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Parashah 28 Metzora

Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33

By Dr. K. Blad  ©

Second edition 2013-14

Lucrative copying not permitted 

Torah Readings:

  1. 14:1-12
  2. 14:13-20
  3. 14:21-32
  4. 14:33-53
  5. 14:54 – 15:15
  6. 15:16-28
  7. 15:29-33
  8. Maftir: 15:31-33

Haftarah: 2 Kings 7:3-20


means “the one who has tzaraat”


HaShem has made his dwelling with the children of Israel. His sanctified presence demands that the children of Israel live consecrated lives. The earthly sanctuary can become impure through the ritual uncleanness of the children of Israel. In order to avoid this, they need to know all the rules that show them what produces uncleanness and how they can be free from it. This is why, in Leviticus chapters 11-15, the Torah unfolds a thorough teaching about ritual uncleanness. By fulfilling these rules the people can camp where the presence of the Eternal dwells. Chapter 11 speaks about the prohibition of eating unclean animals. The type of uncleanness that is produced by this cannot be removed by cleansing rituals and is therefore, more serious than the others. When someone touches the corpse of an unclean animal, ritual uncleanness is produced in the person. This type of uncleanness, however, can be removed through cleansing rituals. Chapter 12 speaks about the uncleanness that is produced in a woman who gives birth. Chapter 13 speaks about the uncleanness produced by the affliction tzaraat, which is translated “leprosy”. Chapter 14 speaks about how to be cleansed from tzaraat and how to treat a house that has the same affliction. In chapter 15, we find the teaching about the ritual uncleanness produced by the fluids that come from the reproductive organs of men and women.

All these instruction were given in order to avoid that the tabernacle became unclean and the people harmed by the presence of HaShem. This applied during the desert wanderings as well as when the people entered the Promised Land. The rules about ritual uncleanness have to do with consecration in relation to the physical presence of HaShem within the people of Israel, in the tabernacle and in the temple. Some of these rules are possible to follow although there is no temple, such as the rules about kashrut and nidah. As long as there is no temple, we cannot keep laws that have to do with sacrifices, but it is perfectly achievable to keep the laws about not eating unclean animals and purifying our bodies in a mikveh. The Jewish people continue to keep the instructions about ritual purity that apply even though there is no temple, because they are still a consecrated people. The instructions about tzaraat only apply to the land of Israel when there is a temple. They will therefore not apply until the third temple is built.

In the previous Parashah we saw how the Talmud mentions that the Messiah is called “the leper scholar”. The laws about tzaraat are therefore intimately connected to him, and especially to his death and resurrection. We will be able to see that further on in this study.

The First Aliyah, 14:1-12

14:2This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest”(HNV revised) – As far as I know, there is not a single case of a person with tzaraat in the history of Israel before Yeshua’s time, that could keep this commandment of showing himself to the priest and presenting the offering required after having been healed. The only exception is Miryam, Moshe’s sister. She was struck with this affliction and most likely kept this commandment when she was cleansed, see Numbers 12. The Syrian servant, Na’aman, was cleansed from tzaraat when he dipped in the Yarden at the command of the prophet Elisha, but since he was not an Israelite, this command about going to the priest to sacrifice did not apply. Why then, has the Torah given these instructions if they were not needed throughout the long history of Israel? As an answer to that question, the thought has been presented that it meant that when the Messiah would come, he would, among other things, cleanse those who have tzaraat. This is one of the signs that identify the true Messiah. That is why it is written in Luke 7:18-23,

The talmidim of Yochanan told him about all these things. Yochanan, calling to himself two of his talmidim, sent them to Yeshua, saying, ‘Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for another?’ When the men had come to him, they said, ‘Yochanan the immerser has sent us to you, saying, “Are you he who comes, or should we look for another?”’ In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits; and to many who were blind he gave sight. Yeshua answered them, ‘Go and tell Yochanan the things which you have seen and heard: that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Blessed is he who is not offended by me.’”(HNV)

The expression, “one who is coming” or “the one who comes”, is a Messianic expression. The Messiah is “the one who comes”, in Hebrew ha-bah. The answer that Yeshua gave to Yochanan’s disciples teaches us that the that “lepers” being cleansed is one of the signs that the people were waiting for in order to identify the true Messiah, see Isaiah 29:18; 35:5-6.

