This is a basic overview of the parsha story in a format that can be adapted for a wide range of ages. Sources include parsha text, commentaries and midrash. When introducing midrash or other non-pshat elements, I use the words “some people think” or similar.
He was a little wooden marionette whose nose magically began to grow every time he lied.
Those changes weren’t permanent – when he finally told the truth, his nose shrank again.
Can you imagine what it would be like if everybody knew you’d been lying?
And what if there was a kind of bad speech that was even worse than lying?
This week’s parsha tells us about something like this – only it affected all of bnei Yisrael!
This week’s parsha, Tazria, talks mostly about what to do for a person with Tzara’as (צָרַעַת).
What is Tzara’as? It was kind of like a disease, only not really. How?
· It WAS like a disease because it affected a person’s body – it made their skin white and blotchy.
· But it was NOT like a disease because it was not caused by germs or injury or anything else in the person’s body.
It was a disease caused by the person’s middos – how they acted.
What kind of behaviour could cause Tzara’as?
Being stingy, not sharing; maybe even murder; but most importantly – how you spoke!
Just like Pinocchio, if you spoke badly about another person, you could wake up covered in white blotches!
How embarrassing! Everybody would know you’d been speaking badly.
The kind of speaking that caused Tzara’as wasn’t lying, like with Pinocchio: it was called lashon hora.
Let’s imagine your friend Shmuli tells you: “I saw Clarence steal a chocolate bar last week!”
It’s true; Clarence really did steal a chocolate bar. But it’s still lashon hora for Shmuli to tell you.
· It’s true. Unlike with Pinocchio, lashon hora is always true. We can’t say it anyway.
· It’s new. You didn’t know this before. Clarence didn’t tell you himself – probably because he was ashamed.
· Can’t undo. Maybe you really admired Clarence before. Now, you may always think of Clarence as a thief.
We are not allowed to say lashon hora. We are also not allowed to listen or believe it. That can be very hard.
If something appeared on your skin, you’d have to take it to show a kohein.
There were three things that could happen:
· If it was definitely Tzara’as, you would have to go out of the camp of bnei Yisrael until it healed.
· If it was NOT Tzara’as, you could go about your regular things – or see a doctor about your skin blotch!
· If the kohein was not sure, you’d have to stay by yourself for seven days and then go see him again.
Waiting seven days was like a warning – you could figure out your bad habits, and start to fix them.
Even outside the camp, a person with Tzara’as could do teshuvah and their Tzara’as would heal quickly.
Do we have Tzara’as in our times?
In English, in some versions of the Chumash, Tzara’as is sometimes translated as “leprosy.” This is a mistake!
There is a disease called “leprosy” in English, which can cause blotchy skin, but it’s caused by tiny germs – bacteria.
Because it’s caused by germs, even good people can get it, but it can be healed with medicine.
In our time, without the Mishkan and kohanim working in it, there is no real Tzara’as anymore.
Our lives are very different from bnei Yisrael in the midbar or in ancient times in eretz Yisrael.
· We were not slaves in Mitzrayim, so we didn’t see the amazing things Hashem did to bring us out.
· We have no Mishkan or korbanos, so we use tefillah (davening) instead to be close with Hashem
· We have no Tzara’as, so it’s easy to think Hashem doesn’t notice how we choose our words.
Tzara’as was a warning that a person needed to change their behaviour. It didn’t just come on skin: it could come on clothes or houses as well. As we will see in next week’s parsha, each type of Tzara’as was a different kind of warning…!