Metzora: The Leper Recovered

Tazria-Metzora Dvar

Torah Portion Metzora: The Leper Recovered

by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

This is the man

Who may have been a leper.

These are the living birds, all pure,

Brought by the man

Who may have been a leper.

This is the wood

From a cedar green,

Two living birds

With feathered sheen

Brought by the man

Who may have been a leper.

This is band of scarlet wool

Wrapt round the wood

As the living birds

Sing to the man

Who may have been a leper.

Here is the hyssop for sprinkling

The living blood of the slaughtered bird,

Drips a saucer of blood for surviving bird,

With the scarlet wool

And the cedar wood

For the man

Perhaps a leper.

Here is the Kohen

With the hyssop-plant

Who flecks the blood

Of the now-dead bird,

Winding round the red

And bloody wool

And stirring it up

With the cedar-wood,

For the man

No longer a leper.

Here is the man

Who releases the bird

Dripping blood from the air,

Symbolizing new life

And departing the old

(The dead bird lies),

Life precious as wool,

Life strong as the cedar,

As he cuts off his beard

Shaves his eyebrows off

As bald as a newly-hatched human egg

Bathes in living water

Puts on clean clothes

And continues life:

A man no longer a leper.

But soft! He takes lambs

One female, two male

And a lug of oil.

One the Kohen takes

And waves a lamb

As a wave-offering.

One the Kohen kills,

Daubs the man with its blood

On his erring right ear,

His right big toe,

His right-hand thumb,

To banish the blemish

And begin a new life

For the man who was once

A leper.

And when you hear of this ceremony,

Cause it to be written

In the Holy Scroll

Of the Judeans.

Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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