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Tazria, Thazria, Thazri’a, Sazria, or Ki Tazria’ (תזריע — Hebrew for "she conceives,” the 13th word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 27th weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the fourth in the book of Leviticus. It constitutes Leviticus 12:1–13:59. Jews in the Diaspora read it the 27th or 28th Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in April.
The lunisolar Hebrew calendar contains up to 55 weeks, the exact number varying between leap years and regular years. In leap years (which have 54 or 55 weeks—for example, 2011, 2014, and 2016), parshah Tazria is read separately. In non-leap years (for example, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017) there are fewer than 54 weeks, and parshah Tazria is combined with the next parshah, Metzora, to help achieve the needed number of weekly readings. (Kitsur Shulchan Arukh. Edited by Dovid Feldman, Table 6, pp. 218-19.)
God told Moses to tell the Israelites that when a woman at childbirth bore a boy, she was to be unclean 7 days and then remain in a state of blood purification for 33 days, while if she bore a girl, she was to be unclean 14 days and then remain in a state of blood purification for 66 days. ( ) Upon completing her period of purification, she was to bring a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a turtle dove for a sin offering, and the priest was to offer them as sacrifices to make expiation on her behalf. ( ) If she could not afford a sheep , she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. ( )
God told Moses (also Moshe) and Aaron that when a person had a swelling, rash, discoloration, scaly affection, inflammation, or burn, it was to be reported to the priest, who was to examine it to determine whether the person was clean or unclean. ( ) Unclean persons were to rend their clothes, leave their head bare, cover over their upper lips, call out, "Unclean! Unclean!" and dwell outside the camp. ( )
Similarly, when a streaky green or red eruptive affection occurred in wool, linen, or animal skin, it was to be shown to the priest, who was to examine to determine whether it was clean or unclean. () If unclean, it was to be burned, but if the affection disappeared from the article upon washing, it was to be washed again and be clean. ( )
In classical rabbinic interpretation
Leviticus chapter 12
Rabbi Simlai noted that just as God created humans after creating cattle, beasts, and birds, the law concerning human impurity in follows that concerning cattle, beasts, and birds in (Leviticus Rabbah 14:1.)
The Gemara read the command of to require an uncircumcised adult man to become circumcised, and the Gemara read the command of to require the father to circumcise his infant child. (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 132b.)
The Mishnah taught that circumcision should not be performed until the sun has risen, but counts it as done if done after dawn has appeared. (Mishnah Megillah 2:4; Babylonian Talmud Megillah 20a.) The Gemara explained that the reason for the rule could be found in the words of “And in the eighth "day" the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 20a.) A Baraita interpreted to teach that the whole eighth day is valid for circumcision, but deduced from Abraham’s rising “early in the morning” to perform his obligations in that the zealous perform circumcisions early in the morning. (Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 4a, Yoma 28b.)
The disciples of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai asked him why ordained that after childbirth a woman had to bring a sacrifice. He replied that when she bore her child, she swore impetuously in the pain of childbirth that she would never again have intercourse with her husband. The Torah, therefore, ordained that she had to bring a sacrifice, as she would probably violate that oath. (Babylonian Talmud Niddah 31b.) Rabbi Berekiah and Rabbi Simon said in the name of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai that because she fluttered in her heart, she had to bring a fluttering sacrifice, two turtle-doves or two young pigeons. (Genesis Rabbah 20:7.) The disciples asked Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai why permitted contact between the father and mother after 7 days when the mother bore a boy, but permitted contact after 14 days when she bore a girl. He replied that since everyone around the mother would rejoice upon the birth of a boy, she would regret her oath to shun her husband after just 7 days, but since people around her would not rejoice on the birth of a girl, she would take twice as long. And Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai taught that ordained circumcision on the eighth day so that the parents could join their guests in a celebratory mood on that day. (Babylonian Talmud Niddah 31b.)
Rabbi Simeon noted that Scripture always lists turtledoves before pigeons, and imagined that one might thus think that Scripture prefers turtledoves over pigeons. But Rabbi Simeon quoted the instructions of“a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin-offering,” to teach that Scripture accepted both equally. (Mishnah Keritot 6:9; Babylonian Talmud Keritot 28a.)
Rav Hisda taught that the designation of one of the birds to become the burnt-offering and the other to become the sin-offering was made either by the owner or by the priest's action. Rabbi Shimi bar Ashi explained that the words of “she shall take . . . the one for a burnt-offering, and the other for a sin-offering,” indicated that the mother could have made the designation when taking the birds, and the words of “the priest shall offer them, the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering,” and of “the priest shall offer the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering,” indicated that (absent such a designation by the mother) the priest could have made the designation when offering them up. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 41a.)called for “two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons: the one for a burnt-offering, and the other for a sin-offering.”
