Messianic Education Trust
    Tazria  
(Lev 12:1 - 13:59)

Vayikra/Leviticus 13:29   And a man or a woman, if there is in him an affliction in head or in beard ...


View whole verse and interlinear translation ...

Unusually, this verse starts with explicit reference to both genders: male and female, then switches to male only for , in him. Who Is ...

Abraham Ibn Ezra: (1089-1167 CE), born in Tudela, Spain; died in the South of France after wandering all around the shores of the Mediterranean and England; a philosopher, astronomer, doctor, poet and linguist; wrote a Hebrew grammar and a commentary on the Bible
Ibn Ezra explains that "since only men have beards, 'a woman' is specified here to make clear that the rules about an affection on the head apply to her as well. The "in him" is masculine, following the normal rule for ancient languages that unless an individual or a group is exclusively female, the masculine covers one or more of either gender. Tzara'at, the skin condition of which the Torah speaks, is not gender specific; males or females can be afflicted but the Sages note that as it is usually only men who have beards, 'a woman' has been added here to be sure that women are not excluded from the rules for an affliction on the head. But let's fill in some of the context before we go on.

This is the fifth of seven specific types and sites of the skin condition known as tzara'at that the Torah describes in detail. It started with open skin eruptions, a scaly affliction on open skin, and boils or an inflammation on open skin. The fourth possibility was an affliction that has broken out in the site of a burn, while the sixth will be rashes or streaks on open skin; the last being a sore on areas of baldness. What makes this most significant and distinct from all the others, then, is that that this is an affliction in a place that would normally be covered with hair. So much so that WhiIs(Left, Rashi) tells us, "Scripture comes to distinguish between an affliction that is a hairy place and an affliction that is a place of flesh, for this one [the affliction in flesh] its sign is in white hair, and this one [the affliction of hair] its sign is in yellowish hair."

The Sages tell us that while tzara'at was intensely physical - it clearly had an extremely physical appearance or manifestation - it was not caught like a physical disease or condition, but was imposed by The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem as a warning or punishment for inappropriate behaviour. "Rabbi Samuel ben Nahmani said in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: Because of seven things the plague of tzara'at is incurred: slander, the shedding of blood, vain oath, incest, arrogance, robbery and envy" (b. Arachin 16a). Examples of this are when Miriam conspired with her brother Aharon to speak against Moshe - "the anger of HaShem was kindled against them, and He departed. When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam had tzara'at, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she had tzara'at" (B'Midbar 12:9-10) - and when King Uzziah (who was not a priest) attempted to burn incense to HaShem in the Temple: "Uzziah, holding the censer and ready to burn incense, became angry; but as he became angry with the priests, tzara'at broke out on his forehead in front of the priests in the House of the LORD beside the incense altar" (2 Chronicles 26:19).

Tamar Kamionkowski, on the other hand, makes the argument that tzara'at is never seen to be connected with sin in the priestly texts, only in the non-priestly.1 She points out that it is never associated in the priestly texts with words for confession, repentance, atonement or forgiveness, only with the two ritual purity markers, tahor, clean and tamei, unclean. From this we might conclude that having tzara'at is and of itself not a sin; the tzara'at is simply the divine indicator of sinful conduct. The latter requires confession, repentance and forgiveness, after which the sign disappears.

Our text doesn't use the word tzara'at, but instead , a ms noun from the root , usually translated "to touch, reach, strike or smite". The noun usually provides meanings such as "stroke, blow, calamity or plague" and, in connection with tzara'at, "a spot or mark". While most English Bible translations offer 'disease' or 'sore', Walter Kaiser proposes the word 'itch';2 suggesting how the blemish is noticed at all. In the hair or a beard, it is not visible so wouldn't be routinely seen, but an itch draws the person's attention to its presence. In the next verse, it is described with another word, , translated 'scall' from the root meaning "to tear off", which might suggest scabs torn off the skin surface by scratching. The word probably refers to the condition of the hair follicles that are being torn off the head after splitting. After repeated itching, scratching and rubbing, hair in that spot becomes loose and scabs form and are scraped away again, just like a bad patch of eczema.

