On the face of it, the weekly Torah portion of metzora (Leviticus Ch. 14 & 15) deals with the role of the priests in purifying physical impurities of all kinds, especially skin impurities and diseases (metzora means “lepper”). But the real message of this portion is best told with the help of a story from the midrash (the allegorical commentaries on the Torah).
The midrash* tells that a peddler was going around the lower Galilee region of ancient Israel, calling out for people to buy his elixir of life. Wherever he went, he attracted attention. Rabbi Yanai, one of the most prominent figures of the time (3rd century C.E), was studying Torah in his luxurious living room when he was distracted by the commotion caused by the man.
The Torah portion for last week was shemini (Leviticus 9 – 11). For various constraints, I was not able to submit the commentary on the portion before Shabbat, which is what I attempt to do normally; but the commentary on this week’s portion, tazria (Leviticus 12 – 13), will in fact pertain to both portions, as it will concern itself with the symbolism of the number eight (shemini means “eighth”).
However, in the spirit of the Talmudic statement:
לפוטרו בלא כלום אי אפשר
One cannot get away with nothing (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Chullin, 27b)
I hereby offer a short comment regarding last week’s reading. not, however, with regards to the weekly reading of the Torah, but rather the reading of the haftarah*.