“This shall be [the corpus of] law regarding one who has tzora’as” (Vayikra 14:2). The word “[the corpus of] law regarding” (“Toras”), appears 16 times in the Torah (and once where it means “the corpus of law from,” for a total of 17), and numerous additional times throughout Nach, but this is the only time where it is preceded by the word “shall be” (“tihiyeh”). Why does the Torah place this “corpus of law” in the future, especially when none of the others are?
Of the 17 times the word “Toras” is used in the Torah, four of them are said regarding the laws of “tzora’as” (13:59, 14:2, 14:32 and 14:57), plus one “Torah” (14:54) as well. Why are we told that “this is the corpus of law regarding tzora’as” so many times? Granted, the first refers to the laws of afflicted clothing, the second (our verse) introduces the process of an afflicted person becoming ritually cleansed and the third is specifically about the offerings brought by a poor person, so they can be said to be different “corpuses of law.” Still, why consider them separate rather than combining them into one “corpus”? Besides, the fourth (and fifth) refer to everything, including the other three “corpuses,” so why separate them before putting them all back together? [Malbim tells us what the (inclusive) word “Torah” generally comes to teach us, and what the (limiting) word “this” generally teaches us, but he doesn’t specify what every one of the five here are specifically teaching us. He also addresses why the word “tihiyeh” is used.] Additionally, why are there two “summations” (first “Torah” and then “Toras”) at the very end, rather than just one?
Finally, the order of the sections (or “corpuses”) seems a bit disjointed. First the laws regarding the “tzora’as” that afflicts the body is discussed (13:1-46), then that of the “tzora’as” that afflicts a garment (13:47-59), then back to the person whose body was afflicted and how he becomes ritually cleansed (14:1-32), followed by the “tzora’as” that afflicts a house (14:33-53), including the “ritual cleansing” that applies to it, and then the summation (14:54-57), which covers everything. Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach everything regarding the “tzora’as” that afflicts the body, including the “ritual cleansing,” before moving on to the other types? Why does the affliction of a garment “interrupt” the two aspects of a bodily affliction? And if the process of ritual cleansing is going to be separated from the type of affliction one is being cleansed from, shouldn’t the third type of “tzora’as,” that of a structure, be taught there too, rather than putting it all by itself at the end? What should we make of the way the laws of “tzora’as” are taught and how they are presented?
Last week (https://rabbidmk.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/parashas-tazriya-5776/) I suggested that the laws of “tzora’as,” which are part of a larger group of “impurity laws” that also includes the ritual impurity caused by animal carcasses (11:1-47), childbirth (12:1-8) and bodily emissions (15:1-33), were taught to Aharon and his sons during their seven-day training period (see 8:33-35, see also Sh’mos 29:35-37), which led up to the “Eighth Day” (Vayikra 9:1), the Mishkan’s first day of operation. Aharon and his sons were not allowed to leave the Mishkan complex that entire week (8:33), during which time they were taught the laws and details of the offerings to be brought in the Mishkan, and trained in the way they are to be brought (etc.). It makes sense for the laws of ritual impurity to be taught then as well, since they are quite complex (especially those of “tzora’as”), and they all had to be known before the “Eighth Day” in order to prevent the Mishkan from becoming ritually impure. Well, almost all of them.
The “tzora’as” that afflicts houses wouldn’t become relevant until the nation reached the Promised Land (14:34), so although an integral part of the corpus of “tzora’as” law, it didn’t need to be taught until they were almost there. And, because “ritual cleansing” from “tzora’as” would not become relevant until the “tzora’as” healed (even the type that doesn’t need a week or two before it can be identified), only the ability to properly identify “tzora’as” had to be successfully taught that week, not how to become ritually cleansed from it. (That could be taught, if needed, on the “Eighth Day” itself.) With these factors in place, let’s reexamine the structure of the “tzora’as laws.”
The laws of “tzora’as” contain 11 paragraphs, taught to Moshe in three separate communications. [In contrast, there are three paragraphs regarding animals but only one communication (11:1), one paragraph in the one communication regarding childbirth (12:1), and four paragraphs in the one communication regarding bodily emissions (15:1).] The first “tzora’as” communication (13:1) covers skin “tzora’as” and the “tzora’as” of a garment, both of which had to be known as soon as the Mishkan was up and running. The second (14:1) covers the purification process for a person afflicted with “tzora’as,” which wasn’t needed as soon as the Mishkan was operating, and could have been taught afterwards, if needed. [Although the purification of a garment afflicted with “tzrora’as” is included in the first communication, since washing it and seeing what impact it had is part of the process of identifying whether the garment still has “tzora’as” (13:54-57) while also being part of the purification process, the entire purification process was taught together with it.] The third communication (14:33) covers structural “tzora’as.” It would follow, then, that these three sub-sections were told to Moshe separately, who taught them to Aharon and his sons on three separate occasions.
First, Moshe was told to teach Aharon and his sons those laws that had to be known right away. If they didn’t attain a full grasp of these laws, the other laws could wait, but they had to be able to properly diagnose skin “tzora’as” and the “tzora’as” on a garment immediately. Since this was a separate “lesson,” and they might have been taught (or reviewed) other “laws of ritual impurity” before returning to the next part of the “tzora’as” curriculum, this lesson ended with a summation that “this is the law of “tzora’as pertaining to a garment” (13:59).
When it became clear that they were ready for the next “tzora’s” lesson, and could cover the material during these seven days, there was another divine communication , this one regarding the purification of a person who had “tzora’as,” and it was introduced as such. However, since this lesson would not be relevant right away (only after a person was diagnosed with “tzora’as,” and the “tzora’as” healed), it is not only introduced by saying “this is the law pertaining to someone who is ready to be purified from “tzora’as” (14:1), but that this “shall be” the law, in the future, i.e. when it becomes relevant. [It’s almost as if they were being told why this part of the curriculum wasn’t taught right away.] After this lesson was complete, another summation was made (14:32), since there was no guarantee that the third lesson, which wouldn’t become relevant until they entered the Promised Land, would be taught during this week of training (and learning). [As a matter of fact, we don’t know for sure that it was.] Once the third section was taught, though, and the entire curriculum was complete, the final summation is made (14:54-57), with the double-summation indicating that not only is this part of the curriculum done, but the entire syllabus has now been covered.