Pure and Impure
The laws of purity in the Torah are intended to remind us that we cannot afford to live only for ourselves.
One little-known idea in Parashat Metzorah is the concept of the "cedar wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop" that is used in the purification process for a person who has been afflicted with tzara'at. In Leviticus 14:4-7, the priest is instructed to take these three items and use them in a purification ceremony involving two live birds.
According to some Jewish commentators, the cedar wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop represent different aspects of the human condition. The cedar wood represents pride and haughtiness, which are often associated with tzara'at. The scarlet wool represents sin, which can lead to impurity. And the hyssop represents humility and the willingness to be purified.
In this interpretation, the purification process using the cedar wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop represents the need for a person to confront their own flaws and weaknesses, acknowledge their sins, and humbly seek purification and atonement. The use of two live birds in the ceremony also represents the idea of rebirth and renewal, as the afflicted person emerges from their impurity and begins a new phase of life.
The portion begins with instructions for a person who has been afflicted with tzara'at, a skin disease commonly translated as leprosy. The afflicted person is required to undergo a purification process and offer sacrifices to atone for their impurity.
The portion then goes on to describe the purification process for a house that has been affected by a mold or mildew. The owner of the house is required to remove any affected materials and the priest is required to inspect the house and declare it pure or impure.
Finally, the portion describes the purification process for a person who has become impure through contact with a dead body. This process involves a seven-day period of separation and purification, as well as the offering of sacrifices.
Overall, Parashat Metzorah deals with the importance of maintaining spiritual and physical purity, and provides instructions for how to atone for impurities and regain a state of purity.
Pure, Impure, Community and seperation
It is difficult to enter the world of Leviticus. It is a realm preoccupied with ritual purity and impurity, and a priestly space sanctified through sacrificial offerings and atonements.
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