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Tazria – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

This week we read about purification, the timing of Brit Milah, and the reminder of the rituals of Pesach. We are introduced to Tzaraat, described as leprosy. But this is a misnomer; it is not the disease. It is an incorrect translation from the Greek Septuagint translation of the bible. Tsaraat is regarded as signifying a punishment for Loschen Hara; to speak evil of someone. It could be physical or spiritual.

The opening paragraph of the Parsha, however, which involves the purification of a mother after birth, is a matter which causes controversy. Why should the birth of a female be associated with additional need for purification, double that for a male?  It can be seen as a downgrading of the status of women.

There is an interesting midrash from R. Samuel ben Nachman, a commentator from the 1st century.  He held that the first human, Adam, was hermaphrodite and made with two sides. Eve was created not from a rib but by a separation of the two sides.

Perhaps in modern times we should rethink the adversarial idea of embedded male misogyny and the current reaction to oppose this. In the same way that a coin is only valid if stamped on both sides we all have equal value.

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