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    Three names for one sidra – M’tzora

    metzoraHaving the name M’tzora for this week’s portion might not bother us in our generation, probably because we are used to it.

    But as the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out, the name was once a subject of controversy, and there was a strong view that the sidra should be simply called Zot Tih’yeh, “This shall be”, which has none of the unpleasant associations of M’tzora, “A Leper”. Others used a euphemistic name, Taharah – “Purification”.

    These two now unknown alternatives have the advantage of deriving, as does M’tzora, from the opening sentence of the portion, as well as being positive in their connotation.

    On the one hand M’tzora signifies the main substance of the sidra, and though it is an unpleasant name it shows that bad things are a fact of life. On the other hand it leaves out the element of hope for a better future.

    If one were to ask which type of name is more Jewish – the negative or the positive – the answer really must be “both”. Jewish history and the Jewish way of thinking encompass both suffering and pain, and also promise and continuity.

    It’s a good thought for this time of the year just before Pesach. Our ancestors in Egypt had mixed emotions when they left the House of Bondage – sorrow at all the suffering of the generations of the enslavement, and excitement at becoming free and able to look forward to the future.

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