The Torah portion for Saturday 2nd April is from Leviticus called Tazria: I’m reading from Chapters 13 – 14 which speaks of Leprosy; including the Prophetic portion from 2 Kings 5 “Naaman the leper” : intertwined with the New Testament reading Matthew 8: 2-4 “Jesus heals the leper.”
Leviticus Chapter 13 “And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 2 “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes on the skin of his body like a [a]leprous sore, (in Hebrew called Metzora*) then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. 3 The priest shall examine the sore on the skin of the body; and if the hair on the sore has turned white, and the sore appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous sore. Then the priest shall examine him, and pronounce him unclean.”
There are laws concerning leprous garments and for houses infected by leprosy.
When we look at Leviticus today, it seems so far removed from reality. It is so baffling and sometimes when we don't know what is happening, we just need to listen to what is going on in the news because there is always a deeper understanding of the Torah Portion when we look at what is going on all around us. The Torah portion offers great insight into world events and world events give us great insight of what is going on in the Torah portion.
We have a plague that is explained in great detail and there is a mistranslation of this plague which is called “leprosy.” Well, I must tell you it is not actually leprosy. Leprosy is a very definitive illness. “Metzora” on the other hand, in the Torah portion, is about an infection that breaks out on the body, in the home and elsewhere but it's not “leprosy.” Leprosy is a physical disease, but Metzora is a spiritual disease and how we approach it from a spiritual perspective is what we shall discover here. It is a sore point!
We know it's a spiritual affliction because a person afflicted goes to the priest and not a doctor. The priest decides whether the person’s skin condition is pure or impure. The whole thing teaches us a spiritual lesson.
Now the rabbis explain that Metzora – that sore point - was actually a punishment for slander, gossip and evil speech about someone. Now how do we know that! because it doesn't actually say, in the Bible, that this skin disease represents evil speech, but there are clues.
There are two other times when Metzora is mentioned in the Torah. The first one is when Moses’ hand became “leprous” when he expressed doubt about the willingness of the people to believe in his mission when God tells him, from the burning bush, to go to Egypt and free the people (Ex. 4: 6-7) and the second was when Miriam was struck by leprosy when she spoke against Moses (Num. 12: 1-15). The Metzora (leper) was a person who spoke slightingly about others.
Now you can see why the rabbis make this connection because of Moses and Miriam’s affliction and so we understand that when a person is afflicted with Metzora – “leprosy in the Bible” - it means they are guilty of slighting other people.
Slander and speaking badly about someone was considered by the Sages to be one of the worst sins of all like a plague or an infectious disease striking the community.
It is important to understand the power of our speech and to speak truthfully, honestly, and positively about other people, and that is one of the lessons we are learning this week. Speaking only what is positive about people, releases better energy than when we criticize or complain about them. When we speak positively and optimistically about things in general, especially with all the negativity around us today of what is considered an epidemic or a plague, it changes the atmosphere.
When we speak negatively about people in the Body of Christ, it brings a plague on the House. It is very interesting that we are in this time period approaching Passover when we are called to remove all leaven or yeast from the House, which represents pride and is another great spiritual lesson.
We are also in the First Hebraic month of Nissan, called “The month of speech.” It is believed in Jewish circles that if you speak negatively during this month, it will adversely affect you three to four months later. The seeds of negativity take root and will pull you backward. Conversely, your positive confessions should “grab the wind” and change the atmosphere. (See 1 Peter 3:9 ; 1 Samuel 1:17 ; 2:20–21 .)
When we look at Leviticus 13 again, and understand the meaning of the word “Metzora”, in the Hebrew, it also means “plague” “struck”, “stroke”, or “wound.” It is written, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted,” Isaiah 53:4
As the words “plague” and “struck” are the same word “Metzora” in Hebrew, the coming Messiah, therefore, would be known by the Priests and Pharisees as the Metzora Scholar – “The Leper Scholar” – They would be looking for a “Metzora Messiah” one who would heal lepers. (2)
At Passover, we know that Messiah was “struck” with blows. They flogged him according to John 19 verse 3. “He was turned over to the Romans and they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Luke 22: 63/ 64 reads “They mocked him and beat him having blindfolded him they struckHim on the face. “Prophesy” they said, “Who was the one who struck you?”
Matthew 27: 30 reads “They spit on Him and took a reed and smoteHim on the head. As a leper was despised and rejected, so too was the Messiah “despised and rejected of men.” When Jesus went to the cross, He was struck and smitten and took upon Himself our evil speech – our diseases – the plague of the sins of the mouth.
Leviticus 13: repeats over and over again, “The priest shall examine him on the 7th day.” So, what do the priests have to do? They must examine him - it doesn't say the doctor - it says the priest.
Matthew 8: 2- 4 reads “A leper came to him and knelt before him and said, “Lord if it be your will, you can make me clean” and He reached out his hand and He touched him and said, “I will, be clean.” Jesus also said, “Don't tell anyone but show yourself to the priest so the priest can examine you. Offer the gift of Moses as a testimony to them.” Here Jesus is revealing Himself as the Messiah to the Priests, the “Leper Scholar” who heals the leper!!! This was the first time in 2000 years that anyone was healed of leprosy.
