Torah: Leviticus 12:1-15:33
Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24
Gospel: Luke 2:22-35; Mark 1:35-45
As the average Bible-reader dutifully slogs through the laws concerning biblical leprosy, he might wonder what this has to do with him, and why the Torah spends so much time on the details of this disease. Unless you are a son of Aaron serving in the Levitical priesthood, the laws of diagnosing and purifying lepers don’t have much application. The average person will never be responsible for distinguishing between one type of rash and another for purposes of declaring someone ritually unfit.
Nevertheless, the laws of biblical leprosy have spiritual applications. Traditionally, the rabbis have used these laws to teach about the grievous sin of evil speech (lashon hara, לשון הרע).
What is it that makes a leper so unique that the Torah says [in Leviticus 13:46], “He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp”? His gossiping separated a husband from his wife and a man from his neighbor. Therefore said the Torah said, “He shall live alone.” (b.Arachin 16b)
The association between evil speech and leprosy is derived from the story of Miriam’s leprosy (Numbers 12). Miriam was punished with leprosy for grumbling against her brother Moses. The sages inferred from this that biblical leprosy was a punishment for the sin of an evil tongue. Given that piece of information, the laws of the leper (metzora) became fertile ground for homiletic teachings about the sin of evil speech. The rabbis gave moral interpretations for the Torah’s regulations for assessing leprosy and the laws for effecting purification.
For example, the sages taught that the word metzora (leper) is derived from a combination of the Hebrew words motzi (מוציא), which means “wellspring” or “source,” and the Hebrew word ra (רע), which means “evil.” Put them together and it spells the word “leper” (metzora, מצורע)— sort of. It’s not a real etymology. The word metzora actually comes from the Hebrew word for leprosy (tzara’at, צרעת). The “wellspring of evil” explanation is meant as a illustrative reminder.
What is the source from which evil springs? It is the tongue! Therefore, one who speaks evil is a spiritual metzora. James the brother of Yeshua probably knew this interpretation. He alludes to it in his epistle where he compares the tongue to a wellspring:
From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? (James 3:10-11)
Torah: Leviticus 9:1-11:47
Haftarah: II Samuel 6:1-7:17
Gospel: Matthew 3:11-17
Leviticus 10:16 says, “Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up!” The words “searched carefully” translate the repeated Hebrew verb darash (דרש). Darash means “to search.” In Hebrew, the verse repeats the verb darash to indicate a diligent search. It says, “darosh darash,” literally, “searching, he searched.”
The same word applies to the study of Torah. For example, a short teaching on Torah is sometimes called a derashah, and a traditional interpretation of Torah is called a midrash (מדרש). Midrash comes from the same word—“to search.” Studying Torah requires searching the Scriptures.
The Torah actually commands us to study the Torah. Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “You shall teach the commandments of the Torah diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” The sages explain that this commands us to study Torah because to teach the Torah one must study it first. A person should search the Torah, study it, and discuss it, at home and on the way, evening and morning.
The Master repeats this commandment to search the Torah when He rebukes the Pharisees in John 5:39, saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” The Greek of John 5:39 can also be read in the imperative sense: “Search the Scriptures diligently. In them you have eternal life because it is these that testify about Me.” As we diligently search the Torah, we encounter Messiah.
Most printed editions of the Torah contain a masoretic note on Leviticus 10:16 stating that these two Hebrew words—darosh, darash–are the exact halfway mark of all the words of the Torah. That is to say that if one person started with the last Hebrew word of the Torah and started counting backward, one word at a time, and another person simultaneously started with the first Hebrew word and started counting forward, they would meet at the exact center, in Leviticus 10:16, where it says, “darosh, darash.” Right at the very center of the Torah are the words “Search, search!” The same words can be understood to mean, “Study, study!”
These two words are the exact halfway mark of the words of the Torah. This is to teach us that the entire Torah revolves around constant inquiry. One must never stop studying and seeking ever deeper and broader understanding of the Torah. (Degel Machaneh Ephraim)
Leviticus 9:1 | Aaron’s Priesthood Inaugurated
Leviticus 10:1 | Nadab and Abihu
Leviticus 11:1 | Clean and Unclean Foods
Leviticus 11:24 | Unclean Animals
2 Samuel 6:1 | David Brings the Ark to Jerusalem
2 Samuel 7:1 | God’s Covenant with David
The holy Temple and all the sacrifices that take place in it point toward immorality and incorruptibility. The sacrifices are not about death; they are all about life.
Torah: Leviticus (Vayikra) 6:1-8:36
Haftarah: Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu) 7:21-8:23. 9:22-23
Gospel: Matthew (Mattityahu) 9:10-17
A special portion for Shabbat haGadol (The Great Sabbath) is read this Shabbat!
Haftarah: Malachi (Mal’achi) 3:4-24
Gospel: Matthew (Mattityahu) 17:9-13