Leviticus chapter 13
A midrash compared the discussion of skin diseases beginning at to the case of a noble lady who, upon entering the king's palace, was terrified by the whips that she saw hanging about. But the king told her: “Do not fear; these are meant for the slaves, but you are here to eat, drink, and make merry.” So, too, when the Israelites heard the section of Scripture dealing with leprous affections, they became afraid. But Moses told them: “These are meant for the wicked nations, but you are intended to eat, drink, and be joyful, as it is written in “Many are the sufferings of the wicked; but he that trusts in the Lord, mercy surrounds him.” (Leviticus Rabbah 15:4.)
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 Arakhin 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.)
In the priest’s examination of skin disease mandated by 9, and 14:2, 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 Abbahu, as well as Rabbi Uzziel the grandson of Rabbi Uzziel the Great, taught that requires that the person afflicted with skin disease “cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’” to warn passers-by to keep away. But the Gemara cited a Baraita that taught that requires that the person “cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’” so that the person’s distress would become known to many people, so that many could pray for mercy on the afflicted person’s behalf. And the Gemara concluded that reads “Unclean” twice to teach that is intended to further both purposes, to keep passers-by away and to invite their prayers for mercy. (Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 5a.)
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.)
Rabbi Samuel bar Elnadab asked Rabbi Haninah (or others say Rabbi Samuel bar Nadab the son-in-law of Rabbi Haninah asked Rabbi Haninah, or still others say, asked Rabbi Joshua ben Levi) what distinguished the person afflicted with skin disease that ordains that the person “shall dwell alone.” The answer was that through gossip, the person afflicted with skin disease separated husband from wife, one neighbor from another, and therefore the Torah punished the person afflicted with skin disease measure for measure, ordaining that the person “shall dwell alone.” (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 16b.)
According to Maimonides
- To circumcise the son, as it is written "and on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" ( ).
- For a woman after childbirth to bring a sacrifice after she becomes clean, as it is written "and when the days of her purification are fulfilled" ( ).
- Not to shave off the hair of the scall, as it is written "but the scall shall he not shave" ( ).
- For the person with skin disease to be known to all by the things written about the person, "his clothes shall be rent, and the hair of his head shall go loose, and he shall cover his upper lip, and shall cry: 'unclean, unclean'" ( ). So too, all other unclean persons must declare themselves.
(Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Positive Commandments 76, 112, 215; Negative Commandment 307. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 1:88, 123–24, 230–31; 2:283–84. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4.)
According to Sefer ha-Chinuch
According to Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are 5 positive and 2 negative commandments in the parshah:
- The precept about the ritual uncleanness of a woman after childbirth ( )
- A ritually unclean person is not to eat meat of holy sacrifices. ( )
- The precept of a woman’s offering after giving birth ( )
- The precept regarding the ritual uncleanness of a m’tzora (person with a skin condition) ( )
- The prohibition against shaving the area of a nethek (an impurity in hair) ( )
- That one with a tzara'ath condition (skin condition), among others, should rend clothes. ( )
- The precept of tzara'ath in cloth ( )
(Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 2:201–33. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1984. ISBN 0-87306-296-5.)
The haftarah for the parshah is 2 Kings 4:42–5:19 Both the parshah and the haftarah report the treatment of skin disease, the parshah by the priests (in ), and the haftarah by the prophet Elisha (in ). Both the parshah and the haftarah frequently employ the term “skin disease” (tzara’ath). ( 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 20, 25, 27, 30, 42, 43, 49, 51, 52, 59; 6, 7.)
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. ( )
When parshah Tazria is combined with parshah Metzora (as it is in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015) and the parshah does not coincide with a special parshah (as it does in 2009), the haftarah is the haftarah for parshah Metzora,Both the parshah and the haftarah deal with people stricken with skin disease.
On Shabbat Rosh Chodesh
The Weekly Maqam
In the Weekly Maqam, Sephardi Jews each week base the songs of the services on the content of that week's parshah. For parshah Tazria, Sephardi Jews apply Maqam Saba, the maqam that symbolizes a covenant (brit). This is appropriate, because this parshah commences with the discussion of what to do when a baby boy is born. It also mentions the brit milah, a ritual that shows a covenant between man and God.
The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:
- Jubilees 3:8–14 Land of Israel, 2nd Century B.C.E. (days of defilement after childbirth).
