Monday, April 12, 2010


Another double portion - since this is not a Jewish calendar leap year, and this is one of those that could really present a challenge if you want to design centerpieces for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah!

Big Ideas:

  • Physical appearances can affect the way we relate to people
  • People need to find reasons for things they cannot easily explain
  • Science is one way to understand the world around us.  Religious thought is another
Learning Activities:

According to Maimonides, there is a non-medical cause for tzara'at - which is usually translated as "leprosy" in English, but which is almost definitely not the same as Hansen's Disease, the modern term used in medicine for this disease.  This commentary from Bar Ilan University tell what Maimonides believed was the cause of tzara'at
 ( Hilkhot Tum’at Tzara’at 16.10):
Tzara’at is a noun used collectively for many different things which do not resemble one another; whiteness in human skin is called tzara’at and loss of patches of hair from the head or beard is called tzara’at, and a change in look of one’s clothing or houses is called tzara’at  The change that is discussed in clothing or houses, which the Torah calls by the same word tzara’at, is not something which occurs in the normal way of the world, rather it is a wondrous sign that occurred in Israel to warn them against lashon ha-ra (slanderous gossip), for the walls in the home of someone who spoke lashon ha- ra would become affected, but if he mended his ways the house would become pure... 

  • What does Maimonides suggest is the cause of tzara'at?
  • What, according to Maimonides, is the cure, at least for a house?
The text of the Torah is quite clear - whoever shows sign of this disease is to be separated from the rest of the community.
  • Knowing what we know now about the medical cause of leprosy (and how to cure it), what is the  point of reading this parasha?
  • In today's world, do we believe there is a physical sign that can identify those who gossip?  How can we identify the source of malicious rumors today?
  • How do you think the internet affects verbal bullying?
  • What - if anything - is the difference between gossip and bullying?
  • Traditional Jewish thinking forbids gossip of all sorts, whether it is positive or negative, as in this article from Aish HaTorah
  • Some researchers (Science Now) have found that "...Gossip enforces group norms and strengthens social bonds."
  • Why is it so hard NOT to gossip?


Here's a visual representation of the elements of the parashot.  Can you match the pictures to the text?

  • What do you think are the most important elements of the parashot?
  • How would you illustrate these parashot?

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