In this portion the word kohen (priest) is mentioned 35 times, 32 in chapter 14, and 3 times in chapter 15. Likewise, the phrase “before God” appears 10 times in chapter 14, and 3 times in chapter 15.
Why these words and phrases are repeated in the context of the narrative? We know that when words and phrases are repeated in the Hebrew Scriptures is to remark, highlight and emphasize the message in which they are mentioned. In this case the message is also pointed out in the previous portion Tazria, and expanded with details related to removing “leprosy” from the one who sins by what our sages consider slander and negative judgments against his/her fellow man. The Kli Yakar in particular refers to negative speech, arrogance and stinginess. These last two seem to be the roots of the former.
The high priest, who symbolizes our permanent connection with the Creator, is the one that guides us in the process to bring us back to the awareness of His love. He teaches us to “sacrifice” the negative traits that cause “leprosy”, which threat the spiritual and material well being we achieve when we follow God’s ways and attributes.
“And the high priest who cleanses him shall set the man that is to be cleansed, and with them, before the Lord, at the door of the tent of meeting.” (Leviticus 14:11)
The phrase “and with them” refers to the animal sacrifices to be offered at the entrance of the Tabernacle, meaning that we have to remove negative thoughts and speech from our mind and heart in order to enter in our higher consciousness of God’s love. As we have said, we need to remove (cleanse) all aspects of our consciousness in order to turn them into the vessels and chariots of the will of our Creator.
When we speak about our spiritual and material well being, our house (our dwellings) is included. The portion mentions the risks of propagating leprosy in its walls. In the worse circumstances the high priest orders to destroy the whole house and to build it again. The message to keep clean all the aspects of our consciousness “before God” is not only loud and clear in the Torah, but it also encompasses every aspect of our material life.
The repeated presence of our higher consciousness (the high priest mentioned 35 times) as our guide is to reiterate the warning that we must be always cleaved to God’s love, and be permanently before Him. Our sages elaborate on the hidden meanings of the text, indicating that the “houses” that the Israelites were about to occupy from the Canaanite peoples, after conquering the Promised Land, are the negative traits we must turn into qualities directed to the service of God.
The midrash tells about the gold hidden by the Amorite in the walls of their houses that was later found when the Israelites turned them down because they were contaminated with leprosy. The hidden message is that when we clear our levels of consciousness from negative traits we find the gold, the light concealed in their darkness.
The next chapter of the portion continues with cleansing instructions regarding the woman’s menstrual period. In this sense, the cleansing involves water as life against death (represented by the blood tainted by the unfertilized ovule).
The temporary separation of man and wife ordered in the Torah teaches us that the closeness and intimacy of both may only be when life and its potentiality for creating new life are present. After all, life is the purpose of all Creation which emanates from God’s love that also sustains it and nurtures it.