Tazria/Metzora (Lev. 12:1 – 15:33)

First, a correction to last week’s comments: Rabbis did not hire the hit men. The quote was correct but my comment wasn’t. That sentence should read: “Kosher poultry retailers hiring hit men to do away with someone…” I’ve already corrected the blog, https://igplotzk.wordpress.com/ . Not to say there weren’t rabbis behaving badly in the book, just not connected to that particular incident.

Next, a commentary rerun. No, I’m not trying to get out of commenting on many people’s least favorite (double) portion. I’ve had a bunch of rush work to complete, which I just did (I hope), so my mind has shut down, between the deadline (I hate deadlines), chasing down technical details (I hate details) from the inventors, and Word processing gremlins (I hate tables that seemingly morph by themselves into whatever I don’t want). So, from 2009:

“It is usually a relief that Tazria and Metzora are generally read as a double portion, as they are this year, given the unappetizing and graphic descriptions they contain concerning various pathological and benign emissions, skin afflictions, and moldy/mildewy/otherwise yucky infestations on clothes and building stones. But this text touches on some profound issues (no pun intended). I’ve written here before about the difference in purification after giving birth to a girl versus a boy, analogies of tzora’at (commonly translated as leprosy, which it’s not) with AIDS and with mental illness in terms of societal isolation, and the rabbis’ idea of tzora’at as punishment for slander or malicious gossip (not in the context of this portion, but concerning a later incident with Miriam). This year (2009), two items came to mind as I reread the text.

“First, I was struck by the clinical, non-judgmental tone. The rabbis later taught that the skin affliction or mold or fungus (whatever) is a punishment for various sins, a view that is supported by the incident with Miriam and the story of Naaman’s cleansing in the Jordan in II Kings 4:42 – 5:19 (the Haftarah for Tazria). But this portion doesn’t go into that. Even that business of calling out “Unclean! Unclean!” in public can be interpreted not as punishment, but simply as a means of warning others so they won’t also contract ritual impurity. It was later taught that is also to inform others so they can pray for the afflicted person, akin to our announcements of the names of those who are ill at services prior to a prayer for them. In Tazria/Metzora, the diagnosis and quarantine are straightforward, even businesslike, and a ritual is prescribed (with shaving, washing, and sacrifices) which defines a clear endpoint to the person’s affliction and isolation. Note also that the priest only diagnoses and isolates. He does not cure, so there is no magic healing power attached to him, unlike other ancient priests (or modern doctors).

“The other item is what emissions trigger ritual impurity, thus a need for purification. It’s not simply a matter of pathology, since normal emissions are included. And it’s not really a “grossness” factor (as in “Ewwwwwww, groooooooossss!”) since things like drippy noses, vomiting, incontinence, and the like are not included. The emissions or discharges in question are from the genitals. This does not seem to be an indicator of ancient prudery, but rather a recognition that we’re dealing with matters that touch on both the generation of life and death, profound matters that are simultaneously earthly and close to the divine.”

Shabbat shalom,

Irene –



Things Not To Say During Childbirth…. –

– Gosh, you’re lucky. I sure wish men could experience the miracle of childbirth.

— Do you think the baby will come before Monday Night Football starts?

— I hope your ready. The Glamour Shot photographer will be here in fifteen minutes.

— If you think this hurts, I should tell you about the time I twisted my ankle playing basketball.

— That was the kids on the phone. Did you have anything planned for dinner?

— When you lay on your back, you look like a python that swallowed a wild boar.

— You don’t need an epidural. Just relax and enjoy the moment.

— This whole experience kind of reminds me of an episode from I Love Lucy.

— Oops! Which cord was I supposed to cut?

— Stop your swearing and just breathe.

— Remember what we learned in Lamaze class! HEE HEE HOO HOO. You’re not using the right words.

— Your stomach still looks like there’s another one in there.



The Diagnosis

One afternoon, a man went to his doctor and told him that he hasn’t been feeling well lately. The doctor examined the man, left the room, and came back with three different bottles of pills.

 The doctor said, “Take the green pill with a big glass of water when you wake up. Take the blue pill with a big glass of water after you eat lunch. Then just before going to bed, take the red pill with another big glass of water.”

