Commentary for Tazria

15 Apr

This week’s parshah deals mainly with the steps to be taken to purify someone of various types of ritual impurities. In fact, the parshah is so focused on this subject that only one single verse in the entire parshah deals with a different subject. Right after the parshah begins to discuss the steps that a woman must take purify herself after childbirth, we hit Leviticus 12:3, which is almost seems like an offhand reminder to circumcise a male child on the eighth day after birth. A bris is obviously a very important thing and not the sort of thing people generally forget about, but a birth is a major event as well, and one that creates many, many deviations from what had previously been the standard routine for the family. God understands that we humans do occasionally forget things, and so we are provided with a quick reminder to not forget about the bris here in this section of laws which someone looking up laws pertaining to what actions to take after childbirth would be likely to consult.

Interestingly, the only person in the Torah to forget to circumcise a child is Moses, who forgets to circumcise his younger son Eliezer because he is busy with his preparations to return to Egypt. This week’s maftir is a special maftir that is always read on the Shabbat immediately proceeding or coinciding with the beginning of the month of Nissan, in which Passover- the result of Moses’ return to Egypt- falls. It is read on this occasion because it contains God’s instructions to the Israelites on how to prepare themselves for the impending exodus from Egypt and for the upcoming holiday of Passover that will be celebrated to commemorate it, and its rereading at this point serves to remind us that Passover is almost here. It might seem farfetched that someone could forget about something like Passover or a bris, but if Moses can do it then the rest of us can, too.

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