Metzora, Metzorah, M’tzora, Mezora, Metsora, or M’tsora (מצורע — Hebrew for "one being diseased,” the ninth word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 28th weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the fifth in the book of Leviticus. It constitutes Jews in the Diaspora generally read it in April.
The lunisolar Hebrew calendar contains up to 54 weeks, the exact number varying between leap years and regular years. In years with 54 weeks (for example, 2011, 2014, and 2016), parshah Metzora is read separately on the 28th Sabbath after Simchat Torah. In years with fewer than 54 weeks (for example, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017), parshah Metzora is combined with the previous parshah, Tazria, to help achieve the needed number of weekly readings.
Cleansing from skin disease
God told Moses the ritual for cleansing one with a skin disease. ( ) If the priest saw that the person had healed, the priest would order two live clean birds, cedar wood, crimson stuff, and hyssop. ( ) The priest would order one of the birds slaughtered over fresh water and would then dip the live bird, the cedar wood, the crimson stuff, and the hyssop in the blood of the slaughtered bird. ( ) The priest would then sprinkle the blood seven times on the one who was to be cleansed and then set the live bird free. ( ) The one to be cleansed would then wash his clothes, shave off his hair, bathe in water, and then be clean. ( ) On the eighth day after that, the one being cleansed was to present two male lambs, one ewe lamb, choice flour, and oil for the priest to offer. ( ) The priest was to put some of the blood and the oil on the ridge of the right ear, the right thumb, and the right big toe of the one being cleansed, and then put more of the oil on his head. ( ) If the one being cleansed was poor, he could bring two turtle doves or pigeons in place of two of the lambs. ( )
Houses with an eruptive plague
God then told Moses and Aaron the ritual for cleansing a house with an eruptive plague. ( ) The owner was to tell the priest, who was to order the house cleared and then examine it. ( ) If the plague in the walls was greenish or reddish streaks deep into the wall, the priest was to close the house for seven days. ( ) If, after seven days, the plague had spread, the priest was to order the stones with the plague to be pulled out and cast outside the city. ( ) The house was then to be scraped, the stones replaced, and the house replastered. ( ) If the plague again broke out, the house was to be torn down. ( ) If the plague did not break out again, the priest was to pronounce the house clean. ( ) To purge the house, the priest was to take two birds, cedar wood, crimson stuff, and hyssop, slaughter one bird over fresh water, sprinkle on the house seven times with the bird’s blood, and then let the live bird go free. ( )
Male genital discharge
God then told Moses and Aaron the ritual for cleansing a person who had a genital discharge. ()
When a man had a discharge from his genitals, he was unclean, and any bedding on which he lay and every object on which he sat was to be unclean. () Anyone who touched his body, touched his bedding, touched an object on which he sat, was touched by his spit, or was touched by him before he rinsed his hands was to wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening. ( ) An earthen vessel that he touched was to be broken, and any wooden implement was to be rinsed with water. ( ) Seven days after the discharge ended, he was to wash his clothes, bathe his body in fresh water, and be clean. ( ) On the eighth day, he was to give two turtle doves or two pigeons to the priest, who was to offer them to make expiation. ( )
When a man had an emission of semen, he was to bathe and remain unclean until evening. ( ) All material on which semen fell was to be washed in water and remain unclean until evening. ( ) And if a man had carnal relations with a woman, they were both to bathe and remain unclean until evening. ( )
When a woman had a menstrual discharge, she was to remain impure seven days, and whoever touched her was to be unclean until evening. ( ) Anything that she lay on or sat on was unclean. ( ) Anyone who touched her bedding or any object on which she has sat was to wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening. ( ) And if a man lay with her, her impurity was communicated to him and he was to be unclean seven days, and any bedding on which he lay became unclean. ( ) When a woman had an irregular discharge of blood, she was to be unclean as long as her discharge lasted. ( ) Seven days after the discharge ended, she was to be clean. ( ) On the eighth day, she was to give two turtle doves or two pigeons to the priest, who was to offer them to make expiation. ( )
God told Moses and Aaron to put the Israelites on guard against uncleanness, lest they die by defiling God’s Tabernacle. ( )
In classical rabbinic interpretation
Leviticus chapter 14
Baraita taught that the “ordinances” (mishpatim) were commandments that logic would have dictated that we follow even had Scripture not commanded them, like the laws concerning idolatry, adultery, bloodshed, robbery, and blasphemy. And “statutes” (hukim) were commandments that the Adversary challenges us to violate as beyond reason, like those relating to purification of the person with tzaraat (in ), shaatnez (in and ), halizah (in ), and the scapegoat (in ). So that people do not think these “ordinances” (mishpatim) to be empty acts, in God says, “I am the Lord,” indicating that the Lord made these statutes, and we have no right to question them. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 67b.)calls on the Israelites to obey God’s “statutes” (hukim) and “ordinances” (mishpatim). The Rabbis in a
Rabbi Johanan said in the name of Rabbi Joseph ben Zimra that anyone who bears evil tales (lashon hara) will be visited by the plague of skin disease (tzaraat), as it is said in “Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I destroy (azmit).” The Gemara read azmit to allude to tzaraat, and cited how says “in perpetuity” (la-zemitut). And Resh Lakish interpreted the words of “This shall be the law of the person with skin disease (metzora),” to mean, “This shall be the law for him who brings up an evil name (motzi shem ra).” (Babylonian Talmud Arachin 15b.)
