Because leap year affects the weekly cycle of reading, some parashot are doubled, as with this weekly reading, when it is necessary to bring the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars into sync.
These chapters deal, in quite extensive detail, with cleanliness. We are given the instructions regarding what a woman, who becomes unclean from the actions of giving birth and also from her time of Nidah (menstruation), must do (and when) in order to be considered clean again. This is more than just a physical cleansing- it is to become ceremonially clean, which would allow her to re-enter the camp and worship at the Sanctuary. We are also given the regulations regarding leprosy, in the Hebrew called T’zaraat, whether on a person or in clothing or even in the plaster of the house. The rules we are given tell us how to identify what is T’zaraat and what is not, what to do if decreed to be T’zaraat, and how to determine when it is cured.
People always have to know why something is what it is. Maybe that is just part of the intelligence God gave us when He separated us from the animals. Sometimes I wonder if that was such a good idea. Why do I say that? Because we use, or maybe misuse, our intelligence to try to understand God, and in doing so we are trying to raise ourselves to His level. Remember Babel?
There are many good, hygienic reasons for these cleanliness laws. It is credited to John Wesley to have first said, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, which indicates that to be holy is more than how we act, it is also what we are, physically. There are also many good reasons to avoid unclean people, mainly (the obvious one) so that you don’t catch what they have. No one can argue that is a good thing. My personal pet-peeve about questioning the reason for these laws, in fact, any of God’s laws, is that we should simply acknowledge and faithfully accept that God is God, and He wouldn’t do or command anything that is anything but good for us. We should all, like a trusting child, accept what God says as what we must do. Period. No “why”, no “It must be for this reason..”, no nuttin! You want a good reason to do what God says? Here it is: because He’s God, and you aren’t! And if that isn’t good enough for you, then you need to work on your faith.
My concern is that I have noted (maybe you have, too) that when people understand something, they tend to reduce it’s importance, and don’t consider it as miraculous anymore. We can read the human genome, so we now think only what we can do with it, and ignore the fact that learning how to read it and understanding how it works, is a far, far way from having created it from nothing. DNA is a unbelievable miracle, yet it is just a series of small blocks on a gel-backed film to most scientists and people, today.
I am often asked why I keep Kosher (I don’t keep Kosher according to the Rabbinical laws in Talmud, only according to Leviticus 11) and I say, simply, because that is what God told me to do. I am not some wonderfully faithful holy man, I am far from that, but I do appreciate God’s love and I respect His authority. I also trust God to know what is best for me, much better than I would ever know for myself, and as such I obey as much of the Torah as I can. This is all the reason I need to want to obey- God says to do it, so I do it; it comes from respect for who and what He is, trust in His desire to do good for me, and as a love-response for all He has already done for me.
If you need more than that, I respectfully suggest you work more on your faithful trusting in, and respect for, God. And, while you’re at it, turn down the volume on your Ego.
We don’t need to understand to be obedient.
In Deuteronomy 28 God tells us when we obey His Torah we receive blessings, and when we disobey, we receive curses. I believe that because we live in a cursed world, the curses are already here, so God is not actively cursing us; His blessings are what protects us from the cursed world; therefore, when we don’t receive blessings, we are exposed to the curses. God’s blessings protect us from the world we are in, and when we obey God we receive those blessings.
So, if you absolutely, positively need to have some reason for obeying Torah, this is it: obey God’s commands so that you can constantly receive blessings.