Metzora

“Parsha and Purpose” – Metzora 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Shabbat Hagadol: Exploring Our Engagement with God”

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Parshat Metzora (Leviticus 14:1 -15:33

“Shabbat Hagadol: Exploring Our Engagement with God

Shabbat Hagadol, the “Great Shabbat” that occurs immediately prior to the holiday of Pesach, derives its name from the special reading from the Prophets this Shabbat [Malachi 3:4-24].

The special Torah readings on the Shabbatot of the past few weeks – Shabbat HaChodesh, which speaks about the new month; Shabbat Parah, which speaks about the Red Heifer; Shabbat Shekalim, which speaks about the giving of the Half Shekel; and Shabbat Zachor, which speaks about remembering Amalek – are Talmudic enactments.

In contrast, according to many rabbinical authorities, there was not even supposed to be a special reading from the Prophets on Shabbat Hagadol. [Or Zarua, Volume 2, Laws of the Torah Readings for the Four Parshiot and Holidays, Chapter 393; R. Ovadia Yosef, Shu”T Yehavei Da’at, Volume 1, Chapter 91].

The bottom line is, the Jewish people have concluded that the custom is that we read the final section of the Book of Malachi on this Shabbat, with the closing verses mentioning the phrase “Yom Hashem Hagadol”, the “Great Day of God”, and thus this Shabbat is called “Shabbat Hagadol”.

But when you read this final section of Malachi, you realize it does not mention Passover at all. Not once. Why is it, then, that the Rabbis wanted us to read this final section of Malachi as an introduction to the Passover experience, to the month of Nissan?

There are discussions throughout the ages of two specific reasons:

One reason mentioned is in the opening verses of the Haftarah. God warns the Jewish people that He will be a relentless accuser against us if we abuse the other; if we commit adultery; if we swear falsely and therefore cheat laborers; if we subvert; if we compromise the widow, the orphan, the stranger, those who are the most challenged within our society.

Redemption can only occur – indeed, we can only truly celebrate Pesach – when we realize that we can achieve that goal, when we treat the other with respect.

Therefore, this is our Haftarah, which reminds us that part of the redemptive experience involves welcoming in the stranger.

Another answer given – although the previous answer would have been sufficient – is that this is the final section from all of the words of the Prophets. It reminds us of the fact that after the Prophetic Era, in order that we become a redeemed people, we have to find our own voice with God.

Thus, we read this final chapter of Prophetic revelation to remind us that redemption requires us to create the next chapter of engagement with God, one in which we do not hear the voice of God from the Prophets.

Rather, we hear the voice of God through our study and through our engagement with God, through a searching for a powerful, meaningful relationship with God.

Therefore, our pre-Passover Haftarah concludes with the following words [Malachi 3:23] –

“הנה אנכי שולח לכם”, Behold, I will send to you, “את אליה הנביא”, Elijah the Prophet (who is mentioned at the Passover Seder), “לפני בוא יום ה’ הגדול והנורא”, before this Great and Awesome Day (which represents the Messianic Age).

But what will bring about the Messianic Age? The final verse of this Haftarah – in fact, the final verse of the Prophetic text of all of Tanach – tells us: “והשיב לב אבות על בנים, ולב בנים על אבותם”. When mothers and fathers and grandparents will re-engage with their children; when children will re-engage with their parents and grandparents in the heritage of the Jewish people.

Redemption will come when we are engaged in that rapprochement, when we are willing to create that opportunity, for there to be an intergenerational conversation about what it means to be part of the Jewish people and to be redeemed during the month of Nissan.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Kasher v’Sameach

Rabbanit Rivky Yisraeli

The Significance of Purity and Impurity in The Relationship Between Humankind and God Rivky Yisraeli is the Educational Director of the Neveh Channah High School for Girls, in Memory of Anna Ehrman The Book of Vayikra – or Torat Kohanim as it is also known – deals primarily with the Mishkan/Mikdash; the sacred service performed …

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Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing, he shall be brought unto the priest” (Leviticus 14:2) In the opening of this week’s portion of Metzora, the Torah introduces us to the law commanding a person …

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Tazria-Metzora

“Parsha and Purpose” – Tazria-Metzora 5781 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Things We Should Not Learn From “Shtisel”: Fertility and Jewish Law”

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Parshat Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)

“Things We Should Not Learn From “Shtisel”: Fertility and Jewish Law”

The much-anticipated third season of “Shtisel” was finally released by Netflix a few weeks ago, and once again people around the world are glued to the screen, waiting to see what happens to this Israeli ultra-Orthodox family. One of the things that makes Shtisel such an appealing international phenomenon is that it offers a nuanced glimpse into an insular lifestyle and society that is usually obscured to outsiders, exposing the everyday dramas, romances, tragedies, and struggles with faith that resonate within us all.