In Matthew 8:3-4, it is written,

Yeshua stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, ‘I want to. Be made clean.’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Yeshua said to him, ‘See that you tell nobody, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moshe commanded, as a testimony to them.’”(HNV revised)

What was the testimony that the priests needed? The testimony that the Messiah had come. Because of this miracle, all the priests in the temple knew that the Messiah was already present. This was probably one of the reasons why so many of the priests later came to faith in Yeshua, as it is written in Acts 6:7,

The word of God increased and the number of the talmidim multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly. A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”(HNV revised)

14:3and the priest shall go forth out of the camp. The priest shall examine him, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy is healed in the leper”(HNV revised) – Here we see the word “healed” written in connection with the affliction tzaraat. As we said earlier, the Scriptures speak more of being cleansed from this affliction than of being healed from it, but this text teaches us that evidently there is a healing needed  as well in order for a person to be completely cleansed from this affliction.

14:4then the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two living clean birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop.”(HNV revised) – The rabbis admit that they do not know the depth behind the reasoning as to why these things were used to cleanse a metzora. Rashi and Midrash literature[1] associate the birds with the words of lashon ha-rah that a metzora has uttered resulting in tzaraat coming over him. They also make a comparison between a cedar and pride and between hyssop and humility. Since pride or arrogance is one of the reasons for being afflicted with tzaraat, then the cleansing must come through things that speak of pride and humility. There is however, no Scriptural foundation for these suppositions.

On the other hand, the Spirit teaches us that the two birds represent man. One of the birds comes to die, and the other to be released. This can symbolize two things. The first thing that they symbolize is the person who has tzaraat and was as good as dead, without fellowship with anyone, and expelled from the camp of Israel. The bird that must die represents the death of the leper. The living bird that is released, symbolizes the leper who now is released from the terminal plague that bound him.

On the other hand, and foremost of all, the two birds symbolize the Messiah; especially his death and resurrection. The death of the one bird speaks prophetically about the death of the Messiah, and the release of the second bird speaks prophetically about the resurrection of the Messiah. The whole process of cleansing from tzaraat is connected to the Messiah. That is why we can also find, in this context, a piece of wood, which speaks of the death of the Messiah that had to be on a tree. Since the wood used here is cedar, it is possible that the horizontal beam of wood that Yeshua was nailed on was cedar.

Numbers 19 also mentions cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet as ingredients for cleansing, together with the ashes of a red heifer, as it is written in verse 6,

“and the priest shall take cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.”(HNV revised)

The cedar is one of the largest kinds of trees. Cedar was the most appreciated and expensive types of wood at that time, see 2 Samuel 7:2, 7; 1 Kings 6:9, 18.

The scarlet wool yarn symbolizes the blood and the priestly ministry. The wool yarn came from sheep. It was dyed red. It also speaks of the death of the Messiah. The Messiah is symbolized by the “scarlet thread” that runs throughout all of Scripture, see Joshua 2:18, 21.

The cedar is one of the tallest trees and hyssop is one of the smallest plants. That is why King Shelomo uses these two plants as examples of extremes, as it is written in 1 Kings 4:33a,

He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Levanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall”(HNV)

One part of the hyssop is used to soak up liquid. With hyssop they could paint the doorposts and the doors of the houses in Egypt, and they could sprinkle water and blood on the people in the desert, see Exodus 12:22; Hebrews 9:19. The first time that hyssop is mentioned, it is in connection to the redemption from Egypt through the blood of a lamb. It is also used in the cleansing ceremony of the sprinkling of purifying water produced by the red heifer, as it is written in Numbers 19:18,

and a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent, and on all the vessels, and on the persons who were there, and on him who touched the bone, or the slain, or the dead, or the grave”(HNV)

In Psalm 51:7, it is written,

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”(HNV)

Without a doubt, it was the cleansing from tzaraat that David had in mind as he wrote the payer in this Psalm. After sinning with Uriah’s wife, he prays to be cleansed with hyssop in order to be rid of the “leprosy” of sin and death. When it mentions being whiter than snow, it means coming up cleaner than the one who is completely covered with tzaraat, so that he is all white, as it is written in Leviticus 13:13,

then the priest shall examine him; and, behold, if the leprosy has covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean of the plague. It has all turned white: he is clean.”(HNV revised)

In John 19:29, it is written,

Now a vessel full of vinegar was set there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop, and held it at his mouth.”(HNV)

It is very interesting to note that hyssop comes into the arena once again in connection with the death of Yeshua. This teaches us that the death of the Messiah has something to do with the cleansing ceremony for tzaraat.

