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44http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2011/04/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---04_08_2011
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 04_08_2011
04/07/2011 10:18 AM Posted by:


From the Desk of

April 8, 2011

 

 

                 Metzora is one of those portions in Leviticus that is generally skimmed by casual readers. It speaks of bodily emissions, skin infections and other ailments. It’s just not a pleasant portion to read in English, and not from the bemah on Shabbat. Nevertheless, it’s a particularly poignant Torah portion for us. In ancient times, the ailments were really a cause for fear and anxiety for the individual and the community. Such ailments were regarded as God’s punishment for personal transgressions. No wonder this is the same portion that reckless preachers cite when they look for reasons to condemn so-called “transgressors”. But, they and we misunderstand the Torah portion if we conclude that the purpose of the text was only to exclude ailing people. If read for the purpose it was recorded, the text also provides means to include them. The goal was not to ostracize, but to provide opportunities to return and participate in a sacred community. In Leviticus, those who were sent away expected that they would be welcomed back after they demonstrated their healing to the high priest.


                  Today, there are more serious concerns than ancient accounts of green stuff growing on the walls of a house (mildew) or scaly skin infections (eczema), for which we have real therapies. Today, we face real sins of homophobia, xenophobia (fear of foreigners), bigotry, racism, and anti-Semitism. These are the sins that plague us. They dismantle the social structures we depend on when we think of community. Torah is an antidote that provides us some relief from our learned fears. In Torah we find our Golden Rules, chief among them, “Love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19). Our fear and insecurity often come from what we don’t know about ourselves or others. Unlike the plagues that affected ancient communities, no one can “catch” xenophobia or “catch” homosexuality. Unfortunately, modern records attest to the gross insecurity we have felt and later foisted onto minority groups in society. At times, our behavior has been no better than our ancestors’; perhaps, it has even been worse.

                 
                   The lesson from Metzora places the burden on the individuals to heal themselves from the conditions that caused them to be excluded. Likewise, today, anyone who possesses a personal challenge that can be overcome should strive to overcome it, including a medical ailment or even a language barrier. But, Metzora also places an equal burden on us, especially the leaders of the community, to be ready to receive those individuals again and to include them with full rights. I urge you to look around your neighborhood and into your heart to examine whether or not you have done what you should to meet the expectations of your Judaism, “to know the heart of the stranger because you were strangers in the Land of Egypt” and “to love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” And, above all, to remember Rabbi Hillel, who taught, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others; that is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”

                
                    On Friday, April 8, 2011, in our sanctuary, we will worship using the Union Prayerbook (UPB) and Rabbi Samuel E. Karff will give the Shabbat message. Please join us at 6:30pm. All are welcome.

               

                    From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

 

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