Let’s Hear It For Tazria – by Nick Clark

Let’s Hear It For Tazria
A D’var Torah
(Leviticus 12:1-13:59)
Nick Clark
Temple B’rith Kodesh, Rochester, NY
March 29, 2014

Today I’d like to dedicate my d’var Torah for Tazria to Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman, Suzanne (my wife) and my friends in our Tanach and Torah study groups.

As I was reading the Parsha for today and doing some research on it, I came upon the first line from a bar mitzvah boy’s d’var Torah…
This is the grossest part of the Torah!

I couldn’t agree with him more.

It made me think of those pictures of Civil War field hospitals. Legs and arms, teeth grinding on lead musket balls to endure horrific pain, bloody scabs, the smell of infection and puss… And death.

That is gross. And Real.

Tazria is all about infection and separation…Segregating people who, for one reason or another, have become unclean or dirty, and the efforts to become clean again.

Efforts that include segregating parts of ourselves from the whole person… the person each of us is.

According to Torah, these people have become unclean and often separated from the larger community. Being unclean can even include the most natural of human conditions – such as a woman who has just bourn a child.

The portion also indicates that houses, physical dwellings, and clothing can be deemed dirty and must be ritually cleansed.

The person responsible for declaring a person, object or house dirty is the chief priest, the Cohen. And, it is he … always a he…who will declare the person, object or dwelling ritually clean.

What hit me like a landmine was the realization that all of us have nooks and crannies in our lives that hide and shelter deeds we have done or thoughts we have had that despoil our souls.

We harbor these things deep within ourselves … they become the psychological baggage that holds us hostage from enlightenment, from a new sense of cleanliness, from a new sense of personal honesty, and hold us hostage from healing. Those things, those deeds, those thoughts, those really gross aspects of our lives… are making our Real lives like those civil war hospitals….

Since we are coming up on Passover maybe another way of looking at this situation is… we’ve created our very own personal Egypts, from which we must find our way.

These things are on-going traumas. They hurt us – past, present and future. If we don’t recognize them, acknowledge them and then DO something to repair them – If we fail to do this then we will be imprisoned by them for as long as we live.

we alone will know them … will be alone with them. As we grow older, age hobbles us further with their ever-growing weight.

And, each of these things has inflicted injuries and pain upon us.

So, what to do?
How do we escape? How do we cleanse ourselves?
Recently, Ayala Emmett, a new Temple B’rith Kodesh member and wise soul, she and I sat down for coffee and a chat. I have discovered in our Tanach and Torah study groups, the true weight of some of those “THINGS” that I have carried around for way too long… things that are holding me apart from my community … You, my friends and from myself.

What to do?
Ayala and I discussed the idea that in our modern, Reform Judaism our community could take on some aspects of the role of healing. That we, as Reform Jews, together might have the ability to make ourselves whole/clean/rejoined.

Perhaps we, as a congregation, might design a small, special, intimate service for anyone who desires or feels a need to become healed.

Let me make clear, we are not talking about curing…that’s an entirely different focus. We are talking about healing.
The service would be open to all, but it wouldn’t be a time for “deep confession” and pronouncing our needs or sins out loud.

Rather it would be a way to rejoin the parts of ourselves that have cut us off from our real and whole selves…and from our community. It would help rid us of the guilt and pain on which we have built our own Egypt. To start again with a solid sense of our true self.

So, let me end by offering you an a two-part invitation… First, join with us to design and create a time to heal…And second, adopt a different view of Tazria, one that is definitely not gross.

Shabbat Shalom.