Neither Tazria or Metzora are my favorite parashiyot to write about, and of course, it's double the fun in a leap year, when I get to write about each of them separately. I've not shied away from them, and you'll find other musings on these two parashiyot, both individual and combined, in my archives.
Nevertheless, I'll willingly admit that it is a challenge to mine nuggets of value from Tazria and Metzora without eventually having to go over the same well-trod road. I find myself quite challenged and daunted by having to find something new to say, and, while I am happy with earlier musings, didn't want to let myself off the hook with just a retread.
Though both Tazria and Metzora speak of bodily and other physical afflictions and impurities, it's not much of a stretch to think about other ways in which we might become tamei, ritually impure, such that our presence might defile Gd's tabernacle.
I don't know about you, but I can think of countless times when I have walked into a sanctuary or other worship setting, either as worshipper, shaliach tzibur, or liturgical musician, fresh from some activity, some encounter, some emotional trauma that most surely didn't leave me in an appropriate state of spiritual purity to approach Gd.
It is only my faith and trust in a Gd self-described as endlessly patient, merciful, loving, kind and forgiving that enables me to proceed without seeing myself as a total hypocrite. And while I can usually be easily transported into a state more appropriate for being in Gd's presence, I always somehow feel that it was through no effort on my own part. Thus some guilt remains. What could I have done to rid myself of impurities, to get out of my tamei state before approaching Gd?
Metzora, with it rituals for making the transformation from tamei to tahor (impure to pure, although neither word can really be fully translated in English with all their nuances) sparks thoughts in my head. Perhaps I need a ritual that I can use to make that transition myself. Before stepping into that worship space to encounter Gd, I need to take a moment to separate myself from the community, cleanse myself and my soul, ask Gd's forgiveness (offering a sacrifice of my words and heart rather than of turtledoves) and be transformed into an appropriate state to be in Gd's presence and engage in worship with the community.
It could all start with something as simple as washing - cleansing my hands, my face. A moment to reflect on what it is that is causing me to be tamei, and a prayer as my offering. I haven't found just the right text yet, but it is out there and I know it will find me.
Ideally, we'd all find a way to create a buffer of time between the quotidian and the sacred times in our life. Yet reality often makes that difficult. That time of transition from work mode to worship mode might be almost instantaneous. I see it in myself and others all the time. We rush home from work to prepare, then we rush to synagogue. It's not always easy to find a little extra time to "get in the appropriate mood and attitude" shall we say. So this brief moment of ritual transition I am proposing might have to do.
I imagine that many of my friends who are traditionally observant might have an easier time at this-their lives already structured around the normative Jewish cycles, rather than secular time. Nevertheless, some of them have shared with me over the years having these same difficulties with the transition. So simply adopting a more frum lifestyle might not be the ultimate solution (though I can hear my friends all saying "but it couldn't hurt to try.")
Shabbat is a place that is out of time. It is a place where we can truly be free of the worries and cares of everyday life, if we but try. And perhaps knowing that I have this largess from Gd that gives me this time out of time, I can permit myself the luxury of using but a brief ritualistic moment to prepare myself.
But aha! There's surely more moments in life when I come to be in Gd's presence to worship. I've fallen into that liberal Jewish trap of framing everything as though Shabbat were the only time I prayed. I need this ritual time of transition from tamei to tahor more often than just Friday night! In fact, it might be appropriate to consider this kind of transition ritual for every transition from one activity or setting to another. Gee, that's a lot to take on.
I think I'll start slow. After all, I haven't even really formulated exactly the ritual I'm looking for to transition from a self-recognized state of tamei so that I can go be in Gd's presence. (Aha! Another liberal way of seeing things--I must remind myself it's not only when I recognize my own impurity that I might be impure!)
I'm going to begin my journey with this now. I invite you to try one of your own. In fact, Shabbat just might be the perfect time to reflect on this and have some clarity about it come. Then again, I have to be a school administrator tomorrow morning. Sigh.
© 2005 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some previous musings on the same parasha:
Metzora 5763-Not So Irrelevant
Metzora 5760-Even Lepers Bring Good News
5764-Getting Through the Messy Stuff
Tazria-Metzora 5761-Lessons For Our Stuents
Tazria-Metzora 5762-Sing a Song of Leprosy
Tazria 5765-If Naaman Can Be
Tazria 5760-Preventing Spiritual Rot
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