Why would God want newborns and their mothers to be purified shortly after birth? Why is God so concerned about leprosy amid instructions for living life differently from the rest of the world? If we stick with appearances, our understanding the heart of God will be only skin deep. That’s what’s between the lines of this week’s Torah reading, תזריע Tazria (“she will conceive”), covering Leviticus 12–13.
The lesson about childbirth goes back to the beginning of the world and stretches to our time. The teaching on leprosy is more about what’s going on inside a person.
Traditional haftarot (complementary readings) for this portion are 2Ki. 4:42-5:19 (see below) and Ezek. 36:16-38.
The laws in Leviticus 12 about the “purification” of mother and newborns after delivery are perplexing. How could giving birth make the mother and babies so “unclean” before God they would need a sin offering for restoration and be separated from God’s House for so long? In the Torah, the physical requirements are a window into what God is doing to restore the world to the way it was at Creation. And these purification laws are a window into a prophecy God gave “the mother of all the living” and “the father of lies.”
This text could be called the “leprosy” text, except that it’s about more than examining one’s skin. There are spiritual applications, too. An example is the need to examine our hearts to see if we have surface sin or deep ingrained sin that we need our High Priest Yeshua to diagnose and atone. Sometimes we need to isolate ourselves and contemplate the issue deeply for seven to 14 days to wrestle with the issue. God calls us “priests and kings.” But there is only one true High Priest, Yeshua, and He is the one who declares us “clean” or “unclean.”
In Leviticus 10, Aharon (Aaron) and his sons were ordained as priests. In Leviticus 11-12, they are charged with teaching the people of God to distinguish holy from unholy, “clean” from “unclean.” Once we have been taught by our High Priest, Yeshua the Mashiakh (Jesus the Christ), about what is holy and clean, we need to live in that truth. From this we learn how holiness can be just skin-deep if the heart doesn’t change.
Haftarah: 2Kings 4:42-5:19
The following are discussions led by teacher Daniel on passages in this haftarah.
We have two parallel foreshadowings — prophecies — of Messiah Yeshua in the accounts of Elisha in 2nd Kings 4 and Eliyahu (Elijah) in 1st Kings 17. In this shadow of things to come, the lesson is that people from the nations, aka “gentiles” or “goyim,” can have a lot of power of the Spirit of God but lack “understanding” about God, while people of Israel can have “understanding” about God but lack the power of the Spirit. Both can be “saved” — fully enter the Kingdom of God — if they are willing to seek what they are lacking. Elisha is a representation of the Messiah, Who is the ultimate high priest. Both Elisha and Messiah gave a profound gift directly to the people. It’s strictly symbolic, but it’s beautiful. The story of Elisha happened about 700 years before “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” These accounts in 1st and 2nd Kings were recorded so Israel could recognize the Messiah when He came about seven centuries later.
In 2nd Kings 5, we should see a connection between Yeshua (Jesus) and Elisha the prophet. Aramite captain Naaman, a pagan, was not the only one being examined in his healing from leprosy. The king of Israel and Elisha’s servant Gehazi were also being examined or tested. In an account of Yeshua’s healing 10 lepers, only a Samaritan, a “foreigner,” returned to give God praise. Both Naaman and the Samaritan paid spiritually by having to acknowledge that salvation comes from Israel, not from their false views of God.
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