This week we have the pleasure of not one, but two parshiot, in our double portion of Tazria-Metzorah. This often occurs for a few reasons. For one, there are not enough weeks in the year to cover them all. The Torah is split into 54 portions, and as we know, there are 52 weeks in a year. Another is when we are fortunate enough to experience the month of Adar not once, but twice. This is the month in which we are commanded to “be happy, it’s Adar,” because we have Purim, the oncoming of Spring, and Passover on the horizon. Ironically, last year, when we began the pandemic that we are currently slogging our way through as if the year weren’t long enough….but there were two Adars! And some people think God does not have a sense of humor!
Metzorah talks about the proper purification ritual for leprosy, both for the afflicted person and their home. It also talks about the emission of bodily fluids. Hmmmm…..this doesn’t seem like a very pleasant lesson to be learning on what is supposed to be our day of rest and relaxation, does it? But if we concede that much of the Torah is metaphor, then it becomes easier for us to look at this parsha in modern-day terms. Leprosy (which rarely exists in society today, thankfully) representssome of the ugly divisions, bigotry, and hatred which have sadly become a prevalent part of our society in the last few years.It also serves as a metaphor for the feeling of bondage many of us feel as a result of being forced into exile during the pandemic.
Metzorahtells us that when God inflicts a person with leprosy, before they are allowed back into their community (which is referred to as a camp), the priest has to offer a sacrifice with two living birds. One has to be killed, while the other is set free. When the person is healed, they must shave every single bodily hair and scrub their clothes and body clean. Then on the eighth day, the priest must make yet another sacrifice, this time waving the blood of two lambs all over the place as an offering of expiation at the tent of meeting. This doesn’t exactly sound pleasant. Perhaps people today would be more able to part with their guns and hatred as well as to also to adhere to the protocols set in place to keep the pandemic at bay, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and getting vaccinated, if the consequence was being splattered in lamb’s blood.
Later in our parsha, God instructs Aaron and the Priests about how to clean the home of a leper. The Torah specifically states that God says, “When I inflict leprosy on a house.” As clergy, I am often asked the question as to why Godallows and often seems to create so much suffering. Just last week Abigail inquired as to why God allowed Nadav and Avihu to be killed just for making the mistake of bringing forth a “strange fire.” Perhaps it is because we must learn how to take apart, do away with, and rebuild our lives, just like how we have had to take apart, rebuild, and pivot our old ways of living in order to maintain some kind of connection during this unprecedented time.
It is up to us to turn all the tzuriswith the pandemic, along with the extreme divide we face in our nation, into “modern-day sacrifices.”It is upon us to beautify the sores. For me personally, when my son Zev was diagnosed with autism 4 years ago, all I could see was this enormous sore. But Ross, Abigail, and I, together with our parents, “scrubbed our clothes and body clean.” We make the sacrifices necessary to help him. We choose to see only the best things. And I chose to believe the wise Rabbi who told me that as Zev got older, he would become more and more beautiful and profound. There is beauty in him that is rare in others, and I am so grateful that he is exactly the way he is.
Last year during the pandemic, I composed a setting of B’cholDorVador (from Every Generation to Generation). It is upon us to look past what we may see as “sores,” or things we are sacrificing, and to always be looking to rebuild and renew. It is upon us to model this for each generation. I hope you enjoy this setting, and can use it in your own personal prayers and meditations, and in any other ways you find helpful.