The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period.” — Leviticus 12: 1–2
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Tazria-Metzora, from Leviticus 12:1—15:33. Tazria means “conceived,” and Metzora means “diseased.” The Haftorah is from 2 Kings 7:3–20.
A man once came to a rabbi and very excitedly explained that he had experienced God and now believed in Him. “One day I was driving down a mountainous road when my bike hit a rock and I flew over a cliff down to my death. As I was falling, I experienced two hands catching me and guiding me gently down to the ground. I came out of the accident without a bruise and so I know that God saved me.” The rabbi was unimpressed. He said to the man, “I’m glad that you know who saved you, but did you ever consider who pushed you off?”
This week’s Torah portion is a double reading. The first section is called Tazria which means “to conceive” as in: “A woman who becomes pregnant . . .” The second selection is called Metzora which means “diseased,” as in: “These are the regulations for any diseased person . . .” (Leviticus 14:2).
The Jewish sages teach that these portions, which are read on the same Sabbath on most years, have a deep connection. But what could possibly be the connection between giving birth and being diseased? Disease, without healing, leads to death. What can it possibly have in common with the beginnings of life?
Every day, in our daily prayers, a Jewish person blesses God as “the King who brings death and gives life and causes salvation to sprout.” Why do we praise God as He who brings death? Because it is often through death that new life can form and salvation can come.
Just think of nature. Leaves on a tree have to die so that new ones can sprout. A seed has to break down in order for a plant to grow. And so it goes with us as well. Sometimes we need to break down or experience a partial death in order to be reborn.
This is what the rabbi was trying to teach the man who fell off his motorcycle. God isn’t just the One who brings about our salvation; He is also the One who places us in difficult situations. If we only see God’s hands in our good fortune, we will be lost and alone when life doesn’t go as well. The hand that pushes us is the same as the one that catches us. God breaks us down and raises us up in order that we can grow.
The next time you are brought to your knees or feeling challenged in life, remember that it is all part of the process of salvation. Every time part of our old selves “dies,” a new part of us can be reborn!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President