Tazria (She Conceives)
2 Kings 4:42-5:19
“What Did Yeshua Do?”
One of the many blessings that today’s Messianic Believers receive in committing themselves to a consistent, weekly examination of the Torah portion, is the much fuller perspective that they naturally receive of the Scriptures. Too frequently, people who read the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, when reading references about the Mosaic Law, have very little idea about what is being talked about. This week as we encounter Tazria, “She Conceives,” we actually see some interesting commandments that directly relate to the birth of Yeshua and how Joseph and Mary were obedient to the Torah. Our parashah begins by saying,
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: “When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed”’” (Leviticus 12:1-4).
In many years Tazria is coupled with the following parashah, Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33), as both of these selections continue to focus on Leviticus’ theme of holiness. In this section of the Pentateuch, we see various regulations regarding what it means for something to be “clean” (Heb. tahor, rAhj), rather than “unclean” (Heb. tamei, amj). Our previous parashah, Shemini, actually ended with God delivering instructions on clean and unclean meats, and how following them would contribute to His people being holy:
“‘For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten” (Leviticus 11:45-47).
Now that the Lord has laid out the restrictions on what is to be considered edible food, some further instruction is given regarding cleanliness and uncleanliness. The two specific sets of commandments given in Tazria regard the blood of childbirth (Leviticus 12:1-8) and the handling of leprosy (Leviticus 13:1-59).
Proper Parental Influence
While reflecting on Tazria, and how little I knew about postnatal care or the intricacies of various skin afflictions, the most dominant thoughts that came to mind were recollections from the Apostolic Scriptures on the birth of Yeshua and what His parents did. Joseph and Mary followed the Torah’s commandments with what were to be done with a newborn child. Examining Luke’s record of what took place after Yeshua was born, we see that Joseph and Mary followed the instructions we see in this Torah portion, having brought the infant Messiah to the Temple in Jerusalem for dedication:
“And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Yeshua, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’ [Exodus 13:2, 12, 15]), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’ [Leviticus 12:8]” (Luke 2:21-24).
In this account, we note that Joseph and Mary were obeying the instructions regarding the circumcision of a male child, and his dedication before the Lord. Luke makes some direct quotations from the Torah, detailing the commandments that Joseph and Mary were following:
“Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me…you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord” (Exodus 13:2, 12).
“But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean” (Leviticus 12:8).
We can discern that Joseph and Mary were relatively humble in their means, because of the reference to the turtledoves and/or pigeons that were made. But, they did follow the Law of Moses, and they raised Yeshua—as well as their sons James and Jude—in a Torah-keeping environment. Luke later summarizes the kind of home in which Yeshua was reared, noting how they went to Jerusalem on a regular basis to keep the appointed times:
“When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast” (Luke 2:39-42).
Yeshua’s Torah Obedience
As you read through Tazria, you are given a very detailed account of instruction regarding how to deal with the disease commonly referred to as leprosy (Heb. tzara’at, t[rc), although other forms of skin eruptions are also described. As I read these passages, my mind flashed forward to scenes where Yeshua healed lepers during His ministry. The ability to heal a leper would have been a sign that the Messiah had come:
“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Messiah, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’ Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me’” (Matthew 11:2-6; cf. Isaiah 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1).
As Yeshua healed lepers of their illness, He instructed them to follow the Torah’s instruction—specifically so that those healed could testify of their cleansing:
“And a leper came to Yeshua, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Moved with compassion, Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them’” (Mark 1:40-44).
“And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Yeshua said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them’” (Matthew 8:2-4).
Yeshua knew the instructions that had been given in Tazria. Even though He knew that lepers had been completely healed of the debilitating disease, He upheld the Torah’s instruction so that the priests might inspect the cleansing:
“If in his sight the scale has remained, however, and black hair has grown in it, the scale has healed, he is clean; and the priest shall pronounce him clean” (Leviticus 13:37).
As we read and reflect upon Tazria, we can be reminded that Yeshua, as well as His parents, followed the commandments in the selection that we are reviewing this week. It does not appear from these testimonies that Yeshua attempted to annul the importance of these commandments because of His ministry—even though the lepers who were healed would no doubt speak to the priests of the One who healed them!