Rabbi Samuel bar Nahmani said in the name of Rabbi Johanan that skin disease results from seven things: slander, the shedding of blood, vain oath, incest, arrogance, robbery, and envy. The Gemara cited scriptural bases for each of the associations: For slander,for bloodshed, for a vain oath, for incest, for arrogance, for robbery, (as a Tanna taught that those who collect money that does not belong to them will see a priest come and scatter their money around the street); and for envy, (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16a.)
A midrash taught that Divine Justice first attacks a person’s substance and then the person’s body. So when leprous plagues come upon a person, first they come upon the fabric of the person’s house. If the person repents, then requires that only the affected stones need to be pulled out; if the person does not repent, then requires pulling down the house. Then the plagues come upon the person’s clothes. If the person repents, then the clothes require washing; if not, they require burning. Then the plagues come upon the person’s body. If the person repents, provides for purification; if not, then ordains that the person “shall dwell alone.” (Leviticus Rabbah 17:4; Ruth Rabbah 2:10.)
In the priest’s examination of skin disease mandated by 9, and the Mishnah taught that a priest could examine anyone else’s symptoms, but not his own. And Rabbi Meir taught that the priest could not examine his relatives. (Mishnah Negaim 2:5; Deuteronomy Rabbah 6:8.) The Mishnah taught that the priests delayed examining a bridegroom until after his seven days of rejoicing, and delayed examining anyone until after a holy day. (Mishnah Negaim 3:2.)
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught that required “two living clean birds” to be brought to purify the person afflicted with skin disease because the afflicted person did the work of a babbler in spreading evil tales, and therefore required that the afflicted person offer babbling birds as a sacrifice. (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16b.)
Rabbi Hanina ben Gamaliel interpreted the words “completely blue (תְּכֵלֶת, tekhelet)” in tekhelet strand of a tzitzit, interpreting the word “completely” to mean “full strength.” But Rabbi Johanan ben Dahabai taught that even the second dyeing using the same dye is valid, reading the words “and scarlet” (וּשְׁנִי תוֹלַעַת, ushni tolalat) in to mean “a second [dying] of red wool.” (Babylonian Talmud Menachot 42b.)to teach that blue dye used to test the dye is unfit for further use to dye the blue,
A midrash noted that God commanded the Israelites to perform certain precepts with similar material from trees: God commanded that the Israelites throw cedar wood and hyssop into the Red Heifer mixture of Exodus Rabbah 17:1.)and use hyssop to sprinkle the resulting waters of lustration in God commanded that the Israelites use cedar wood and hyssop to purify those stricken with skin disease in and in Egypt God commanded the Israelites to use the bunch of hyssop to strike the lintel and the two side-posts with blood in (
When Rav Dimi came from the Land of Israel, he said in the name of Rabbi Johanan that there were three red threads: one in connection with the red cow in the second in connection with the scapegoat in the Yom Kippur service of (which Mishnah Yoma 4:2 indicates was marked with a red thread), and the third in connection with the person with skin disease (the m’tzora) in Rav Dimi reported that one weighed ten zuz, another weighed two selas, and the third weighed a shekel, but he could not say which was which. When Rabin came, he said in the name of Rabbi Jonathan that the thread in connection with the red cow weighed ten zuz, that of the scapegoat weighed two selas, and that of the person with skin disease weighed a shekel. Rabbi Johanan said that Rabbi Simeon ben Halafta and the Sages disagreed about the thread of the red cow, one saying that it weighed ten shekels, the other that it weighed one shekel. Rabbi Jeremiah of Difti said to Rabina that they disagreed not about the thread of the red cow, but about that of the scapegoat. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 41b–42a.)
