|All are needed to make community whole|
|By Rabbi Andrew Klein|
|Friday, 27 April 2012 00:00|
|Leviticus 12:1 – 15:33|
This week’s double Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora, deals with a variety of infectious illnesses and diseases called tzara’at. Biblical scholars are uncertain exactly what these infectious diseases were, but many consider them to be partly a medical condition and partly a spiritual pathology.
When an Israelite was thought to have contracted tzara’at, a priest was called in for a diagnosis. A positive diagnosis meant that the person did have tzara’at. He or she was considered to be in a state of ritual impurity and needed a priest to prescribe a treatment plan to help him or her return to a state of ritual purity and wholeness.
In the most severe cases, the afflicted person, the metzora, was exiled outside of the city walls until the priest determined that it was safe to bring the individual back into the community.
The Torah tells us the details about diagnosing and treating the metzora but mentions nothing about the individual’s emotional condition. There is not a word about the feelings of fear, embarrassment, and shame that most likely would have accompanied being sent away from the community and into the wilderness for healing.
An amazing story involving four individuals with tzara’at, in this week’s Haftarah portion, comes from the Book of Second Kings. In the 9th century BCE, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was at war with Syria. Samaria, the Israelites’ capital, was besieged, leaving the people inside the walls cut off from food and supplies. The famine and the conditions in the city were so severe that its inhabitants had lost all hope of surviving.
Prior to the siege, four individuals diagnosed with tzara’at had been banished outside the city walls. Between the drastic conditions within the city walls and the harshness of the wilderness outside, the afflicted individuals were desperate to find a way to survive. They approached the camp of their enemies, the Arameans, searching for food and water.
They were astonished to find the enemy camp empty and deserted. The people must have fled quickly, leaving all their supplies and treasures behind. The exiled Israelites saw the much-needed rations and began to gather the food and valuables. Their first inclination was to hide it all for themselves. Soon, however, they realized that what they were planning was not right. They didn’t want to anger God or their fellow Israelites; they also felt genuine concern for their brethren locked in the city and afraid to come out.
They decided to return to Samaria and tell the people about their discovery, thereby saving the entire population from starvation. They made a choice to save the very community that had sent them into exile, leaving them to fend for themselves.
As we apply this biblical narrative to our lives today, we see that our roles in life are fluid and ever-changing. One day we can feel disenfranchised and powerless, and yet those very qualities have the potential power to educate and change cultural norms. The Torah is forever generous in helping us see each and every one of us as an integral part of the community. We each have our role, knowing that our current roles and needs can and do change. There are days when each of us can bring healing to the community and other times when we need healing for ourselves.
May we humbly embrace each of the roles that life brings us and graciously meet one another in our community with compassion, respect, and the hope for a return to a state of shleimut, wholeness, for all. We need everyone’s presence, and we need to hear and respect everyone’s voice, in order to keep our community rich and diverse.
Wishing everyone a peaceful and loving Shabbat, filled with joy, meaning and purpose. Shabbat Shalom,