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Torah: Tazria

Torah: “As for the person with a leprous affection, his clothes shall be rent, his head shall be left bare, and he shall cover over his upper lip; and he shall call out, ‘Impure, Impure’” (Leviticus 13:45). Our Torah reading this week and next, describe a medical malady. The word tzara’at is often translated as leprosy, but is not what medicine today calls Hansen’s disease. Instead, this is some form of scaly skin ailment that might have been contagious and that the rabbis will later describe as a punishment for misuse of the tongue, as in the story of Miriam speaking ill of her brother Moses. The Talmud (BT MK 5a) will say that the duty of the infected person to warn is both to prevent contagion and to elicit compassion and prayers. I write these words from home due to harboring a bad virus and do not want to pass it on. I anticipate (and hope) that I will be much improved on Sunday night. Nonetheless, if I do not shake your hand, please know that it is out of caution. In the meantime, as Pope Francis would say, “pray for me.”