Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33
Connecting Near-East & Far East
This week’s Torah portion is, admittedly, a challenge to our modern sensibilities. This portion talks about tzara’at, a skin affliction most translators define as leprosy; although no one knows what it was exactly. Given that skin disease is generally not a favorite topic of conversation, I’ve been known to try and bypass it by seeking to extract from the text the more mystical teachings, and avoid dealing with scaly skin afflictions, and other colorful details. But this time, for a change, I found at the literal level of the narrative, a fascinating passage that brings to light a broader understanding of the context and the aim of the biblical text.
In the ancient sacrificial system of the Temple, the disease afflicted person would come to the High Priest for healing. The High Priest, not unlike the Shaman, was also a healer. This portion describes what the affected person is to do. He is to bring animals for sacrifice, and come to stand in front of the High Priest. A rather curious ritual is then described, whereby the High Priest dips the fingers of his right hand into the blood of the sacrifice, and puts it on the ridge of the right ear of the leper, on the right thumb and on the right big toe. Then the High Priest repeats the three part ritual, but this time, with oil. This peculiar encounter is described twice back to back in this Torah portion. Our sages tell us, anytime something is repeated in Torah, you have to pay careful attention. So what was this ritual about? [Read more...]