Tazria Metzora: Skin deep

tazriaIt is not easy to be a Jewish Taurus, because there’s a chance you might end up with Tazria Metzora as your Bar or Bat Mitzvah portion. It’s hard enough being 13, but to have to find some meaning in skin diseases, well….that’s just really hard.

Tazria Metzora is a double section of the Torah that deals with, among other things, skin diseases, male and female states of impurity. These all were states of tamei, impurity. They weren’t permanent states, but ones that needed a priest to determine the condition, and prescribe some rituals that would bring the individual back into a state of tahor, purity, after an offering and some time outside the camp.

So here’s the thing. It’s really hard for an older, non-Bat Mitzvah Aries to find meaning in this parasha. The one thing that kept going through my head, though, in reading it over and over, was this idea of being comfortable of being one’s skin.

It would have been extremely uncomfortable to have been diagnosed like that in public. The offering of expiation would have been public. He or she would have been banished from the camp, and wouldn’t have come back in until a certain amount of time had passed, clothes had been laundered, and bathing had occurred. Then the priest would have had to pass judgment again. Few in that situation would have been “comfortable in their own skin” at that point.

Confidence may be a common aspiration, but how many of us really attain that kind of confidence? How many of us find most of our confidence in how we look? We check store windows as we walk by, on our way to a meeting. InStyle magazine reported a few years ago that Mint.com had determined women spend over $15,000 on makeup alone over the course of their lives. That’s a lot of foundation; foundation that is covering up skin imperfections, so all looks smooth and clear.

The most beautiful women in the world will find something wrong with their bodies. Successful, accomplished women will still find something wrong with their bodies. And I suppose men experience something like this too, but I can’t speak to that. Bullying, unrealistic expectations, the entire modeling, makeup, and fashion industry only reinforce this – it’s an old and well-documented story. I am as susceptible to it as anyone else is, especially as I get older. To be honest, buying makeup makes me feel like that Bat Mitzvah girl, reading Seventeen Magazine. But take a look at my makeup drawer, and there’s an awful lot of mascara in there.

If we can take any meaning from Tazria Metzora, perhaps it’s that feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin is a temporary state. We don’t do the ritual offerings, we don’t have a priest publically declare our status, but we do allow those around us to do that. The priests knew that there was nothing unholy about the afflicted individual; that “impurity” was literally only skin deep. We know in our hearts that confidence goes far deeper. Tazria Metzora can help us remember that.





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