Metzora | פרשת מצורע

Sefer Vayikra | ספר ויקרא

Vayikra 14:1-15:33 [Hebcal] [על-התורה] ויקרא יד א-טו לג

Haftarah: Melachim Bet 7:3-20 (Ashkenazi and Sefardi) | Melachim Bet 7:3-20; 13:23 (Teimani) | When read together with Metzora as a doubled parsha, this haftarah, for Metzora, is read; unless it is Shabbat ha-Gadol

הפטרה: מלכים ב ז ג-כ (אשכנזים וספרדים) | מלכים ב א ז-כ; יג כג (תימנים) | אם נקרא ביחד עם תזריע, קוראים את הפטרת מצורע, אלא אם כן זהו שבת הגדול [על-התורה]

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Parashat Metzora describes the ritual for recovery from the spiritual-physical malady of tzaraat, discussed extensively in the previous parsha, Tazria, as well as the issue of tzaraat occuring in houses (objects, including homes, can also contract tzaraat). Parashat Metzora is often read doubled with Parashat Tazria.

Ritual for Recovery from Tzaraat

In order to become tahor, a metzora must undergo a ritual. The kohen comes to examine him in his place of quarantine. If the kohen sees that all is well, he has several items brought on behalf of the metzora: two live birds that are tahor, cedar wood (etz erez – עֵץ אֶרֶז), sheni tolaat (שְׁנִי תוֹלַעַת – a crimson color), and hyssop (ezov – אֵזֹב). One of the birds is slaughtered over an earthen vessel of clean water; the other bird, along with the cedar, crimson, and hyssop, are dipped in the blood of the slaughtered bird. This is sprinkled 7 times over the metzora, and the live bird is released. The metzora then washes their clothes, shave all hair, and bathe. This occurs on the 7th day. While tahor, the former metzora must stay outside their tent (though in the camp) for 7 days.

On the 8th day, the former metzora brings korbanot: two male lambs, one female lamb, and 3/10th of a measure of solet (fine flour) mixed with oil, and an additional log (a volume measurement) of oil. The kohen offers one of the male lambs along with the log of oil as an Asham (guilt offering), which are elevated (tenufa). He places its blood on the right ear of the person bringing it, on their right thumb, and on their right big toe. The kohen then takes some of the oil and pours it into his own left hand. He sprinkles it with his right finger 7 times, then places some of this oil over the blood on the ridge of the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe of the person bringing the korban. The rest of the oil goes on the person’s head. After this, Chatat and Olah are brought, along with Minchah.

If the former metzora does not have the means for this series of korbanot, they may bring 1 lamb, 1/10th a measure of solet, and two turtledoves or pigeons. The procedure is repeated, but is the same, with the exception of the changes noted in the animals and amount of flour.

Tzaraat in Houses

The laws in the next section pertain to houses, which Bnei Yisrael do not yet have (they live in tents) but will have once they cross over into Eretz Yisrael. A house can also develop nega tzara’at, like a person or cloth/skin. The owner of the affected house must inform the kohen, who will come examine the cleared house. If the nega (affected area) goes deep into the walls and has streaks of red or green, it is suspect and the house is sealed off for 7 days. On the 7th day, if the nega has spread, the stones in the affected area are removed and disposed of outside the city, and the inside of the house is scraped. The wall is then repaired and re-plastered.

If, rather, after the 7 day quarantine the affliction has spread in the walls of the house, the house must be torn down, and its parts disposed of outside of the city. In addition, anyone who enters the house while it is closed is tamei until morning, and one who eats or sleeps in the house must wash their clothes.

Returning to the case of a house that is declared free of Tzara’at, there is a cleansing ritual that is the same as the initial cleansing ritual for a metzora person (outside of the camp): two live birds that are tahor are brought, along with cedar wood (etz erez), sheni tolaat (a crimson color), and hyssop (ezov). One of the birds is slaughtered over an earthen vessel of clean water; the other bird, along with the cedar, crimson, and hyssop, are dipped in the blood of the slaughtered bird. This is sprinkled 7 times over the metzora house.

Haftarah Summary: וארבעה אנשים היו מצרעים

[Melachim Bet 7:30-20]

When not coinciding with Shabbat ha-Gadol, the haftarah for Metzora tells the story of four men quarantined with Tzaraat who help bring to pass a highly improbable prophecy of Elisha’s. There is famine in Shomron (Samaria), but the prophet Elisha has prophesied that by tomorrow, a seah (a unit of measurement) of fine flour (solet) would sell for only a shekel, with two seahs of barley to the shekel.

Sitting outside the gates of Shomron, the four men with Tzaraat consider that they have three bad options: die in quarantine outside the city, die of starvation into the city, or defect to the camp of the Arameans. As defectors, they might be put to death, but the Arameans might left them live. They choose to defect.

Upon reaching the Aramean camp, however, the four men find it abandoned. Hashem had caused the Arameans to hear the sounds of war, drawing them out of the camp and causing them to flee before what they imagined to be mighty armies. The men eat and drink and carry off valuables, which they bury. Eventually, they decide that they should share news of what they have found. They tell the gatekeepers of Shomron, who inform the king. The king, however, suspects a setup, but one of his advisors convinces him to send out scouts. The scouts find that the Arameans have indeed abandoned camp, leaving behind all their supplies. The people of Shomron plunder the camp, and, as Elisha said, a seah of fine flour sells for a shekel, two seahs of barley for a shekel.

Image: Municipal Historical Archives of Correggio (Correggio, Italy) Ms. 23. Commentary on Parashat Metzora by Ralbag (Levi b. Gershom), 14th century. Four leaves, recovered from use as bookbindings.

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