12/13 Apr : Metzora : Shabbat comes in 7:38 pm, ends 8:43 pm
In this week’s Parshah, we learn how the leper who has become “free”
of the disease becomes purified. It is a detailed ritual involving
animal sacrifices, shaving of body hair, sprinkling of blood and oil,
and the immersion of the person in water. At certain points in the
purification ritual, blood and then oil is placed on the right ear,
the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot of the
person to be purified.
While the ceremony at first struck me as odd, messy and inaccessible
in its ancientness, it later struck me as terribly meaningful for a
person who has suffered a life-threatening disease, and who is now, in
a very public and explicit way, being “cleansed” of their disease and
welcomed back into the community.
Sefer Ha-Hinnukh says the leper who bathed his body in water was not
simply cleansing himself. The bathing symbolised rebirth and re-
creation. The experience of illness and recovery made the leper a new
person – that is, someone who now looked at life differently. I
imagine if I survived a life-threatening illness, I might view life
differently, and I might want a ceremony to mark that positive change
in my life.
Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman