Tazria comes to us at a most relevant moment. The context of the passage, as many know, deals a lot with the diagnosis and treatment of a skin disease. The priest makes a judgment of unclean to clean. No doubt there will be many discussions at your Torah study about what this tzara’at may have been. But what about what it can symbolize today?
Chapter 13 tells us that the outbreak will mark a person unclean(tameh)if that outbreak is “deeper than the skin of a person’s body”. This Torah portion speaks to us now, as we are witnessing a society that suffers from an outbreak of a disease of division. We have lost the ability to speak civilly; we have become infected by a growing fear of “the other”. We have written of this before, but things keep accelerating. Look at recent laws in Florida and Texas and other states that seek to divide people rather than unite them. What are we afraid of? Again, as Jews, this fear of the “other” must strike a chord of concern in us as history has shown that branding people this way only opens the door to distrust, hate and often violence.
These are serious times. Why are so many afraid of talking and welcoming people who look, act or choose to live differently than others? The runs against the value system of our tradition. We have been victims of this type of society. When distrust and fear is “deeper than the skin” of society, we need to be very concerned. Have we reached that point now?
We have the power to choose the type of world in which we live. We posses both the possibilities for holiness and evil. We are reminded that “We have the creativity and freedom to remake the world and now, increasingly, to remake ourselves. Our own survival might well depend on cultivating anew a sense of limits.” (Human Nature and Jewish Thought. Alan L. Mittleman. p.184)
Once again our tradition calls on us to make a choice as to the type of world we wish to live in. The consequences continue to be overwhelming. But choose we must.
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.