Parashat Metzora

Recipe For Purity

An internal process of repentance must accompany the external, physical cleansing for leprosy.

Print this page Print this page

These ingredients also point to the way to "come clean." Once this person resolves to stop telling tales, the sores that spread the tale of the sinner's disease will truly disappear. Only by eliminating his own haughtiness can the individual stand as tall as a cedar. Only by remaining as grounded as a worm or a plant can the individual become fit to re-enter the camp.

In the bigger picture of what this seemingly bizarre ritual means: It takes more than shaving one's hair and bathing several times for a former leper to re-enter the camp and, consequently, Israelite society. The external cleansing must be accompanied by an internal cleansing; the physical healing can only occur in tandem with a spiritual accounting. As the purification ritual requires the priest to release one of the live birds back to freedom in the great outdoors, the leper can simultaneously move from the very same outdoors back into the camp, where elaborate codes of purity and behavior rule the roost.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Hannah Pressman is a doctoral student in modern Hebrew literature at New York University, where she has earned an advanced certificate in Poetics and Theory. An alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship program, she is currently a MacCracken Fellow at NYU. She has presented her research at National Association of Professors of Hebrew conferences, and her reviews of contemporary Israeli literature have appeared in Lilith Magazine.