Welcome to Adas Israel the Jewish Congregation of Mason City, Iowa. This is Shabbat Metzora (Lev. 14 - 15) and this weeks Torah Portion contains some interesting notes on personal hygiene. Metzora is often described as leprosy and the opening segment of this parsha (portion) has some detailed information as to the care and treatment of a leper and...the house.
Also this week we read the laws of family purity and one of the most misunderstood sections of the Torah. Each month a husband and wife cease having physical contact during the menstrual cycle. We are told that when a woman menstruates she is "tameh" a Hebrew word that has been, incorrectly, translated as "unclean". That translation error has often marked Judaism as a backward religion that places women in a second class status. It's not true.
"Tameh" has to do with coming into contact with the dead. In the case of a menstruating woman it is the death of the ovum. Similar to that is when a man has physical relations he too is tameh due to the death of millions of sperm. If you read beyond the "Ewwww!" you can understand the Biblical sensitivity to the natural life cycle.
The Mikvah -
In Traditional Judaism the Mikvah is a central aspect to the community. So central that when a Jewish community is established the first thing to be built is a Mikvah. The Mikvah is a pool of natural water where, in the case of family purity, a woman goes a week following the cessation of the menstrual flow. Each month a woman enters to water of the Mikvah for this "spiritual rebirth". Anyone entering the Mikvah must be physically clean and not even jewelry can be a barrier between the water and the person.
What Is The Lesson?
In simple terms we can appreciate the saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder.". How many of us have returned from an extended business trip to a home that is fresh and full of mutual desire and warmth. In a spiritual sense we come to understand the special and delicate nature of the life cycle and are reminded that G-d takes everyday, natural events to point us into the realization of wonderment. The respect of life...all life...is the ultimate lesson here.
Have a wonderful Shabbat!
In Torah....Adas Israel