The reason why Jesus wanted the leper to go to the priest to be examined was because a leper hadn't been healed since Naaman the Assyrian commander. Let me read it from 2 Kings 5. “Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy….. (9) So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
The other reason why Jesus wanted the healed leper to go to the priest to be examined, was because there was a ritual to go through involving two birds, cedarwood, some hyssop, and scarlet thread, a ceremony conducted over living water. The priest would go out to the leper who was in quarantine who couldn't leave the house. The priest goes out to him.
It's important to note that the ritual was not the cure or the treatment. It was for the cleansing for the leper after he was healed. There is a big difference from being healed and being cleansed. Not only healed but made pure.
Let’s see what causes spiritual “leprosy.” Psalm 64: 3 says, “Those that whet their tongues like a sword and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words”…. Here we see an arrow is a symbol of an evil, bitter word spoken about someone and constantly targeting them.
Sometimes, these arrows that we shoot are deflected from the object of those words and the venom ends up striking innocent people, and innocent bystanders – people who happen to love the one we are being mean to – maybe a friend, a spouse, or a child.
Hateful words can lead to hateful actions. Our thoughts often find their expression in our spoken words, and those spoken words see their realization in actions and so every word we utter, we must realize they have a real impact in the spiritual realm even though the impact may not be seen in the physical.
The Torah considers that the harm these words create to be massive. That's why we see in the book of James that the tongue is an unruly member and is full of fire that can set the whole course of nature ablaze.
Leviticus 14 verses 1-7 reads “the Lord told Moses this is the law of the leper in the days of his cleansing.” Someone had to bring the cleansed leper back to the House of Israel – totally restoring him to his community.
You can also have House leprosy. It means that the House of Israel and Judah also had to be cleansed because they had spoken evil speech, because they said that God had brought them out of Egypt to kill them. That is the ultimate evil speech to say to God who had just paid a huge ransom to set them free to then accuse Him of only wanting to kill them. In the Bible it says (in verses 33 to 40) that leprosy can spread through the wall of the physical House. If it was through the whole house, they had to tear it down and then replace infected stones with clean ones.
1 Peter 2: 4-5 reads “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Many of us here have been the object of unkind and evil accusations made against us, but God is saying to us – forgive and release for I AM building you up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You see “He makes all things beautiful in His time.”
Over the past two years, time and again, unable to resolve conflicts civilly and graciously, politicians, doctors, scientists, neighbours, families, and friends slandered one another with results that were disastrous to the Nation, Christian and local communities, families and friends. Many were not allowed to express another point of view or even share it in civil debate without being demonized or castigated.
Rather, they were denounced and fired from their jobs, excluded from family and neighborly circles because of views held that were different from their own, or were misunderstood and cut off from even speaking at all.
Rabbi Sacks wrote concerning evil speech, “What an astonishing insight it was to see leprosy, that disfiguring disease, as a symbol and symptom of evil speech. We truly are disfigured when we use words to condemn and not communicate; to close rather than open minds. When we use language as a weapon and wield it brutally, the message of Metzora remains. Linguistic violence is no less savage than physical violence, and those who afflict others are themselves afflicted. Words wound, insult, and injure. Evil speech destroys communities and families. Language is God’s greatest gift to humankind, and it must be guarded if it is to heal, and not harm.” (3)
Let’s pray: (Father, we come to you right now and confess and repent for all the hurtful words we have spoken against anyone in the Body of Christ or those you have put across our path over these past two years of Covid. We repent for slighting others, criticizing, and pointing the finger. Father, we clean House today and humble ourselves before you and, as the leper came to Jesus and said, “if it be your will, you can make me clean”, so we come, your church, your bride. Reach out and touch us, too. Heal and cleanse us for the sake of your Holy Name.
Father, today we choose to forgive all those who have slandered and misjudged us, and release them into our forgiveness. Break the power of all hurtful words off our lives and remove the arrows of evil speech spoken behind our backs and the dagger from our hearts. Heal and cleanse us dear Lord Jesus for your glorious name’s sake. Amen)
1.Notes from E; Shaddai Ministries on “Tazria.”
2. Article “What made Yeshua The Leper Scholar” by Sherry Lush.
3. Wikipedia *Metzora, Metzorah, M'tzora, Mezora, Metsora, M'tsora, Metsoro, Meṣora, or Maṣoro (מְצֹרָע — Hebrew for "one being diseased," the ninth word, and the first distinctive word, in the parashah) is the 28th weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the fifth in the Book of Leviticus. The parashah deals with ritual impurity. It addresses cleansing from skin disease (צָּרַעַת, tzara'at), houses with an eruptive plague, male genital discharges, and menstruation. The parashah constitutes Leviticus 14:1–15:33
4. Quote from Rabbi Sacks on “Metzora