A Baraita taught that becausespeaks of “the house of the land of your possession,” only houses in the Land of Israel could become defiled through leprosy. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 12a.)
Rabbi Isaac taught that when a man asked to borrow his friend’s ax or sieve, and the friend out of selfishness replied that he did not have one, then immediately the plague would attack the friend’s house. And asrequired that they remove everything that he had in his house, including his axes and his sieves, the people would see his possessions and exclaim how selfish he had been. (Deuteronomy Rabbah 6:8.)
Leviticus chapter 15
Tractate Zavim in the Mishnah and Tosefta interpreted the laws of male genital discharges in (Mishnah Zavim 1:1–5:12; Tosefta Zavim 1:1–5:12.)
Tractate Niddah in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of menstruation in (Mishnah Niddah 1:1–10:8; Tosefta Niddah 1:1–9:19; Jerusalem Talmud Niddah 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Niddah 2a–73a.)
- To carry out the prescribed rules for purifying the person affected by tzara'at ( )
- The person affected by tzara'at must shave off all his hair prior to purification. ( )
- Every impure person must immerse in a mikvah to become pure. ( )
- A person affected by tzara'at must bring an offering after going to the mikvah. ( )
- To observe the laws of impurity caused by a house's tzara'at ( )
- To observe the laws of impurity caused by a man's running issue ( )
- A man who had a running issue must bring an offering after he goes to the mikvah. ( )
- To observe the laws of impurity of a seminal emission ( )
- To observe the laws of menstrual impurity ( )
- To observe the laws of impurity caused by a woman's running issue ( )
- A woman who had a running issue must bring an offering after she goes to the mikvah. ( )
(Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 2:233–75. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1984. ISBN 0-87306-296-5.)
On Shabbat HaChodesh
On Shabbat HaChodesh, Jews readin which God commands that “This month [Nissan] shall be the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year” ( ), and in which God issued the commandments of Passover. ( ) Similarly, the haftarah in discusses Passover. In both the special reading and the haftarah, God instructs the Israelites to apply blood to doorposts. ( )
On Shabbat Rosh Chodesh
The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:
- Exodus 12:22 (hyssop).
- 16:10, 20–22 (riddance ritual). (right ear, thumb of right hand, and great toe of right foot);
- Numbers 19:6 (cedar wood, hyssop, and red stuff); 19:18 (hyssop).
- Deuteronomy 17:8–9 (priests’ duty to assess); 24:8–9 (priests’ duties regarding skin disease).
- 2 Kings 5:10–14 (purification from skin disease with living water); 7:3–20 (people with skin disease).
- Zechariah 5:8–9 (transporting away wickedness by wing).
- Psalms 51:9 (“Purge me with hyssop”); 78:5–6 (to teach); 91:10 (plague on dwelling); 119:97–99 (learning from the law).
- Philo. Allegorical Interpretation 3:4:15; That the Worse Is Wont To Attack the Better 6:16; On the Unchangableness of God 28:131–35. Alexandria, Egypt, early 1st Century C.E.. Reprinted in, e.g., The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. Translated by Charles Duke Yonge, 51, 113, 169. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 1993. ISBN 0-943575-93-1.
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 3:11:3–4. Circa 93–94. Reprinted in, e.g., The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. Translated by William Whiston, 96–97. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 1987. ISBN 0-913573-86-8.
- Hebrews 9:19 Late 1st Century. (scarlet wool and hyssop).
- John 19:29 (hyssop).
- Mishnah: Pesachim 8:5; Shekalim 5:3; Moed Katan 3:1–2; Nazir 7:3; Horayot 1:3; Zevachim 4:3; Menachot 5:6–7, 9:3; Bekhorot 7:2; Negaim 1:1–14:13; Parah 1:4, 6:5; Niddah 1:1–10:8; Zavim 1:1–5:12. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 245, 259, 327, 443–44, 690, 706, 743, 751, 801, 981–1012, 1014, 1021, 1077–95, 1108–17. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
- Tosefta: Demai 2:7; Challah 2:7; Sotah 1:8; Menachot 7:16, 10:1; Chullin 10:14; Negaim 1:1–9:9; Niddah 1:1–9:19; Zavim 1:1–5:12. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:85, 339, 835; 2:1404, 1438, 1450, 1709–44, 1779–808, 1887–99. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
- Sifra 148:1–173:9. Land of Israel, 4th Century C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifra: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 2:325–429. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. ISBN 1-55540-206-2.
