With the exception of those fascinated with medicine, the weekly sections for this week and next week are ones that many people would prefer to skip. Called Tazriah (Leviticus 12:1-13:59) it serves as a perfect example of how the Biblical text cannot be translated from Hebrew into foreign languages. Tazriah, read as a feminine verb means: “she shall bring forth/deliver life.” Tazriah, read as a masculine verb, “tazriah” means “you will plant seeds.” The connection between the literal meanings and the figurative meanings is obvious.
But to understand these sections one needs more than a mere translation. In Hebrew, “tazriah” also sounds similar to a number of other words in both sections. The Hebrew reader cannot fail to “hear” or to connect the sound of the word “tazriah” to the words, zar(a) (strange) tzaraat (a form of leprosy) and mtzorah (a person afflicted with a skin disease). Thus, the reader “hears” a relationship between the act of planting/bearing seeds with these seeds’ potential positive and negative results. To emphasize this connection, the student of the Bible cannot fail to note that this same verb is also used in the first chapters of Genesis 1:12 (mazriah zerah/seed bearing).
What connections does the text want us to make between Genesis, the story of creation and Leviticus the Holiness Code? Is the text telling us that our actions are our seeds and that in the end, what we do in one part of our life impacts another part of our lives? In Genesis, the sowing of seeds (mazriah zerah) is a neutral activity, but in Leviticus, there is an implied warning. Leviticus speaks to the “adult” part of our personalities and tells us: be careful, there will always be consequences to your actions.
Tazriah teaches us that how we treat others and the choices we make in life are the seeds that we send into the world. Some of these seeds (actions) will bear good and tasty fruit; some will produce negative actions. These sections also remind us that it is not G-d who sends forth these seeds, G-d gave human beings the ability to plant and to sow not only in the world of agriculture but also in the social world. In our highly politicized world are we sowing not only the seeds of hatred but also destruction? Have our media become vehicles of propaganda and hate leading to a failed justice system?
This week’s section teaches us: do not blame others for the seeds that you have sown. If you look back on your past actions, you may well be able to identify those seeds that have now born fruit. If you are pleased with the harvest, continue to sow them, if you are not pleased, then change your life’s direction; plant seeds of hope instead of seeds of despair. This week’s parashah reminds us that the power of “tazriah” is not in someone else’s hands but rather in our own hands. Are you pleased with the seeds that you are planting?
Youtubes of the week:
Different versions of the Passover song <<Dayenú>>
Dayenu around the world:
Sung by the Jerusalem Boys Town ensemble:
Sung in Yiddish: