Metzora (Lev.14:1-15:33)

First, an addendum to last week’s missive.  In my rush to get it out before surgery, I totally forgot that last Shabbat was the fourth of the four special Shabbatot  leading up to Pesach with a special second scroll reading and special haftarah, namely, Shabbat HaChodesh, the Sabbath of THE Month, said month being Nisan, which began earlier this week.  The added Torah reading was Exodus 12:1-20, containing  the instructions for observing Passover that were given to the Israelites as they prepared to leave Egypt.  The special Haftarah (Ezekiel 45:16 – 46:18; Sephardim, 45:18 – 46:15) includes instructions  concerning the Pesach sacrifices and pre-Pesach ritual cleansing of the Temple that start on the first of Nisan (yes, it all, ties together).  

Regarding the surgery – since this is posted on the web, I see no need to go into details (if you actually know me personally as opposed to only electronically, it’s OK to ask), but, basically, some digestive organs were moved back where they belong and all is going well.

This week’s Torah portion, Metzora, opens with the rituals of purification for the metzora, i.e., the “leper,” or rather, the person suffering from tzora’at (some skin affliction that is not leprosy).  Some of the rituals are understandable to us, e.g., washing body and clothes, shaving head hair (scalp, brows, beard), waiting outside the camp a prescribed amount of time, immersion, offering up a burnt offering and a sin offering (sliding scale, depending on means), etc.  But this year I noticed the ritual described in 14:2-7: “2 This shall be the ritual for a leper at the time that he is to be cleansed. When it has been reported to the priest, 3 the priest shall go outside the camp. If the priest sees that the leper has been healed of his scaly affliction, 4 the priest shall order two live clean birds, cedar wood, crimson stuff (red bug dye), and hyssop to be brought for him who is to be cleansed. 5 The priest shall order one of the birds slaughtered over fresh water in an earthen vessel; 6 and he shall take the live bird, along with the cedar wood, the crimson stuff, and the hyssop, and dip them together with the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slaughtered over the fresh water. 7 He shall then sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the eruption and cleanse him; and he shall set the live bird free in the open country.”  If any of you can point me to a commentator who makes sense of that, please do so.  Thanks!

As for the rest of the portion, Rabbi Leonard A. Sharzer, MD, associate director for bioethics of the Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies, JTS, has interesting insights on it at  .  He identifies an arc in the text that goes from public to increasingly private manifestations: visible skin lesions (head, arm) to tzora’at inside one’s house (reddish or greenish streaks – mold? mildew?), to abnormal genital discharges.  Further, he identifies a parallel movement from the superficial (literally, skin-deep) to the essential.   The prescribed response is separation of the metzora: “Parashat Metzora is about boundaries—boundaries of personhood and of bodily integrity—and the breaching of those boundaries with its attendant disruption and dislocation in the body politic.”  Yet, finally, “Parashat Metzora is less about separation, and more about reentry and reintegration.”   There is a clearly defined end to the metzora‘s isolation and accompanying stigma, facilitated by the priest and accepted by the community.  It would be great if we too had some type of ritual for those whom we’ve stigmatized (mentally or emotionally ill, homeless, AIDS victims, and so on), formally welcoming them back into our community.  Of course, not stigmatizing them in the first place would be even better, but, one step at a time.

Shabbat shalom,
I sent these two out six years ago.

The Freshness Lasts  

My wife uses fabric softener. I never knew what that stuff was for. Then I noticed women were coming up to me (sniff) ‘Married’ (walk off) That’s how they mark their territory. You can take off that ring, but it’s hard to get that April fresh scent out of your clothes.

Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness [Judaicized version]

A rabbi, apparently fed up with all the excuses given over the years to why people don’t go to services, included this list in the synagogue bulletin.


1.        I was forced to as a child.
2.        People who wash are hypocrites — they think they are cleaner than everybody else.
3.        There are so many different kinds of soap, I can’t decide which is best.
4.        I used to wash, but I got bored and stopped.
5.        I wash only on special occasions, like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
6.        None of my friends wash.
7.        I’ll start washing when I get older and dirtier.
8.        I can’t spare the time.
9.        The bathroom is never warm enough in winter or cool enough in summer.
10.        People who make soap are only after your money.

(video at url, transcript below)

Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village
Web users who choose to move to the desolate village are guaranteed an environment free from Google products and natural light from the sun.

Concerned about your privacy while using Google? The internet giant says it understands. Google is now offering users a chance to opt out, and live in privacy in a remote mountain village. Tech Trends reporter Jeff Tate has more.

Thanks Theresa. They call it the ‘Opt Out Village’. And it’s just what you would expect from Google. If you want to keep your information private, all you have to do is move to our 22-acre Opt-Out village and not speak to anyone from the outside world. It’s very simple. Just go to the Google front page, click the Opt-Out button. And in minutes, a van will come to your house and pick you up. That same day a team of Google privacy experts eliminates your home address, guaranteeing it will no longer appear on Google local pages. And, after just 2 days in the back of a van, you’re there. In the village, we can guarantee that there is no chance of Google reading your emails because there are no computers. And, because they are also monitored and tracked by Google, there are no banks, or hospitals. Residents will be expected to know how to grow food suture wounds, and bury corpses by hand, if they plan to opt out. And Google has gone the extra mile to ensure that users who choose to opt out are given complete privacy in their new home. A 30-foot tall, 10-foot thick, physical data security wall keeps all former Google users from leaving the village until they decide they want to start using Google again. The Opt-Out village can’t even be seen by Google satellites, because the entire town is enclosed with a large metal box with no openings. Google says those wishing to opt back in to using Google after their time in the village, will be allowed to do so if they agree to be branded with a whimsical ‘G’ on their foreheads to label them doubters. If you don’t want to give us complete access to your most private thoughts and feelings, that’s fine. Ah, you can just toy on the hinterlands, and die young. And Carter says the Opt-Out village is already getting rave reviews. One of the first village residents sent this letter praising the total privacy inside the village, saying “all alone, no light, hard to breathe”. Now that’s one man whose data is secure. For the Onion News Network, I’m Jeff Tate.

The Bishop

A Bishop had a dread of getting leprosy. He had read that the early signs are loss of feeling in the limbs, and was always pinching his legs, and if it hurt, he was reassured.

On one occasion at a dinner he reached under the table and pinched his leg. He couldn’t feel a thing.  He pinched it again – harder this time. Still no sensation.

The Bishop visibly blanched and blurted out, ” Oh, no ! I’ve got it ! “

” You’ve got what ? “

” I’ve got leprosy ! “

” But how do you know ? “

” Well, one of the early signs is loss of feeling in the leg. I’ve just pinched my leg twice and I didn’t feel a thing ! “

A young lady sitting next to him remarked, ” It was my leg you were pinching, Bishop. “

Stigma Quotes

Any stigma will do to beat a dogma.
~ Philip Guedalla

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of “crackpot” than the stigma of conformity.
~ Thomas John Watson, Sr.

 Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.
~ Bill Clinton

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