- Philo. On the Posterity of Cain and His Exile 13:47; On the Unchangableness of God 25:123–24; 27:127; Concerning Noah's Work as a Planter 26:111; On the Prayers and Curses Uttered by Noah When He Became Sober 10:49. 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, 136, 168, 200, 231. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 1993. ISBN 0-943575-93-1.
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 3:11:3–5. 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.
- Luke 2:22 (days of purification after birth).
- Mishnah: Nazir 7:3; Sotah 3:8; Keritot 6:9; Negaim 1:1–14:13. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 444, 453, 851, 981–1012. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
- Tosefta: Bikkurim 2:6; Shabbat 8:27; Megillah 2:4; Sotah 6:7; Eduyot 2:4; Negaim 1:1–9:9. 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, 1:350, 385, 857; 2:1253, 1709–44. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
- Sifra 121:1–147:16. Land of Israel, 4th Century C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifra: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 2:231–323. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. ISBN 1-55540-206-2.
- Jerusalem Talmud Maaser Sheni 46b. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vol. 10. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2008.
- Mekhilta of Rabbi Simeon 10:2. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. Translated by W. David Nelson, 31. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2006. ISBN 0-8276-0799-7.
- Leviticus Rabbah 2:6; 5:5; 14:1–16:1; 16:3–4, 6; 17:3–4; 18:2, 4–5; 21:2; 27:1, 10; 36:1. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Leviticus. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, 4:24, 70, 177–98, 202, 205–07, 216–17, 219, 229, 232–33, 266, 344, 354, 456. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Babylonian Talmud: Berakhot 4a, 5b, 25a; Shabbat 2b, 24b, 26b, 28a, 54a, 55b, 67a, 94b, 132a–b, 134b–35a; Eruvin 24a, 32a, 37a; Pesachim 3a, 4a, 9b, 67a–b, 75a, 84a, 90b, 92a, 113b; Yoma 6a, 9b, 28b, 34b, 41a, 42a, 81a; Sukkah 28b; Megillah 8b, 20a, 24b; Moed Katan 5a, 7a–8a, 14b–15a; Chagigah 11a, 18b; Yevamot 4b, 47b, 72b, 74b–75a, 83a, 103b–04a; Ketubot 61b, 75b; Nedarim 4b; Nazir 17b, 26b–27a, 29a, 43a, 54b, 56b, 59b, 64b, 65b; Sotah 5a, 23a, 32b; Kiddushin 13b, 25a, 30a, 35b; Bava Kamma 11a, 80a, 92b; Bava Metzia 86a; Bava Batra 84a, 127a; Sanhedrin 4a, 11a, 26a, 34b, 54b, 59b, 68a, 83b, 87b–88a, 97a, 101a; Makkot 8b, 14b, 20b, 22a; Shevuot 2a, 6a–7a, 8a, 11a, 16a, 17b; Avodah Zarah 23b, 42a; Horayot 10a; Zevachim 19b, 32b, 33b, 38a, 49b, 67b, 76b, 90a, 94a, 102a, 105b, 112b, 117a; Menachot 4b, 6b, 37b, 39b, 91b; Chullin 8a, 24a, 31b, 41b, 51b, 63a, 71a, 77b–78a, 84b–85a, 109b, 134a; Bekhorot 17a, 27b, 34b, 41a, 47b; Arakhin 3a, 8b, 15b–16b, 18b, 21a; Temurah 26b; Keritot 7b–8b, 9b–10b, 22b, 28a; Meilah 19a; Niddah 11a–b, 15b, 19a, 20b–21a, 24b, 27b, 30b–31a, 34a–b, 35b, 36b, 37b, 38b, 40a, 44a, 47b, 50a, 66a, 71b. 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.
- Solomon ibn Gabirol. A Crown for the King, 30:369–70. Spain, 11th Century. Translated by David R. Slavitt, 48–49. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-511962-2.
- Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed, 1:42; 3:41, 45, 47, 49. Cairo, Egypt, 1190. Reprinted in, e.g., Moses Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed. Translated by Michael Friedländer, 56, 346, 357, 368, 379. New York: Dover Publications, 1956. ISBN 0-486-20351-4.
- Zohar 3:42a–52a. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
- Rashi. Commentary. Leviticus 12–13. 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, 3:135–57. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-89906-028-5.
- 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.
- Thomas Mann. Joseph and His Brothers. Translated by John E. Woods, 101, 859. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-4001-9. Originally published as Joseph und seine Brüder. Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1943.
- Jacob Milgrom. Leviticus 1–16, 3:742–826. New York: Anchor Bible, 1998. ISBN 0-385-11434-6.