14:5The priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water.”(HNV revised) – The earthen vessel represents the human body, which was taken from the earth, see 2 Corinthians 4:7. The running water can represent the Torah and the Spirit of the Most High. The water can also symbolize death, see 2 Samuel 14:14; John 19:34.

14:6 “As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water.”(HNV) – The living bird, that is put together with the cedar tree, symbolizes the Messiah, who was hung on a tree in order to thus cleanse man from the leprosy of sin. The living bird was dipped in the blood of the dead bird. That symbolizes the Messiah’s moment of death. The living bird is not left in the blood in the water, until it dies, but is taken up from it. That symbolizes the Messiah’s resurrection.

The two birds can also symbolize the two tendencies within man, the yetzer ha-rah and the yetzer ha-tov, the evil urge and the good urge. The first of these must be put to death, but the second may live. This is also a direct result of the redemptive work of the Messiah.

14:7 “He shall sprinkle on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird go into the open field.”(HNV) – The bird that is set free, symbolizes the freedom that the one who now is cleansed will experience. It also symbolizes the resurrection life that man will experience when he is finally free from sin and death.

14:10On the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and three tenths of an efah of fine flour for a meal offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.”(HNV) – The final cleansing was done on the eighth day. The eighth day is a picture of two things. One is the resurrection day of the Messiah, which is the foundation upon which man can be freed from the leprosy of sin. The eighth day also speaks of the eighth millennium after Adam, when all survivors, who were not part of the first resurrection, will finally be set free from sin.

All those who have survived the last war against Yerushalayim will be there during the thousand year reign, see Zechariah 14; Revelation 19. During the Messianic reign, there will be two kinds of people, the redeemed and the survivors. Those who earlier placed their faith in the Messiah Yeshua will be resurrected and transformed to receive their glorified bodies. These are the redeemed. They will be in the first resurrection.

However, not all are going to be transformed when the Messiah comes again. Those who were not killed by the brilliance of his return, will still have their mortal bodies and will live in peace during the Messianic reign. These are the survivors. As far as I understand, these mortal people will have the opportunity to enter the next era, in the eighth millennia after Adam. However, there will be different conditions for these than for those who were part of the first resurrection. They are also going to be delivered from the sin that they have retained during the Messianic thousand year reign, as it is written in 2 Peter 3:13,

But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which dwells righteousness.”(HNV revised)

Only righteousness will dwell in the new earth, which will come after the Messianic thousand year reign. Sin is therefore going to be completely done away with. During the eighth millennium after Adam, i.e. the era that is after the Messianic reign, there will not be any sin, and man’s “sin-leprosy” is finally going to be destroyed. This is also the result of the Messiah Yeshua’s death and resurrection.

The Second Aliyah, 14:13-20

14:14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot.”(HNV revised) – It is possible that this verse says that the one who is being cleansed needed blood to be applied to the three places that represent the sin that brought tzaraat. If he allowed his ears to listen to lashon ha-rah, allowed his hand to take part of a game that it should not have, or if he let his foot go where it should not, then he would be struck with tzaraat. Therefore he had to be cleansed in these three places of his body.

This ritual is in many ways similar to the priestly dedication ceremony, as it is written in Exodus 29:20,

Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood, and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aharon, and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, and on the thumb of their right hand, and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood on the altar round about.”(HNV)

How are we to understand this properly? Both the priests and the one who is cleansed from tzaraat had to go through similar ceremonies. On the one hand, we could understand this as meaning that the one who is cleansed could draw near the tabernacle. Thus it is like the priestly ministry, which is what gives a person the right to draw near to HaShem.