- Jerusalem Talmud: Orlah 6a, 39a; Niddah 1a–. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vol. 12. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2007–2009.
- Mekhilta of Rabbi Simeon 13:1; 57:3; 59:3. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. Translated by W. David Nelson, 43, 258, 268. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2006. ISBN 0-8276-0799-7.
- Leviticus Rabbah 16:1–19:6; 34:6. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Leviticus. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, 4:199–249, 431. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Babylonian Talmud: Shabbat 2b, 11b, 59a, 62b, 64a–b, 71b, 83a, 84a–b, 86b, 109a, 132a; Eruvin 4a–b, 14b, 51a, 82b; Pesachim 3a, 24a, 59a–b, 65b, 67b–68a, 85b, 90b, 92a, 109a; Yoma 5a, 6a, 11b–12a, 24a, 30b–31a, 41b, 61a–b, 62b, 63a; Sukkah 3a–b, 5b–6a; Beitzah 32a; Taanit 26b; Megillah 8a–b, 20a–21a, 26a; Moed Katan 5a, 7a–b, 13b, 14b, 15a–16a, 17b, 25b, 27b; Chagigah 9b, 11a, 23b; Yevamot 5a, 7a, 17b, 34b, 46b, 49b, 54a, 69b, 73a, 102b, 103b–04a, 105a; Ketubot 61b, 64b, 72a, 75a; Nedarim 35b–36a, 56a–b; Nazir 3b, 5a, 8b, 15b, 25b, 27a, 29a, 38a, 39b, 40b–41a, 43a, 44a–b, 46b, 47b, 54a–b, 56a–b, 57b–58a, 60a–b, 65b–66a; Sotah 5b, 8a, 15b–16b, 29b; Gittin 46a, 82a; Kiddushin 15a, 25a, 33b, 56b–57b, 68a, 70b; Bava Kamma 17b, 24a, 25a–b, 66b, 82a–b; Bava Metzia 31a; Bava Batra 9b, 24a, 164b, 166a; Sanhedrin 45b, 48b, 71a, 87b–88a, 92a; Makkot 13b, 21a; Shevuot 6a–b, 8a, 11a, 14b, 17b, 18a–b; Avodah Zarah 34a, 47b, 74a; Horayot 3b–4a, 8b, 10a; Zevachim 6b, 8a, 17b, 24b, 32b, 40a, 43a, 44a–b, 47b, 49a, 54b, 76b, 90b, 91b, 105a, 112b; Menachot 3a, 5a, 8a, 9a–10a, 15b, 18b, 24a, 27a–b, 35b, 42b, 48b, 61a, 64b, 73a, 76b, 86b, 88a, 89a, 91a, 101b, 106b; Chullin 10b, 24b, 27a, 35a, 49b, 51b, 62a, 71b, 72b, 82a, 85a, 106a, 123b, 128b, 133a, 140a, 141a, 142a; Bekhorot 32a, 38a, 45b; Arakhin 3a, 8a, 15b–17b; Keritot 8a–b, 9b, 10b, 25a, 28a; Meilah 11a, 18a, 19a–b; Niddah 2a–73a. Babylonia, 6th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, Chaim Malinowitz, and Mordechai Marcus, 72 vols. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006.
- Exodus Rabbah 17:1. 10th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Exodus. Translated by S. M. Lehrman, 3:211. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Rashi. Commentary. Leviticus 14–15. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 3:159–90. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-89906-028-5.
- Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 3:53. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 181. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
- Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed, 3:47. Cairo, Egypt, 1190. Reprinted in, e.g., Moses Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed. Translated by Michael Friedländer, 367–68, 370. New York: Dover Publications, 1956. ISBN 0-486-20351-4.
- Zohar 3:52b–56a. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
- Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, 3:40. England, 1651. Reprint edited by C. B. Macpherson, 503–04. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Classics, 1982. ISBN 0140431950.
- Emily Dickinson. Poem 1733 (No man saw awe, nor to his house). 19th Century. In The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson, 703. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1960. ISBN 0-316-18414-4.
- Helen Frenkley. “The Search for Roots—Israel’s Biblical Landscape Reserve.” In Biblical Archaeology Review, 12:5. Sept./Oct. 1986.
- Jacob Milgrom. Leviticus 1–16, 3:827–1009. New York: Anchor Bible, 1998. ISBN 0-385-11434-6.
- Academy for Jewish Religion
- American Jewish University
- Jewish Theological Seminary
- Orthodox Union
- Reconstructionist Judaism
- Sephardic Institute
- Union for Reform Judaism
- United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
- United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism