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Idea on the Portion of the Week

This week we wade into the challenging topic of skin disease, with the double portion of Tazria-Metzora. On Tuesday we delved in detail as to how to create relevance for something that seems way beyond anything to which we could relate. In particular, there is the underlying spiritual component, as asserted by Maimonides in his Guide to the Perplexed, that Tzaraat (Leprosy) was connected to Lashon Harah (disparaging talk about one's fellow). And then there was how the Torah dealt with this condition which was quarantine, that on the surface seems a physical strategy but to be consistent, we need to uncover the spiritual approach.

Someone who feels comfortable on a regular basis to speak disparagingly about the people in one's life clearly is contemptuous of the value they may bring to the world, and even to one's own life. By forcing that person to separate from all human contact for a set period of time, the loneliness that will ensue will force that person to reassess the value that all people have in their life. Thus, when that person rejoins society, they will be fortified with a renewed sense of human dignity, so the experience will serve as a bulwark against returning to their past unfortunate behavior.

There is much talk about the economic repercussions of our present situation, but there may be a spiritual consequence as well. Even the phrase "social distancing" can breed a mindset antithetical to the goal of the Torah to see everyone in the image of God. As we pass anyone, we move away with the concern that they may compromise our health. In NYC we are even asked to inform on our fellow citizens if we detect behavior not in accordance with health guidelines.

Now while all of this may be necessary in light of the bigger concerns of basic human survival, we must be especially on guard that this behavior doesn't transform us subliminally, leaving a psychological residue that will last far beyond these present circumstances. 

Tue, September 22 2020 4 Tishrei 5781