And yet, I was disappointed by one of this season’s storylines, one that relates to the first verse in this week’s parsha, Tazria-Metzora: “when a woman conceives (tazria) and gives birth” (Vayikra 12:2).  

For five years, the young couple Ruchami and Hanina have been trying to have a baby. After a series of devastating disappointments they understand that another pregnancy would put the fetus and, more importantly, Ruchami at life-threatening risk.

Unlike the nuanced portrayal of other aspects of Haredi living, the show doesn’t incorporate the fact that halakha, Jewish law, has welcomed new technologies relating to surrogacy and egg donation. The very word ‘halakha’ comes from the root ‘lalechet,’ meaning ‘to go forward’, highlighting to us that it is not a collection of fossilized edicts but rather a way of life which is meant to address and incorporate new realities arising from contemporary living. 

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers for those of you who haven’t yet seen this season, but suffice it to say that Shtisel’s portrayal of the couple’s infertility is not reflective of the normative Orthodox approach. 

The Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 31b) shares that after 120 years, when we arrive at the Heavenly Court, we will be asked a series of questions:

Among others, we will be asked, עסקת בפריה ורביה?

The expression pirya v’revaya refers to reproduction. But what is the verb עסקת referring to?

The writers of Shtisel interpret the word עסקת through a narrow lens: “Did you successfully fulfill the commandment of reproduction?” But the word עסקת literally means “to deal with” or “to work at” something. Jewish tradition interprets the Talmudic question as “Did you try to procreate?”

Heroic measures are not required to fulfill any positive Biblical commandment; in fact, when they threaten our physical or psychological well-being, they are even discouraged.

Already in the 11th-12th century R. Menachem ben Solomon Meiri acknowledged that when science will achieve the capacity to help produce human beings without the natural intimate act, the achievement should be embraced. 

Mainstream halakhic literature discusses artificial insemination, IVF, posthumous paternity, and even the idea of “four-parent” babies born from a gestational carrier, a mother who donates the genetic nucleus of the egg, a female who donates the healthy mitochondria of the egg, and a sperm donor.  And while there is not complete unanimity on these issues – as is true in so many areas – the great Torah scholars of this generation and of the past generation have embraced the advances of science and technology to enable couples to advance their dreams of having a family. 

It is unfortunate that in Shtisel’s effort to introduce us to the Haredi community, it missed an opportunity to communicate the insightful, wise and compassionate attempts of so many great Jewish leaders and thinkers to link contemporary medical advances to the eternal values of the Torah and rabbinic literature regarding childbirth. 

We should remember and reinforce that the strength of Jewish tradition is its  capacity to deal with contemporary realities, opportunities and challenges through the prism of Jewish values and rooted in Jewish laws such as the ones we will read this week. 

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Ronen Ben David

Parshat Tazria: Leprosy – Between Isolation and Community Life by Rabbi Ronen Ben David, Headmaster of OTS’s Neveh Channah, in memory of Anna Ehrman I remember the first time I studied the Book of Leviticus, and what I felt upon reaching the chapters about leprosy. The general atmosphere was one of disgust and repudiation. Though …

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Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – The Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron saying,“When you come into the Land of Canaan which I give to you as an inheritance and I shall give you the plague of leprosy in the houses of the land of your inheritance.” …

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Parshat Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33) Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “Then he shall sprinkle [the mixture] seven times upon the person being purified from the tzara’at; he shall purify him and set the live bird free upon the open field” (Leviticus 14:7). One of the strangest and most primitive-sounding rituals of the Bible surrounds the …

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Tazria-Metzora 5778 (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)  Rabbi David Stav This Shabbat, we will read the double-parsha of Tazri’a–Metzora in our synagogues. Dozens of verses outline the symptoms of various skin diseases that appear on people’s heads, in their beards, in their clothes and in their homes. Suffice it to say that nowhere else in the Torah can we …

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