Let’s locate ourselves in space and time to enter this poetic, symbolic story for personally reconnecting with the divine and repairing breaches to the god-field. Tazria-Metzora is the instruction manual for holy personal, communal, and sacred repair — for restoring wholeness and balance.
It’s no surprise that we read this in week three of Counting the Omer. “Omer” is a measurement, the size of a sheaf of wheat. It is also Emmer, ancient farmed wheat that is bread, food, and culture itself. Its harvest — abundant or scant — is what we’re counting our way to. Omer is also Amar — speaking — the creative act that calls all into be-ing. The sephirah is Tiferet, beautiful balance.
Tazria-Metzora offers the cure for when we’ve become out of balance, broken the container, and the holy has ‘broken out’ all over us, as ‘leprosy’ — an outbreak of unbalanced holy power.
So what IS Tazria-Metzora? When looking for a key to open a constellation of meaning, Reb Zalman z”l used to suggest going to the shoresh, the two- or three-letter root. The three letter root for Tazria and Metzora is Zayin-Resh-Ayin (ז-ר-ע), which means ‘seed,’ and is related to terms like seed-time, a strong outstretched arm scattering seed, that which springs from the seed — either descendants, kin, or vegetables, and semen. The two-letter root, according to Fabre d’Olivet’s work from the 1800s on the Hebrew language, is Zayin-Resh (ז-ר), “the symbol of the straight line, the idea of that which goes from the center, spreads, disperses in every sense.” A seed contains a possible future, disperses perhaps infinitely through space and time, without end.
Now we have a way to think about Tazria. We are being asked to consider our actions as seeds, as something being dispersed from us. Specifically, what’s going out of the body — babies, blood, semen, and words. The parsha articulates in these multiple ‘rhyming’ concepts that our words, our children, our fertility or creative power are all seeds, and the relationship between us and the divine can be broken as the dispersing occurs. Our creations have consequences to our relationship to the whole.
“Impurity” is a matter between us and the divine, and results in a visual mark on the body or house. Once visible, the necessary holy repair begins. A learning here is that a personal relationship to the divine is assumed — and it’s a relationship we need to maintain to keep everything, from the most personal to the most public and out into the cosmos, in beautiful balance. The learning is that a beautiful balance is within our capacity to obtain, and is our obligation to maintain.
May we be able to ‘see’ and repair what we break, and may our seeds flourish!
Sue Salinger is committed to building community resilience and food equity by connecting people to each other and to the earth. Going ever-deeper into our ancient, earth-based Jewish wisdom tradition, she brings several decades of transformational project design and JOFEE experience to Ekar Farm, a 2 acre non-profit educational growing space. Sue is often heard repeating this quote from Reb Zalman z”l: “The only way to get it together, is together.”
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