Saturday, April 2, 2011

Parshat Metzorah

What you have to look forward to this week:
  • A take on the weekly portion
  • A link to my chicken recipes
  • Links to my Passover Recipes
  • A sneak peek at a new series I'm running
There's a debate over the translation of the name of this week's portion, Parshat Metzorah. Is a metzorah a person who has contracted leprosy, or someone who has contracted some ancient, possibly spiritual disease that has physical manifestations unlike any modern maladies?

While leprosy is a ubiquitous answer, it doesn't really get at the weird stuff going on in the portion. If someone contracted this Biblical disease they had to leave the nation's camp to be alone until they healed, upon which time a Cohen was called upon to inspect them. If it looked like they made a full recovery they would bring a prescribed sacrifice before re-entering the camp. That sacrifice consisted of two birds, cedar wood, crimson string and hyssop. This mix of animate and inanimate objects is a bit strange.

But what's next is even stranger. In the sacrificial act the Cohen slaughters one of the birds over a bowl of fresh water and then dips the other items into the blood of the bird and sprinkles the recoveree seven times with this mess. Then the Cohen sets the other bird free and the ex-metzorah shaves off all their hair. Now if you compare this to the sacrifice that a woman recovering from child birth gives in the last portion, things are pretty different. The sacrifice that she is commanded to bring is straight up - a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon for a sin offering - then she gets to go on with life as normal.

But this weird ritual for the metzorah leads me to believe that perhaps the disease wasn't so normal, perhaps it was a spiritual disease. Those who favor the spiritual explanation of the disease attribute it to punishment for speaking badly of others (Moses's sister gets struck with it after speaking badly of him in Numbers chapter 12). Just as God built the world with words, humans can destroy worlds with words - and to remind us of that we were inflicted with a gruesome bodily manifestation of the hurt we created with our negative words. Fortunately or unfortunately, we don't have this form of bio feedback any longer.

Back in the day, the metzorah got to come back to the nation's camp after this whole ritual but has to stay outsisde of their tent for seven days. They get a little more time to think about what they have done. This isn't, however, a time for the rest of the community to point fingers at that person, or they'll be in the same spot soon. The goal here is to get this person back to a positive place in the community. On the 8th day the recoveree brings more sacrifices and undergoes one more strange experience - the blood of the sacraficial lamb and the sacraficial oil gets smeared on their right ear, toe and thumb. Are you hungry yet? How's about some hyssop smoked chicken?

Ok that sounds gross, but the birds in the sacrifices are making me think chicken, and since I've been contributing a new chicken blog I thought I'd invite you over there to check out the recipes I've shared on Grow and Behold this far.

Speaking of things I've been contributing to, there's a new program I'm helping to run through Hebrew College and CJP - it's a series for young adults to have some fun and some intriguing conversations around modern topics and what light Jewish wisdom can shed on them - check out Wanderings and Wonderings to see what I'm talking about.

Passover Recipes

Here's a round up of the Passover recipes I've featured on Double Portion thus far:
Banana Nut Cookies
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Smoked Salmon and Swiss Chard Quiche
Matza Brittle
Walnut Cookies

Also check out:
My 2009 Passover Cooking Plan

The full Recipe Index for plenty of Passover friendly salads, sides and main dishes!