On the other hand, there is something deeper in this text. Since the Messiah is connected with a “leper”, in Talmud called “the leper scholar”, this whole cleansing process of a metzora speaks of what the Messiah had to go through in order to enter glory. Since he did not have any sin, he was able to bear all the sins of the world. This way the sin-leprosy of man was on him, as it is written in Isaiah 53:4-6,

Surely he has borne our sickness, and carried our suffering; yet we considered him plagued, struck by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought our shalom was on him; and by his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; everyone has turned to his own way; and HaShem has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”(HNV revised)

After the resurrection, Yeshua was cleansed from the uncleanness that he had because of the sin-leprosy, as it is written in Zechariah 3:2b-5,

‘Isn’t this a burning stick plucked out of the fire?’ Now Yehoshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the angel. He answered and spoke to those who stood before him, saying, ‘Take the filthy garments off of him.’ To him he said, ‘Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with rich clothing.’ I said, ‘Let them set a clean turban on his head.’ So they set a clean turban on his head, and clothed him; and the angel of HaShem was standing by.”(HNV revised)

Through the cleansing process, Yeshua was brought into the heavenly priestly ministry according to the order of Malki-Tzedek. Therefore there is a likeness between the ceremony that cleanses from tzaraat and the ceremony of the priestly dedication, see Exodus 29:7, 20-21; Leviticus 14:14, 17-18.

The Third Aliyah, 14:21-32

14:21If he is poor, and can’t afford so much, then he shall take one male lamb for a trespass offering to be waved, to make atonement for him, and one tenth of an efah of fine flour mingled with oil for a meal offering, and a log of oil”(HNV) – If the person was poor, there was still no discount for the animal that would be offered as a guilt offering. The rich as well as the poor had to give a lamb for their guilt. That teaches us that the price for man’s freedom cannot be reduced. It is the same for both rich and poor alike. The price is the death of God’s Lamb. Through the death of the Lamb, both rich and poor can be set free from sin and cleansed so that they can enter the heavenly temple, be near HaShem, and minister in the priesthood of Malki-Tzedek.

The Fourth Aliyah, 14:33-53

14:34 When you have come into the land of Kana`an, which I give to you for a possession, and I put a spreading mildew in a house in the land of your possession”(HNV) – This law applies only to the houses in the land of Israel. The houses in the city of Jerusalem, however, can never be declared unclean. Besides that, this law only applies to houses that are built in a certain way. Only houses with walls made of stone, wood, or soil could be declared tameh, see 14:45.

14:45He shall break down the house, its stones, and its timber, and all the house’s mortar. He shall carry them out of the city into an unclean place.”(HNV) – The world is a house. HaShem has sent his angels to see if the house if free from contamination, but even though it has been scraped once, through the Flood, evil reappeared once again and is spreading. Therefore nothing can be done but to tear down the house. This world is going to be destroyed after the Messianic thousand year reign, as it is written in 2 Peter 3:10-13,

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore since all these things are thus to be destroyed, what manner of persons ought you to be in consecrated living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire will be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which dwells righteousness.”(HNV revised)

The Fifth Aliyah, 14:54 – 15:15

15:3a “if his body runs with his discharge, or his body has stopped from his discharge, it is his uncleanness.”(HNV) – The Hebrew word that is translated “discharge” is zav,[2] which means “emission”, “flow”, “stream”, “discharge”. This is not talking about seminal emission, but of another type of discharge. Since the word “discharge” is mentioned twice, it means that the uncleanness begins at the second flow. This type of ritual uncleanness is more serious than the uncleanness caused by seminal emission, and demands an offering in order to be removed, see verses 14-15.

15:4 “Every bed whereon he who has the discharge lies shall be unclean; and everything he sits on shall be unclean.”(HNV) – Rashi claims that the words “lies” and “sits on” are written in a way as to not include objects that are meant for anything other than sitting and lying. In other words, this text is only referring to beds and chairs.

15:5 “Whoever touches his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening.”(HNV) – A bed that has come in contact with a zav, one who suffers from such a discharge, becomes a primary source of uncleanness, in Hebrew av hatumah. Therefore it has the ability to transmit uncleanness to other people. One who has touched such a bed also transmits the uncleanness onto his clothing. Therefore he must let both his clothes and his whole body go through a mikveh in order to be tahor, ritually clean. The cleansing does not take effect until the sun goes down.

If one who is zav touches any other objects, they do not become primary sources for uncleanness, but only the result of uncleanness, in Hebrew velad hatumah, and can only transmit uncleanness to food.

