Tazriah: A Penalty for Unclean Men

Tazria-Metzora Dvar

Parshat Tazriah: A Penalty for Unclean Men

by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

“The LORD spoke to Moses…’Speak to the Israelite people thus: When a woman bears a child, she shall be tamei/unclean for seven days; she shall be as unclean as at her Time of the Month.” –Lev. 12:1-2

            Rather, had the Lord spoke unto Moses saying, “When a man is a ba’alkeri (that is, one who has had a nocturnal emission), he may not enter the Bet Midrash/House of Study, nor is he permitted to speak words of Torah with other men. Since Torah Study is his primary occupation, being unable to study it with his study-comrades is a fitting punishment (Talmud Berachote 21b-22a).

            And if his Torah-comrades approach him while discussing words of Torah, he must depart from their presence forthwith, and not join them for holy discourse, for he is tamei/unclean. Nor may he utter certain blessings, such as Baruch atah…v’tseevanula’asokeb’divrei Torah—“Blessed are You, Who has commanded us to deal in words of Torah,” since he is unclean, and therefore unfit and prohibited to study Torah.

           Rather, let him betake himself to the Mikveh, the Ritual Bath, as soon as practicable. Besides that, let him examine his ways, and do teshuvah/repentance, and resolve to remain tahor/ritually clean. As women must remain pure, so must the men. At the end of the man’s period of confinement, let him offer a sheep or two turtledoves as a sign of his sincere repentance; let him present them to the Kohen/Priest. And let this be published as an eternal statute for the People of Israel.

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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