Metzorah is a fascinating passage . The text continue the discussion of how the community treated (or attempted to) what was termed skin diseases. The rituals regarding the identification of these conditions, the treatment of the individual and the acceptance back into the community all began with, and focuses on the priests. They spoke for God. No doubt many colleagues will cite the exclusion of people from the community because of fear during Shabbat services. The parallel to what we see in our country and around the world is too obvious. Fear of the unknown is its own disease.
However, I wanted to look at another passage that came up for discussion this week with a student of mine. Leviticus 14:34-35 is a delicate passage that reminds us of a very powerful message. God speaks and says that “when you enter Canaan, that I will give you as a possession, and I inflict an eruptive plague (tzar’at) upon a house in the land, the owner of the house shall come to the priest and say ‘something like a plague has appeared in my house” Now this raises many issues that we encounter with illness. Does God bring about illness? The text mentions God saying that “I” will inflict the plague. The theological issue is major for we have people who see illness as a result of “God’s will”. Where is the sense of randomness? And also look at the call that the owner comes to the priest to admit I have a plague in my house!
Look at this text and maybe see an insight into many of our issues on a very personal level. We have lived life enough to see the truth in this text if we see it as symbolic. In order to address a problem in our life, relationships, our soul; we need to admit it, own it, name it.Perhaps, one of the lessons of this little passage is that, as we age, we come to understand that, try as we might, there is so much in life that we do not and cannot control. admitting that, accepting that may “free” us to live life to its fullest. Admitting that there may be issues in our life that we have ignored, repressed or denied, may “free” us to meet these issues and to finally allow them to find a place in our souls that will allow us to live life without that sense of “if only”.
We soon will gather for the seder to celebrate our festive of freedom and liberation. Maybe, as that ritual unfolds, we will be able to confront some of our own fears, concerns and demons, admit them, face them and thus begin that first step towards true liberation of the soul.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.