Shabbat Tazria & Metzorah

Hag HaAtzmaut Sameah
Happy Israel Independence Day

Candles - Friday, April 20th @ 7:21 pm
Havdalah - April 21st @ 8:17 pm

The two combined sections of the Torah this week, are concerned with purity, physical and spiritual, in ways that on the surface seem either non-sensical or irrelevant. They may have applied once but not anymore. And yet there is an important psychological message that is really relevant today.

The whole of the Book of Vayikra, Leviticus, has an underlying theme of Havdalah. “Lehavdil beyn hatahor ve hatamey.” Differentiating between the holy and the profane, the spiritual and the mundane, the ethical and the unethical, the healthy and the unhealthy. It is the principle of holistic medicine. That one has to involve all of the body, the mind and the spirit in order to be truly healthy.

The first difference is between the priests and the laymen. It is not that one is better than the other. Just that one group of people are dedicated to serving the community and acting on its behalf religiously. Just as some of us take jobs that serve the community and others work to further their own careers. It is not that one is better, just different. We need both.

Then the Torah talks about the difference between humans who prepare themselves to enter holy spaces like the Temple, who have to purify themselves symbolically to rise to a higher different level. Spaces create atmospheres and help us recognize that different places require different preparation, dress, conduct, mood.

From there we move on to our eating differently. All creatures eat. But some think before they eat. Appreciate the gift of food and try to eat healthily and not greedily. By preparing food in our way we help make our homes holy places too. Then we move on to different physical states. What happens to the body in pregnancy and giving birth. What an amazing miracle it is and yet dangerous and disruptive. Life is like that, the beauty and the pain. And we have to deal with both sensitively.

The Torah goes on to talk about what is often called leprosy. But is not the actual disease that we know nowadays. Because the leprosy we call, only attacks human bodies. Whereas here we are going to talk about where clothes, buildings are attacked by what looks like fungus and rot. So, we are really discussing differentiating, healthy from unhealthy. How important it is to live in a healthy environment.

The rabbis were eager to understand these laws in a holistic way. If you neglect the physical, you will end up neglecting the moral and the ethical. Someone who gossips, tells tales, damages others with words is unhealthy morally. And bad people generate negativity. But it is not just negative behavior. It is also negative thoughts that can debilitate.

The Torah will go on to talk in the weeks ahead about the difference between holy actions of an ethical nature, as opposed to unethical, unholy behavior. The state of being Kadosh, being Holy, which every one of us should aspire to. Because this is the higher standard that God requires of us.

This theme of difference, Havdalah, is the challenge we face all the time. How to be better people. How not to be dragged down to the lowest levels of society. The Torah challenges us all the time to try to raise our game. Not by just thinking about it, having good intentions. But by acting, in our daily life. By having rituals, ceremonies, mitzvot, to remind us constantly to be better human beings morally. To be sensitive to the different states of other human beings whether in distress or sickness or health and happiness. Instead of looking to society for our standards, we need to look to Torah.


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