Many of us in the community of faith are aware of the popular acronym WWJD that has been fashioned into bracelets, t-shirts, and a variety of other commercially viable forms for sale in the evangelical world. I do not at all want to belittle those who have used the simple admonition What Would Jesus Do? I am convinced that many people have been prompted to do many positive things from the WWJD acronym. It has been an easy way to promote holiness among many Christians, who need a visible reminder of the Lord we serve.
As Messianic Believers, though, our engagement level with who the Messiah is and how He lived—goes a little beyond the simple commands to love God and neighbor, as important as those are (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). This week, many of us are taking a look at Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59), a selection of text which for most people might seem pretty dry and boring, detailing things that are really not that applicable in the Twenty-First Century. Yet, in studying this part of Scripture, we can learn more of the details of how Joseph and Mary, and how the Messiah Himself, lived their lives in the First Century.
If I did not take the time to read and study passages like this from the Book of Leviticus, I might not know how God is concerned about mothers who give birth to children, or those who are afflicted with leprosy. I would not have any idea what the commandments were that Yeshua directed healed lepers to follow, as they would go and testify to the priests at the Temple of the Messiah who had healed them. By not reading Tazria, I might not know of the simple fact of how our Heavenly Father is concerned about our hygiene, and how He surely does not want us to contract diseases like leprosy.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua the Messiah was clear that He did not come to abolish, but to fulfill, the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17-18). He also stated how “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). The commandments we read about this week in Tazria can largely not be followed today, because of the lack of a Temple in Jerusalem—but most importantly because of the fact that leprosy is not as rampant as it once was in past centuries (for which we should all praise God!). But not following largely inapplicable commandments is different than teaching against them, and how they instruct us as God’s people. By reading Tazria this week, I am sure that we have all learned some things about the character of our Heavenly Father that we have not known, or at least thought about, before.
Yeshua the Messiah came to fulfill the Torah of Moses, meaning that He came to show people how to live it properly. As Believers in Him, we can actually learn things about His life and His ministry in the Gospels by studying the Torah. Obscure parts like healed lepers going to the Temple, actually make much more sense.
Unfortunately, many Christians (but thankfully not all!) who wear the WWJD bracelets conclude that Yeshua “fulfilled and thus abolished” the Torah of Moses. From this vantage point, what we are considering in Tazria this week has largely nothing to do with Yeshua’s birth or with His ministry. As it is often said, “We as New Testament Believers do not have to be concerned with any of restrictions on our lives, imposed by adherence to an antiquated list of do and don’ts.” How far from the truth is this? The New Covenant actually involves God supernaturally writing the Torah’s instructions onto our heart for our remembrance (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). A view of holiness, emulating the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, that excludes any kind of obedience to the Law, has done considerable harm to the Body of Messiah. Simply look at all of the people who claim to be following the Messiah, but have very little concept of Biblical ethics or morality. To them, WWJD is just a cloth bracelet, but not really a committed lifestyle.
I am not trying to unfairly criticize those who are unaware about some of the finer details of the Torah as seen in readings like Tazria. There are plenty of things in the Torah that today’s evangelical Christians and Messianics all agree need to be followed. The high standard that Yeshua gives us in His Sermon on the Mount—a teaching firmly rooted within Moses’ Teaching—is a place where we can come together with Christians, and learn what it means to fulfill the Law. When we get to areas like Shabbat, the appointed times, or kosher as detailed last week—how can we approach these areas in a constructive, investigative spirit? How can today’s Messianics demonstrate that emulating the Messiah Yeshua means not only treating others with love, but also deriving the blessings that other parts of the Torah will undeniably bring to one’s life?
Today’s Messianic Believers need to learn to demonstrate, as Yeshua instructed, a proper Torah obedience by good works (Matthew 5:16; cf. Ephesians 2:10). When evangelical Christians who wear that What Would Jesus Do? bracelet witness our actions of faith, will they be able to really see some of the things that Yeshua did? What about Jewish people who need to know the salvation available in the Messiah Yeshua, and inquire of our good deeds? I certainly hope and pray that we can see a generation of Messianic Believers come forth who can provide answers to the question What Did Yeshua Do? in a manner that brings honor and glory to Him.