On Tazria-Metzora and Covid: Saving Lives, Saving Worlds, and Saving the World by Ivy Helman

It is often said that every year when you read the same Torah passages, you are in a different place, spiritually and otherwise.  Therefore, one will always be learning new meanings and discovering new insights from them.  No more is that true than in this week’s Torah parshah Tazria-Metzora.  

Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1- 15:33) is a double parshah containing a list of rules concerning ritual purity and impurity, mostly having to do with leprosy.  The parshah begins with the requirement for women a certain number of days after childbirth to immerse in a mikvah as well as offer animals for sacrifice at the temple.  Then, it commands the circumcision of a boy child at 8 days of age.  The next three chapters discuss an extensive list of what has to be all possible encounters with leprosy, including the infection of a home itself. The parshah prescribes various interactions between lepers, homes with leprosy, and the kohenim.  Mostly, the kohenim decide if the skin lesions people or houses have are leprosy, another skin disease or harmless.  If diseased or if the lesions are inconclusive, the people and houses enter quarantine. The kohenim also consult on whether a leper or house is healed and how to go about atonement.  For atonement, former lepers immerse in the mikvah and pay for the kohenim to offer specific sacrifices at the temple. Homes also undergo a type of ritual purification by the kohenim when they have been healed of leprosy. This double parshah ends with immersion requirements for emissions of semen and menstrual blood. 

Historically, there are two considerations, which I have discussed in other posts, to address first. To begin with, there is the ancient world’s understanding of disease as punishment for sin.  This sin can either be the sin of the diseased person or punishment from generations past.  For more about how this cycle of sin, punishment, repentance and atonement work as well as my thoughts on it, see here.    

Continue reading “On Tazria-Metzora and Covid: Saving Lives, Saving Worlds, and Saving the World by Ivy Helman”

Covid in Greece by Carol P. Christ

Greece is on nationwide lockdown due to a surge in Covid cases in the fall. What does this mean? For three weeks until December 1, we can leave home only for essential reasons which include: going to a nearby supermarket; visiting the doctor or pharmacy; going to banks or public utility offices; helping someone in need; traveling to work if working from home is not possible; attending a funeral; traveling to see children when parents are separated; leaving home for physical exercise or to care for pets or strays. Masks must be worn at all times outside the house; SMS must be sent to a national number listing the reason for leaving home or a paper must be carried with the same information; a special document is required for work listing hours; the fine for violation is 300 euros and police are enforcing this, particularly in the cities. Restaurants and bars are closed; only a few categories of shops are open. A curfew from 12 am to 5 am was extended to begin at 9 pm; this is because young people have been congregating outside in groups. Travel in Greece is restricted; visits to second homes are not allowed. Primary schools are open, but secondary schools are using internet. Similar restrictions were in place in March and April in Greece and the country had one of the lowest virus rates in the world until recently. The hope is that the lockdown will stem the spread of the virus and that the restrictions will be lifted before the holidays.

This situation contrasts with the United States where the President has refused to acknowledge the extent of the health crisis or to take measures to restrict the spread of the Covid virus. Continue reading “Covid in Greece by Carol P. Christ”

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