Parashat Tazria-Metzora

By Rabbi Eric Milgrim

Our Torah is divided into 54 regular parashiyot. In a leap year (7 times in every 19 year cycle) each parashah is read on a separate Shabbat so that the annual cycle of Torah readings are able to come at its proper time. In a “common” year certain parashyot are combined like Tazria and Metzora so that the annual cycle of Torah readings will happen in its proper time. (Since Parashat “Tzav” is supposed to be read on a Shabbat prior to Passover, therefore, Tazria and Metzora are combined.)

Whether Tazria and Metzora are combined or are read separately on a particular Shabbat, I have been reading these portions at their proper time for over 40 years. Whether it is about the mystery of childbirth (Leviticus 12:2b-5), the responsibility and obligation of Brit Milah/circumcision (Leviticus 12:3), thoughts about post childbirth rituals (Leviticus 12:4-7), dealing with skin diseases (Leviticus 13:1-59), major diseases and how they affect both the individual and the community, bodily discharges (Leviticus 15:2b-30, 32-33), cleanliness, washing or bathing (Leviticus 13:54a, 56, 58b, 14:8, 9b, 15:5-8, 10-12, 18), quarantine (Leviticus 4b, 5b, 21b, 26b, 31b), it is very hard to share these subjects with a 12 ½ year old Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidate much less a group of adults on a Shabbat morning.

Sometimes one needs to deal with a particular theme from these sedrot in a metaphorical manner. When doing this, one could talk about how individuals in communities today react with dread when talking about major diseases like cancer or AIDS and how the community might have felt very similarly 3,000 years ago when speaking of “Leprosy” (major skin diseases). Oftentimes people with these diseases are ostracized, excommunicated or shunned (13:46b). The diseases are spoken about in whispers and in an ignorant manner.

However, at this time, I would like to address two verses that I find are extremely relevant for the Jewish community in suburbia. We understand from the text that in addition to dealing with a particular matter, a person then follows a particular set of rules and actions concerning purification and that person was expected to do something ritually by making an offering (or sacrifice) to God in expiation for what was considered a “sin.”

In my opinion, the following citations happen to tie the parashiyot of Tazria and Metzora together.

In (Tazria) Leviticus 12:8 it says: V’im lo timtza yadah dai seh …. (“If, however, her means do not suffice….”) and in (Metzora) Leviticus 14:21 it states: V’im dal hu v’ein yado maseget… (“If, however, he is poor and his means are insufficient…”). Therefore, in both parashiyot it is implying that if the person involved in the ritual cannot afford to purchase the appropriate offerings then the offering is amended to something that is affordable. Then that person is able to participate in the appropriate ritual.

In Jewish suburbia the focal point for Judaism is the synagogue. In the 21st century the strength of the Jewish people is measured by the viability and success of the synagogue. Every Jewish person should belong to a synagogue or Temple. To belong to a synagogue people are expected to pay “dues.” (I feel that the term “dues” is inappropriate. What Jewish people should be doing is offering a voluntary tax so that the synagogue may exist and may be maintained.) Many Jewish people in suburbia say they do not belong to a synagogue because they cannot afford the “dues.” (In some cases they might be saying that they don’t think they can afford the “dues” with all of their other expenditures)/ I feel that Tazria/Metzora is teaching that everyone should belong to a synagogue and if they cannot afford the set dues rate, then that dues rate should be adjusted on an individual level enabling every Jewish person to be a formal member of the community and be able to make a meaningful financial “offering” in support of the synagogue and Judaism.


Eric Milgrim (AJR ’74) has served Temple B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick, New Jersey for 39 years. Eric and his wife Susan have 3 children and 10 grandchildren.