never discuss with anyone?

We usually only whisper about the subject matter of the latter part of this week’s Torah portion:

The Pitch: “Speak to the Israelite people say to them: When any man has a discharge issuing from his member, he is impure. … When a woman has a discharge, her discharge being blood from her body, she shall remain in her menstrual separation seven days; whoever touches her shall be impure until evening.” – Leviticus 15:2, 19

Swing #1: “Reproductive blood, like shed blood, is handled carefully. The woman’s ‘source’-as-overflowing-spring is emblematic of womanhood, reminiscent of the four-branched river of Eden, and redolent with fecundity of that lushly moist primeval garden: ‘You [Shulamith] are a garden spring,/ A well of fresh water,/ A rill of Lebanon’ (Song of Songs 4:15). And so behind the niddah and Shulamith (and their evocation of Eden) stands the fount, Eve herself, ‘the mother of all living’ (Genesis 3:20).” – David Tabb Stewart, “Leviticus”, from The Queer Bible Commentary, edited by Deryn Guest, Robert E. Goss, Mona West and Thomas Bohache

Swing #2: “Gonorrhea was already known in antiquity and even then doctors were aware of the connection between sexual contact and the transmission of the disease. The common wisdom of ancient medicine and of the doctors of the Middle Ages was that this disease brought about a weakening of the tubes which transmit the sperm making them unable to contain the sperm any longer. Only since the 17th century has it become clear to doctors that the substance emitted by the patient afflicted with Gonorrhea is pus and not semen. … The Torah had already made that distinction. Rav Huna in his comments in tractate Niddah (35b) simply sharpens and defines the difference which was already well known to our ages who understood that there was no connection between gonorrhea and an emission of semen.” – Professor Yishayahu Nitzan, “Torah and Science: Gonorrhea”, from A Divinely Given Torah in Our Day and Age, Volume I

Swing #3: “The extent to which impurity radiates into the environment depends upon the severity of the deed and of the uncleanliness. The more extreme the act, the wider the area affected by transgression.” – Daniel Friedmann, To Kill and Take Possession: Law, Morality, and Society in Biblical Stories

Late-Inning Questions: Is it embarrassing to read this post? If so, why? What are the downsides to making a topic taboo? What are the upsides? What does it say about a society that avoids speaking of certain subjects in so-called “polite company”?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Busy cleaning for Passover? Don’t forget to sell your chametz (leavened products) before it’s too late! Now you can click here and take care of this online.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of too much information, there’s a growing sense that baseball only will remain popular if its top stars are fully accessible to the public, especially on social media. Is this a fair expectation for professional athletes?

Shabbat Shalom!