Since the person could not be clean until evening, even though he dipped his body in a mikveh, it gives an indication of that the thing, which finally makes the cleansing effective, is the Messiah’s death, which happened in the afternoon.

15:9 Whatever saddle he who has the discharge rides on shall be unclean.”(HNV) – A saddle becomes unclean, but not to the same level as a bed or a chair that a zav has been laying or sitting upon. That means that anyone who comes into contact with a saddle that a zav has ridden on, does not need to dip his clothes in a mikveh, but only his body. According to Rashi, it only applies to the parts of the saddle that are not the seat itself. The seat itself has the same level of uncleanness as a chair.

15:13When he who has a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes; and he shall bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.”(HNV) – The Hebrew word that is translated “running” is chai,[3] which means “living”, “raw”, “fresh”. This teaches us that only living water, from a spring, has the ability to cleanse a body that is ritually unclean. Therefore, in order for a mikveh to be able to cleanse, it must have water that flows to it naturally, not from a man made source. In other words, a pool that man has filled with water using a tap or any kind of metal pipes (which could be ritually unclean), cannot serve as a cleansing bath. The water has to have streamed to it naturally.

The Sixth Aliyah, 15:16-28

15:16 “If any man has an emission of semen, then he shall bathe all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the evening.”(HNV) – Verses 2-15 deal with someone who is zav, a man who has become unclean because of a discharge from his male organ, without a seminal emission. From verse 16 and on, the Torah gives instructions for the one who has seminal emission. Seminal emission causes tameh, but it is on a lower level of uncleanness than zav. The Torah says that one who has a seminal emission must “bathe” his whole body in water in order to be clean at sunset. The Hebrew word that is translated “bathe” is rachatz,[4] which means “wash”, “bathe”, “cleanse”, “wash in water”, see 2 Kings 5:10, 14.

Using just any water will not cleanse, since water that has been touched by a tameh is unclean. We saw in Leviticus 11:36, that the only water that cannot become unclean is in a mikveh that consist of a natural spring and a well. The only water, therefore, that serves for cleansing from uncleanness, is the water that is in a mikveh with the proper characteristics. Many rivers and lakes are suitable for cleansing, see John 3:22-23.

This verse says that the whole body, literally “all his flesh”, must be bathed in water. Leviticus 11:32 teaches that objects that are submerged in the water of a mikveh are cleansed. From this we can deduce that the one who is to be cleansed must dip in the water. He must also be without any clothes and other objects that would hinder the water from direct contact with his flesh. In other words, he must be completely naked for the cleansing to have effect.

From this verse, we can draw the conclusion that the size of a mikveh must be big enough for a man to submerge his whole body in it. Talmud says[5]  that it must contain 40 seahs of water, which is approximately 700 liters.

15:18If a man lies with a woman and there is an emission of semen, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the evening.”(HNV) – The only place were semen does not cause uncleanness is inside the woman. Once it comes in contact with an external part of the body, it causes uncleanness. The woman, therefore, does not become unclean when she comes into internal contact with semen through intercourse. Earlier we saw that a man who has a seminal emission becomes unclean from it. But, why does a woman become unclean through intercourse with her husband? Rashi says that it is a command of the Almighty. In other words, there is no logical explanation for why a woman should become unclean when she has intercourse with her husband and there has been a seminal emission within her.

After three days, the sperm can no longer fertilize an egg, since it has died. Therefore it does not produce uncleanness on the fourth day.

It looks like the state of being tameh, ritually unclean, is produced when man has any type of contact with death. A dead human body is the main source of ritual uncleanness. Sexual intercourse has to do with death since millions of sperms die without producing human life. The same thought is there about the menstruation of woman. Since she did not become pregnant, an egg, which was a potential child, is released without having been made into a human life. This does also, to a certain degree, have to do with death, and therefore produces ritual uncleanness in the woman.

Diseases that affect the reproductive process in men and women produce ritual uncleanness because they are a threat to the survival of mankind.

The God of Israel is a living God and he is the God of the living. It is necessary, therefore, to remove all contact with death in relation to ministry before him in the tabernacle.

15:19If a woman has a discharge, and her discharge in her flesh is blood, she shall be in her impurity seven days: and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening.”(HNV) – Verses 19-24 contain the instructions concerning woman’s monthly seclusion, in Hebrew nidah. This verse says that the nidah time lasts for seven days.

