8/9 Apr: Metzora + Hagadol : Shabbat comes in 7:31 pm, ends 8:36 pm
Metzora: The Long Road Back to Normal
This week’s Torah portion, Metzora, is about plagues. As well as detailing the affliction of tz’ra’at – the biblical skin disease often mistranslated as ‘leprosy’ – our parashah also details the process of healing and returning to the community. We read about the priest visiting the afflicted person outside the camp, how to declare them no longer unwell, and the ritual for re-entering the camp. It is such a weird and wonderful ritual (including dipping a live bird in blood and then setting it free) that it is easy to overlook this comment at the end of Lev. 14:8: “And he will dwell outside of his tent for seven days.” The commentators are a little confused by this statement. Does this mean that when the previously-stricken individual is back in the camp he may not enter his own tent, because he must avoid marital relations (Rashi)? Or is it an oddly-placed statement about how long he must remain outside of the camp itself (Ibn Ezra)?
This mystery strikes me as particularly poignant this year. Coming back into the world is not simple. The person stricken with tz’ra’at cannot simply go from life outside the camp back to normality in one fell swoop.
And now here we are, experiencing the slow process of return. Perhaps we are like the man recovering from tz’ra’at. We are not outside the camp anymore, but we are not back to normal life, either. And this moment of transition might take a little time.