Startled to be put on so much medicine, the man stammered, “Jeez Doc, exactly what is my problem?”

The doctor replied, “You’re not drinking enough water.”

——————— http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/195076/houseisms_the_best_quotes_from_house.html and http://www.housemd-guide.com/characters/houserules.php

One of my favorite TV shows is “House, M.D.” despite (or because of?) its near-total disconnect from reality. House is supposedly a world-class diagnostician. Of course, the correct diagnosis usually can’t be made until the last 15 minutes of the show, so there are a lot of false starts. I have included some “Houseisms” for this portion in the past, and, since the show’s final episode is in a few weeks, here are some again and some more:


“Everybody lies.” First said: [#101], later this is referred to in almost every episode “Humanity is overrated.”

“Tests take time. Treatment’s quicker.”

“That’s a catchy diagnosis, you could dance to that.”

“Idiopathic, from the Latin meaning we’re idiots cause we can’t figure out what’s causing it.”

“Never met a diagnostic study I couldn’t refute.”

“Saying there appears to be some clotting is like saying there’s a traffic jam ahead. Is it a ten-car pile up, or just a really slow bus in the center lane? And if it is a bus, is that bus thrombotic or embolic? I think I pushed the metaphor too far.”

“I take risks, sometimes patients die. But not taking risks causes more patients to die, so I guess my biggest problem is I’ve been cursed with the ability to do the math.” [#111]

“It is in the nature of medicine that you are gonna screw up. You are gonna kill someone. If you can’t handle that reality, pick another profession. Or finish medical school and teach.” [#121]

“If it works, we’re right. If he dies, it was something else.” [#122]

“If her DNA was off by one percentage point she’d be a dolphin.” [#202]

 “And humility is an important quality. Especially if you’re wrong a lot…. Of course, when you’re right, self-doubt doesn’t help anybody, does it?” [ #109]

“Arrogance has to be earned.” [#323]



Television depictions about dermatology and skin diseases in Seinfeld Jennifer L Vickers MD1, Tatsuo Uchida MS2, Richard F Wagner Jr MD1

Dermatology Online Journal 16 (12): 1

1.Department of Dermatology

2. Office of Biostatistics University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas. rfwagner@utmb.edu

Excerpts: How might life imitate art, with respect to medicine in general and dermatology in particular, as depicted on television?

This study examined the popular television situation comedy, Seinfeld, for its potential impact on current public perceptions about skin diseases and dermatology. [Note: they analyzed all 180 episodes]

[In films and TV shows] …characters with albinism, alopecia or facial scars are often stereotypically depicted in evil or villainous roles .

A dermatology example from Seinfeld: In “The Conversion” during Season 5, Jerry was shocked and disgusted to the point that he broke up with his girlfriend after finding fungicide in her medicine cabinet. Although cutaneous fungal infection is a common disease in the United States and does not reflect an affected person’s hygiene, it is stereotypically presented as unclean and disgusting by the media. … Although these stereotypes are used as seemingly harmless derivations of humor, this representation presents the causality dilemma of whether these depictions reinforce the public’s misperceptions and result in an expansion of these stereotypes. In this respect, the media may be making life for people with skin diseases more difficult.


Future research on this topic might examine media portrayal of dermatology and other health topics within additional popular television programs. Additional research could also aim to test or measure the public’s opinion about dermatology and dermatology-related topics and then examine the interrelations between public opinion and media portrayal. Dermatologists and patient advocacy groups could organize timely responses to misconceptions propagated by the media about skin diseases. Broadcast media recommendations could be formulated to require time for rebuttal when medical conditions are inaccurately depicted or presented in a stigmatizing manner.

© 2010 Dermatology Online Journal

IGP’s two cents:

1. Re: “Future research” – there’s always “future research”.

2. Ironically, in contrast to the study’s moaning about low perceptions of skin doctoring, dermatology is the hottest residency around today, because it allows a doctor to live a calm, normal life with normal hours. So the residencies are going to the very top of the class. Don’t get me started on what a waste I think that is.

3. I’ve never been particularly fond of Seinfeld.

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