The first day begins when spotting begins. Regardless of what hour of the day this happens, that day is considered the first day, even if only a few minutes remain until the sunset. The day during which the blood flow begins is therefore counted as a whole day. After that the woman counts the days until she gets to the seventh day, just before sunset. Then she goes into a mikveh, to cleanse herself. When the sun sets she then becomes ritually clean, and may reunite with her husband during the night of the eighth day. This is what the Torah teaches. In addition to this, the rabbis have put a fence around this commandment and have added seven days after the last spotting.

Any person who touches a woman in nidah is ritually unclean and cannot enter the temple or eat of the consecrated food or offerings during that day.

15:21Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening.”(HNV) – The bed and chair that a nidah woman sits on transmits more uncleanness that the woman herself. Anyone who touches a bed or chair that she has laid in or sat on will not only become unclean, which is what happens when anyone touches the woman, but will also transmit the uncleanness to his clothes and must therefore not only dip his body in a mikveh, but his clothing as well.

15:24If any man lies with her, and her monthly flow is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed whereon he lies shall be unclean.”(HNV) – The Torah forbids intercourse for Jews during the nidah time, as it is written in Leviticus 18:19,

You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is impure by her uncleanness (nidah).”(HNV)

In Leviticus 20:18, it is written

If a man lies with a woman having her monthly period, and uncovers her nakedness; he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.”(HNV)

In Ezekiel 18:5-6, it is written,

But if a man is just, and does that which is lawful and right, and has not eaten on the mountains, neither has lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Yisra'el, neither has defiled his neighbor’s wife, neither has come near to a woman in her impurity”(HNV)

In Ezekiel 22:10, it is written,

In you have they uncovered their fathers’ nakedness; in you have they humbled her who was unclean in her impurity.”(HNV)

How can it be that Leviticus 15:24 says that a man can lay with a woman so that he is stained by the uncleanness of her menstruation if intercourse is strictly forbidden during the seven days when the woman is nidah? The logical explanation for this is that this is not a question of a man who lies with his wife during the nidah week, but rather when the week begins. By mistake they had intercourse just as she started bleeding. In that case the man is unclean for a week, just like the woman. In any other case they would both be punished with karet, having their spiritual roots cut resulting in spiritual death.

15:25If a woman has a discharge of her blood many days not in the time of her period, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her period; all the days of the discharge of her uncleanness shall be as in the days of her period: she is unclean.”(HNV) – Here the Torah deals with the state of zavah, which is not the same thing as normal menstruation. It is a question of blood flow outside the seven nidah days. If the woman just bleeds one or two extra days, in other words, for eight or nine days, it does not mean that she is zavah. It is written, “many days not in the time of her period”. That means that it must continue for at least three days beyond the time of her menstruation before it is considered “many days”. When this abnormal blood flow is limited to one or two days, she can bathe the day after the blood flow ended and wait until evening. If there is no blood during the afternoon, she becomes clean and may reunite with her husband.

It could be that the blood of her menstruation continues for three days beyond the seven days. It could also happen that there is blood for three days or more during the first days of the eleven day period that follows directly after the seven nidah days. In both of these cases, she becomes zavah and will need a period of seven clean days in order to be ritually clean once again. At the end of the seven clean days, she dips in a mikveh and at sunset she is clean. On the eighth day, she needs to bring an offering into the temple for atonement, in the same way as a man who is cleansed from zav, as we saw in Leviticus 15:2-15.

 The rabbis have combined the laws about nidah and zavah in order to protect the people. They have placed a protective fence around the Torah by reason of the danger of confusion that can arise when putting these instructions into practice. Another reason for this fence is the danger of the karet-punishment that comes from breaking these commandments. Rav Ya’akov Ben Asher writes:[6]

 “When the problems in the exile increased, when the sorrows increased and the hearts were once again tormented, the Sages feared that mistakes would be made in the counting of the days considered clean, when they actually were unclean. Since any mistake in this could lead to “isur karet”, the punishment of being cut off, they established, in a general sense, that the slightest loss of blood demands, in order to come to a state of cleanness, a fulfillment of seven clean days preceding the immersion.”

