This week’s readings require taking out three Torah scrolls: the first for the weekly portion, the second for the last of the four specially scheduled supplementary portions leading up to the spring month of Pesach and the third, because this year, the new moon coincides with Shabbat.
The first reading discusses women’s health. Birthing mothers should have a long period of recovery. Thereafter, they bring an offering to the sanctuary. A detailed analysis of skin ailments (leprosy) follows. The priests doubled as doctors and decided when a sufferer was clear or infected.
Infection could set in a body, an article of clothing or into the walls of a house. Tazria concludes with the libations, meal and animal offerings made on Shabbat and on the new moon.
In commemoration of the preparations made to leave Egypt, the second scroll reading from Exodus 12, introduces the first national commandment: to establish a calendar starting with Nissan. The reading instructs on how to prepare the paschal sacrifice, which is consumed with unleavened bread and bitter herbs only by those whose males are circumcised.
This rule does not apply to seder night, where there is no lamb ritual. On the contrary, seder night is an educational opportunity to share the memory of the miracle of deliverance.
The third scroll for new moon marks the ancient celebrations on the first day of each month. The first day of Nissan is unique, as it serves as the anniversary of royalty: biblical monarchs counted their reign to start from the first calendar month.
- Rabbi Ariel Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to HM Armed Forces