Celebrating the Spiritual Levels of Torah
Weekly Torah Portion: Tazria/Metzora
(Leviticus 12:1 -15:33)
Week of April 19 - 25, 2015
The multi-layered qualities of a spiritual text
In ancient times, the priests functioned not only as ritual celebrants, but as caretakers of the community in other ways. In the wilderness reality and beyond, priests often dealt with physical conditions afflicting the people. In this double parashah, the focus is on a skin disease called tzara'at, translated "leprosy," but probably involving some kind of fungus.
And the priest shall look on the disease in the skin of the flesh; and if the hair in the plague has turned white, and the disease looks deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a disease of leprosy (tzara'at); and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean. (13:3)
The early 20th century commentator known as S'fat Emet, notes the similarity between the Hebrew word for "skin," spelled ayin-vav-resh, and the word for "light," spelled aleph-vav-resh. The words sound alike when spoken, and the S'fat Emet understands this similarity to express a deeper teaching about the spiritual nature of this affliction.
It is also known, however, that the skin is porous, containing many tiny holes. These allow the light to shine through its "shells." Only sin clogs up those pores, so that "darkness covers the earth" (Is. 60:2). That is why "the leprous affliction" is translated [into Aramaic] as segiru or "closing."
Once again, we see the multi-layered qualities of a spiritual text, in which a dermatological phenomenon speaks to the deeper nature of the human being. On a spiritual level, the S'fat Emet teaches, the outer skin disorder plugs up the pores of the skin that otherwise would allow the inner "light body" to manifest.
We know that our skin (ayin-vav-resh) defines the apparent boundaries of our physical being. The identity representing this physical being is the separate self, encased in skin, separated from others and from the world.
More than skin deep
We also know that on an energetic level, we extend far beyond this shell of skin. Although our senses report our separation from our environment and from each other, we interact on energetic levels beyond the capacity of our senses to report.
Sometimes, the energies reaching out from our physical presence expand the influence of our separate personalities, and we can infect others with the competitive nature of our ego. But when we are awake to the identity behind our personality, that "light body" expands to touch our world with far more healing energies.
Torah teaches that we are to let people know when we are infected by that skin disease, since it is contagious.
And the leper in whom the disease is, his clothes shall be torn, and his head bare, and he shall put a cover upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. (13:45)
The same applies to interactions in which our separate self is caught in resentment or anger, even guilt, shame, and self-condemnation. People often pick up these energies from others, but may assume they are the cause. Letting others know when we are at a stuck and difficult place makes clear that we are taking responsibility for the nature of the energies we project.
The essence of transformation
Many years ago, I received an insight from Neville Goddard, a mid-20th century teacher of metaphysics, relating to this particular parashah. He related birds to "ideas," and taught that each of the birds in this sacrificial ritual represented a specific reality. Metaphysics speaks of the effect our consciousness has on our experience, and emphasizes the power of belief. Something is "real" to us when we truly believe it is real.
For announcing the healing both of body and of habitation, the ritual is almost the same.
And the priest shall go out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the disease of leprosy is healed in the leper; then shall the priest command to take for him who is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop; and the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen utensil over running water; (14:3-5)
The blood of the bird is the energy of the belief that bird represented; it is the energy of consciousness that is to be drained from the first bird.
As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water; and he shall sprinkle upon him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field. (14:6, 7)
The second bird, representing the new reality, is dipped in the energy held by the first. That energy is ritually sprinkled upon the healed individual (or the healed house), imbuing it with the power drained from the previous reality. Then that second bird is released, to fly into the new reality.
The old reality gives way to the new
In a creative meditative process, one drains the energy from the consciousness that holds the reality to be released, and turns toward the new way of being. Consciousness is placed fully into the desired state of being, imagining it to be real already.
This process may need to be repeated several times, but each time, more energy is put into the desired image. In the mind's eye, the new reality is seen, heard, touched, even smelled and tasted if that is appropriate. Soon there is no more need to release energy from the past state. In the focused imagination, the old reality gives way to the new.
From ancient sacrificial practices come enduring teachings concerning the nature of our being. While the literal, surface-level text may no longer be applicable today, there are more profound teachings yearning to be received. Perhaps that's how it is with all spiritual texts, and with all spiritual beings -- there are always more expansive teachings waiting to be revealed.
I become more sensitive to the energies I am carrying.
A deep inner Love flows through every level of my being.
I practice the presence I wish to express in my world.
When I feel negative energies from those around me, I tend to. . .
I know that I am projecting negative energies when. . .
The state of being I choose to make real includes. . .
“Torah is the book with no end, supporting our understanding of what it means to be a vehicle for the Spirit of Creation.”
Photo: Mark Reden