Ibn Ezra

Ibn Ezra: Law of the Land (Metzora)

The Biblical Text

Leviticus 14:34 begins a section that details the laws of tzara’at as it applies to a house. Tzara’at in a human appears to be some sort of skin condition, often mistranslated as leprosy. It also appears in clothing and other items, and in houses as well, where it seems most like some sort of mold. Leviticus 14:34 specifies that one follows these laws “when you come into the land of Canaan”. Are these laws universal – or specific to a particular region? How come?

Ibn Ezra’s Teaching

וטעם כי תבאו אל ארץ כנען. כי זה נוהג בארץ לבדה בעבור גודל מעלת הארץ כי המקדש בתוכם והכבוד בתוך המקדש

Leviticus 14:34 WHEN YOU COME INTO THE LAND OF CANAAN. Scripture reads thus because this law applies only in the Land of Israel because of the great status of the land; for the temple was among them, and the Glory was in the midst of the temple. (Translation Strickman and Silver)

Reflections for the Path

Ibn Ezra understands the restriction of the law to houses only in the land of Israel as stemming from the special holiness of that land, because God’s presence dwells in the temple in Jerusalem. A side effect of the extra holiness is extra sensitivity to impurity.

Perhaps we may draw the lesson that when we strive for holiness, we may also increase our awareness of and encounter with impurity, the shadows of our souls. Discovering our own darkness does not mean we are failing – it may serve as a marker that we are on the right path. Of course, to continue that path, we must maintain awareness, compassion, and just action with our shadows.

For more on Abraham ibn Ezra:
1. Read my introduction.
2. Listen to ibn Ezra’s opening prayer poem for his Torah commentary.
3. Explore the five paths, ibn Ezra’s introduction to his Torah commentary.