What we can see here is that even if initially hidden, the evidence of sin becomes revealed. The person themselves is constantly uncomfortable and cannot leave the sore or itchy place alone; the level of inflammation increases and eventually not just the scratch habit but the sign itself will be revealed. G-d knew all long that it was there - He put it there! - but man takes a while to notice and admit what is happening, usually after trying to hide or ignore it for as long as possible. The Psalmist recognises what is going on: "The L-RD looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of man; from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds" (Psalm 33:13-15, ESV). For himself, he admits, "O G-d, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from You" (69:5, ESV). The prophet turns the picture around as HaShem speaks through him: "For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes" (Jeremiah 16:17, NASB). Nothing escapes G-d! All actions and hearts are open before Him.

How do the Apostolic Writers handle this? Following directly on the picture of the word of G-d being sharper than a two-edged sword, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that "there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrew 4:13, NASB) - continuing very much in the style of the Tanakh. Rav Sha'ul makes an application: it is not enough just to know that G-d's sees everything and that we will have to render an account for our lives. Firstly, we mustn't take matters into our own hands and anticipate what G-d will do - "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from G-d" (1 Corinthians 4:5, NASB). Secondly, we are duty bound not to participate in hidden sin but to expose it to the light: "do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light" (Ephesians 5:11-13, NASB).

Gossip and slander are particularly associated with tzara'at by the Jewish community on the basis that the Hebrew used to describe such activity - motzi shem ra, bringing a bad name - sounds like the technical word used (in next week's parasha) to describe a person with tzara'at, a m'tzorah. Matthew and Luke both report Yeshua warning the disciples about secret or hidden conversations. Luke has Yeshua say, "Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops" (Luke 12:2, ESV), making it clear that whatever they say or discuss in private will be very publicly proclaimed or revealed. In Matthew's version - "Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops" (Matthew 10:26-27, ESV) - Yeshua tells the disciples to broadcast His teachings in all places.

HaShem Himself sets the example; He says, "I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, 'Seek me in vain.' I the L-RD speak the truth; I declare what is right" (Isaiah 45:19, ESV). When the High Priest questioned Yeshua about His teaching, He replied, "I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret" (John 18:20, ESV). We know from prints and woodcuts in books that during the dark years of the Middle Ages in Europe, Jewish households would keep all the doors and windows open during their celebration of Pesach so that everyone could see and hear exactly what was going on - leaving no room for accusations of blood libel. In the days to come, transparency and openness are going to become increasingly important for the followers of Yeshua so that they cannot be accused of wrongdoing or hate speech.

There is, then, no such thing as secret sin; everything that is hidden will be revealed and Yeshua warns us that "on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak" (Matthew 12:36, ESV). We should live our lives in the knowledge of that: speaking the truth in love but clearly and openly, being fully accountable and transparent as Yeshua Himself did. Then our Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward us.

1. - S. Tamar Kamionkowski, Leviticus, Wisdom Commentaries, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2018), pages 117-118.

2. - Walter J. Kaiser, "Leviticus" in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary Vol I, edited by Leander E. Keck, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), page 590.

Further Study: Ecclesiastes 12:14; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Peter 4:3-5

Application: It's very easy to share confidences or talk about someone behind their back or in their absence - so that we don't offend them, of course - it's almost part of everyday life. But we are called to a higher standard of truth and conduct? Ask the Spirit to show you how to be as open as Yeshua in all that you do and say.

Comment - 16:12 27Mar22 Joshua VanTine: Thank you for this prophetic drash for this age and call for those with ears to hear. Succinctly composed is the blueprint for going forward as stated "In the days to come, transparency and openness are going to become increasingly important for the followers of Yeshua so that they cannot be accused of wrongdoing or hate speech." May we be preparing our lives to walk in the Light of Messiah Yeshua to the glory of the Father.

Buy your own copy of the Drash Book for Leviticus/Vayikra now at Amazon US or Amazon UK.

© Jonathan Allen, 2022



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