This means that today the halachah states that after the last blood spot on the rag used at the examination, one must count seven clean days, which are called “the white week”. Moreover, the Gemarah teaches[7] that the daughters of Israel put on themselves this rule which means that they accepted it as an obligation. At the end of these seven days, the woman dips herself in a mikveh in order to be able to unite with her husband after sunset. These rules cause the period of time when the spouses must be apart to be longer than what the Torah instructs. The result of this longer time of abstinence and waiting is a monthly renewal of sexual feelings. Talmud[8] quotes the words of Rabbi Meir:

 “Why does the Torah command that the uncleanness of menstruation is to continue for seven days? Because when (the husband) is in constant contact with his wife, he can develop a dislike toward her. The Torah commands therefore: Let her be unclean for seven days so that she will be loved by her spouse in the same way as when she came to the wedding bed.”

The command about “a white week” after a normal menstrual flow is based on the rules of the Torah concerning the zavah. The result of a longer time of waiting after the nidah time, is however, as we have seen, positive for the marriage.

The rules about purification after touching an unclean person or object are not applied today among the Jews because there is no temple. But the rules concerning sexual relations do apply to the Jews, including the “white week”. But they don’t apply to the descendants of Noach.

There are other rules for Jews, which don’t permit men and women to touch each other and spouses to touch each other during the time of the nidah. But these rules are not related to ritual purity but to moral purity and chastity, compare with Leviticus 18:19.

Now, how should the righteous among the nations relate to these rulings?

The nature teaches us that it is not good to have sexual relations during the bleeding days of the wife. Abstinence is therefore good for the descendants of Noach during that time, which can last for 3-7 days. I also consider that those who want to live on a higher level of consecration and have a healthier marriage should keep seven days from the beginning of the menstruation, the same way as the Torah establishes for the Jews. On the other hand, they do not need to enlarge the period with a “white week”, unless by mutual agreement for a longer time in order to devote themselves to prayer, see 1 Corinthians 7:5.

Moreover, it is good also for righteous men and women among the nations not to touch each other, as it is written in 1 Corinthians 7:1b:

It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” (KJV)

This Parashah contains commandments number 173-183 of the 613 commandments.

  1. The command that the cleansing from the affliction tzaraat be performed with special components, Leviticus 14:2.

  2. The command for the one who has had tzaraat (he who is metzora) to shave his entire body on the seventh day of his cleansing, Leviticus 14:9.

  3. The command to dip in a mikveh when one is in a state of uncleanness, Leviticus 14:9.

  4. The command for one who has the affliction tzaraat (he who is metzora) to present an offering to conclude his cleansing, Leviticus 14:10.

  5. The command to declare a house that has been affected by tzaraat unclean, Leviticus 14:35.

  6. The command that a man who has a discharge from his sexual organ (zav) is unclean, Leviticus 15:2-3.

  7. The command that one who has had a discharge from his sexual organ (zav) must present an offering after being healed, Leviticus 15:13-14.

  8. The command that a man who has had a seminal emission is unclean, Leviticus 15:16.

  9. The command that a woman with menstrual flow is unclean, Leviticus 15:19.

  10. The command that a woman with a discharge (zavah) is unclean, Leviticus 15:25.

  11. The command that a woman with a discharge (zavah) must present an offering after being healed of her discharge, Leviticus 15:28-29.

[1]     Arachin 16a-b.

[2]     Strong H2100, zûb, zoob, A primitive root; to flow freely (as water), that is, (specifically) to have a (sexual) flux; figuratively to waste away; also to overflow: - flow, gush out, have a (running) issue, pine away, run.

[3]     Strong H2416 chay, khah'ee From H2421; alive; hence raw (flesh); fresh (plant, water, year), strong; also (as noun, especially in the feminine singular and masculine plural) life (or living thing), whether literally or figuratively: -  + age, alive, appetite, (wild) beast, company, congregation, life (-time), live (-ly), living (creature, thing), maintenance, + merry, multitude, + (be) old, quick, raw, running, springing, troop.

[4]     Strong H7364 râchats, raw-khats', A primitive root; to lave (the whole or a part of the thing): - bathe (self), wash (self).

[5]       Eruvin 4b; Yomá 31a.

[6]     Túr Yoré De´ah, 183.

[7]       Nidá 66a.

[8]     Niddah 31b.