Torah Study Notes 4-9-16

April 9. 2016

From last week’s questions for the Rabbi – What is the spiritual basis of the dietary laws?   Philo of Alexandria (see: ) said that pig is the nicest of all meats and those fish without scales are the tastiest. Abstaining from these foods shows our self-control and hence is a movement toward spirituality. Chewing the cud is the equivalent of mulling over a problem. The parting of the hoof is symbolic of two paths in life. – or at least understanding that there are multiple paths to follow.  Note that there is a Jewish tradition that one cannot hunt animals for sport. They are to be eaten.

Page 738

13:29 An examinations of infections – in detail. Isolation for seven days.  Marsha – I have heard that the reason for sitting shiva for seven days is to isolate the family to see if there are contagions from the person who has died. Rabbi – the question is not the disease itself. It is the issue of transmitting  impurity to the temple. Cohanim are not supposed to attend funerals because of the risk of coming into contact with a dead body. But who is coming to examine the scall? It is the priest. There seems to be a contradiction here. PC: This has no relevance today. RB: Agreed – particularly since we no longer have the holy temple and priests. One way to consider all of this in the modern age is to think about who are outside our walls because they are ill or old or disabled and what we can do to bring them in.

13:38 The isolation of lepers and others who are impure.  PC Why aren’t they brought to the Temple to be cure?. It seems we are isolating those in most need of care. LL This is a public health issue. RB But also the concern of impurity entering the Temple. In the Talmud it is suggested that crying out “unclean” is a way of letting others draw strength from your experience. It is also notice that one is sick and needs help.  This is the priestly author who is very interested in detail.

13:47 An eruptive infection – shown to the priest – isolation for seven days and examination of the clothing – which must now be burned. Or if not too bad the clothing can be washed. The eruptive affections of wool. If faded only that part need be removed. This may have also been an attempt to ease the restriction on those who were poor and perhaps only had one garment.  PC One of the beauties of Christianity is compassion for the week and the sick. RB Many of the stories of Jesus have to do with breaking down the priestly barriers. He is a revolutionary. But for the “son of god” issue he would be considered a great rabbi in Judaism. RB There is compassion and justice in both religions.  SF It is useful to have structure and process in order to deal with these frightening mysterious issues. RB This is an effort to understand illness and find a spiritual solution. Note that the descriptions are primarily of afflictions of the head, scalp and beard. This may be because of cultural modesty. See footnote 48 on page 740 as to the “warp and woof.” LL I wonder if this was a colloquial expression for deeply stained? See the note on page 742 re defilement by leprosy. See commentary on page 743 “Chapter 13 of Leviticus is full of uncertainty as to the meaning of words and phrases and as to the nature of the symptoms and the diseases discussed…. As portrayed in Leviticus the Israelite priest is not a physician. His role is entirely ritualistic…In this regard Judaism differed from some ancient and modern religions…The Bible says almost nothing about medical practices.

The Haftarah portion for Tazri’a 12-1 to 13-59 is II Kings 4:42 – 5:19 This is the tale of Naaaman, a Syrian general, who is healed from a skin disease by the waters of the Jordan through the mediation of the prophet Elisha. In consequence he acknowledges God as the sole ruler of the world.

The following notes were on a hand-out from Rabbi Berkowitz:

Tazria Torah Study April 9 2016 VTLRB

Split hoofs: provides finger-like dexterity and traction in precarious habitats, some cultures associate it with the devil. Philo,The Special Laws IV 97ff (20 B.C.E. to 40 C.E., Alexandria,Hellenized Jew, philosopher who explained Jewish concepts through the lens of Greek philosophy):

  • IV: 17:101-102: “Now of land animals, the swine is confessed to be the nicest of all meats by those who eat it, and of all aquatic animals the most delicate are the fish which have no scales; and Moses is above all other men skillful in training and inuring persons of a good natural disposition to the practice of virtue by

frugality and abstinence, endeavoring to remove costly luxury from their characters, at the same time not approving of unnecessary rigor…nor undue effeminacy…but  keeping a middle path between the two courses, so that  he has relaxed what was over strict, and tightened what was too loose.”

  • V: 18:106-108: “And these signs are both of them symbols of instruction and of the most scientific learning, by which the better  is separated from the worse, so that all confusion between them is prevented; for as the animal which chews the cud, while it is masticating its food draws down its through, and then by slow degrees kneads and softens it, and then after this process again sends it down into the belly, in the same manner the man who is being instructed, having received the doctrines and speculations of wisdom in at his ears from his instructor, derives a considerable amount of learning from him, but still is not  able to hold it firmly and to embrace it all at once, until he has resolved over in his mind everything which he has heard by the continued exercise of his memory (and this exercise of memory is the cement which  connects ideas),and then he impresses the image of it all firmly on his soul. But as it seems the firm conception of such ideas is of no advantage to him unless he is able to discriminate between and to distinguish which of contrary things is right to choose and which to avoid of which the parting of the hoof is the symbol; since the course of life is twofold, the one road leading to wickedness and the other to virtue, and since we ought to renounce the one and never to forsake the other.”


“Now to the split hooves. Hooves separate the animal from the ground. In the spiritual sense we have to have a barrier-hooves­ between us and earthliness, we can’t get swallowed up by materialism. On the other hand, we’re not supposed to become hermits. We’re supposed to interact with the physical while keeping our distance. This balance is represented by the split hooves. The hooves, the separation is there, but there is also a split in the hooves- a window through which we can shine spirituality that will imbue  the physical world. To quote of the title of Tzvi Freeman’s latest book: “Be Within, Stay Above.”” -Rabbi Yossi Marcus,Ukutei Sichot 1:222,,498/Piease-expIain-the-significanee-of-split-hooves-and-cud-chewing.htm1

“Split hooves also has a spiritual message for us.

In the Torah, there are two categories of mitzvot (commandments). There are mitzvot between man and man,and those between man and G-d. People often gravitate to one type over the other. Some may be very observant with the mitzvot between man and

G-d. They keep a strictly kosher home,observe Shabbat, etc. But when it comes to the mitzvot between man and man,they  are not as careful. on the other hand, many Jews pride themselves on their moral standards. They honor their parents,give charity,visit the sick, but they are not as enthusiastic when it comes to the mitzvot between man and G-d. A Jew must split his hooves n he must be equally committed to G-d and to his fellow man. These two are not a contradiction; they actually complement each other.” -Rabbi zushe Greenberg,­

Leviticus 13:29-59:


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