It is easy to concentrate on “tzara'ath” as the major component of our reading this week but the title תַזְרִ֔יעַ (Tazria) is the word for conception and giving birth. We read, as the Sedra opens
אִשָּׁה֙ כִּ֣י תַזְרִ֔יעַ וְיָֽלְדָ֖ה
If a woman conceives and gives birth
A major part of the Sedra is a detailed investigation of this mysterious affliction,“tzara'ath”, and how it is diagnosed. It can affect a person, their clothes and even the walls of a house. It was the Septuagint, the early Greek translation of from the Hebrew, that translated “tzaraat”, the condition whose identification and cleansing occupies much of Tazria as”lepra”, giving rise to a long tradition identifying it with leprosy.
Most commentators identify “tzara'ath” as a punishment for “Lashon Hara” or malicious speech designed to hurt. In present times we might include “fake news” and propaganda. Whatever it might be it is something which is undertaken deliberately and not something that comes as part of the natural world. It would explain why our houses, where we congregate, can also be a source of this evil.
This Shabbat, falling on the 1st of Nissan, is called "Hachodesh" It is one of the special Shabbatot we celebrate as we approach Pesach. The month of Nisan, (called Aviv or spring), is the time of year when we start to see blossom on the trees.
There is a special mitzvah, recorded in the Talmud, which can be fulfilled only once a year. It is to recite the berachah ("blessing" or prayer) made upon seeing a fruit tree in bloom:
Transliterated, the blessing is
Baruch Ata Adonay Elo-heinu Melech Ha-Olam she-lo chisar b'olamo davar, u-vara vo beriyos tovos v'ilanos tovim, l'hanos bahem b'nei adam.
Blessed are You, Lord, Our God, King of the Universe, for nothing is lacking in His universe, and He created in it good creatures and good trees, to cause mankind pleasure with them.
It is a good thing to take time to look upwards rather than downwards. always examining our afflictions. There are blessings in our lives and we need to recognise them.