Do you ever feel like a leper? I think many of us have experienced, at some point in their lives, an estrangement to family, friends, colleagues, synagogue, social group, community, perhaps even our own faith. We experience a kind of spiritual leprosy. Sometimes the estrangement emanates from our side, other times it seems to emanate from the others-we fell as if we are being treated like lepers. It's not a pleasant feeling, whatever the source.
So, what do you do when you are a spiritual or emotional leper? Do you sit around feeling sorry for yourself. Do you develop an intense dislike of those who distance themselves from you as if you were the carrier of a horrible and contagious disease? Do you develop an intense dislike of yourself, instead. You begin to wonder "am I really a leper, that people avoid me, push me away, distance themselves?"
The Haftarah for Metzora is taken from First Kings, chapter 7. It starts with the story of four lepers who were living just outside their own community even though it was a time of war and siege. The text tells us that none of them really thought it was a good idea just sitting around waiting to die or be killed. They apparently believed going inside the city was an option open to them (thus, they must have felt their fellow Israelites were ultimately good hearted and would not turn away even a leper under these circumstances.) But they decided against that, figuring the city was under siege and in pretty bad shape-they might wind up dying of starvation if they went into the city.
What an irony-here we have four lepers, outcasts in their own community, and by Gd's commandments no less-yet somehow they feel better off than their fellow countrymen inside the city!
There other option was to go to the enemy camp. They figured, either they will kill us instantly, or let them live. Yet another irony-despite their own circumstances, they considered going to the enemy camp as deserting! Still, they decide this seems the best option. They preferred a quick death, if they were to die, than one of starvation.
So they steal their way into the enemy camp-to find it deserted. (The text kindly tells us that Gd had frightened away the enemy with sounds of an approaching army.) They help themselves to some spoils-but then they stop and say to themselves that here they are, taking advantage of their good fortune, yet an event of even greater import, one that was great news to their own community, had taken place. They must go report this to the city.
They shout the good news to the gatekeeper-and then we hear no more about them, their "good deed" done. (In the continuing story, a disbelieving King sends out scouts, who eventually confirm that the enemy army has retreated.)
These lepers, forced out of their own community, still felt connected to it, felt drawn to share the news of Gds good fortune.
If they can act this way, so can we all, when we fail tainted with our own kinds of spiritual and emotional leprosy. It's an important lesson to us all.
Remember that even when you feel like a leper, your community still matters-at least it should-to you.
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