Tazria Metzora – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

After the joy which accompanies Yom Ha‘Atzmaut, the celebration of the re-establishment of the State of Israel after almost 2000 years, we plunge straight into the double Sedras of this week; Tazria and Metzora. The question that arises is why we single out the one disease of” Tzara’at”, or leprosy as it is often called.

There are many plagues that can affect us. There are countless natural risks that surround us in our daily life. The past year has exposed us to a worldwide plague and much loss of life.

Isolation by way of social distancing and wearing of masks has become a way of life for us. We protect our communities by temporary isolation but we also need to preserve the dignity of those who become afflicted and the cohesion of our societies. It requires all of us to be involved.

Why is Tzara’at so different? Why is it the Cohen who is called on to diagnose? We read:

the priest shall isolate the affliction for seven days

What is being considered here is being “tamei” (or impure) and being ”tahor”, that is becoming pure. It is about a spiritual state. The Torah is not setting out to be a medical treatise but a guide for our lives.

Our physical wellbeing is important but so is our relationship to the community to which we belong. The realities of life such as birth, brit milah, exposure to illness and death are always there. The Sedra implies that exposing us to such risk makes us “Tamei” (impure and unable to join in ritual). Those who accept that risk, dealing with childbirth, healing and burial could be looked at as being closer to God.

For those of us who have not been affected or have recovered we can maintain our rituals and communal activities. For us, comfort and support for our family, friends and the wider community can become our own “vaccines”.

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