Vital Signs – Parshat Metzora 5784

A few months ago I woke up feeling not so great. I was nauseous, my back hurt, and I felt generally yucky. But it was Monday morning and I had to get dressed, wake up the kids, drop them off at school, and get to work. I got myself ready, all while feeling really not like myself, and just as I was getting ready to head out the door, my pain and discomfort level shot up, and I gave in. Duncan took the kids to school, and I went to lie down. Two hours later, after resting, hydrating, and listening to my body’s signs, I was able to get up and move on with my day. I don’t believe that my temporary ailment was a punishment for something (or someone) I had done wrong. However, it’s very possible that it was the result of me not listening carefully enough to my own body.

This week’s Torah portion, Metzora, continues the discussion of the laws of ritual impurity and purification that were introduced in Parshat Tazria. Looking beyond this, there seems to be a deeper message in this portion to explore, one that deals with the various causes of sickness. Tzara’at, the skin disease that is the focus of this portion, was understood to be a punishment for sins such as gossip, slander, and arrogance. In other words, it was seen as a physical manifestation of spiritual impurity resulting from harmful speech and behavior. The Torah is teaching us that our words and actions have a powerful impact on others. We must be careful to avoid engaging in harmful speech and behavior, and if we do err, we must take responsibility for our actions and make amends.

As we reflect on this message, it’s important to remember that it’s not just our outward words and actions that can cause harm, but our inner thoughts as well. Just as our actions can have a significant impact on others, the way we treat ourselves – physically and emotionally – can take a toll. We must strive to act with kindness and compassion towards others and ourselves, recognizing that it’s not just the wellbeing of others that’s at stake, but also our own.

Furthermore, the purification process for someone afflicted with tzara’at emphasizes the importance of teshuvah (repentance) and the potential for spiritual growth and renewal. Through acknowledging our mistakes, making amends, and seeking to improve ourselves, we can overcome our flaws and become better people.

Let us strive to be mindful of the impact of our words and actions on ourselves and others, and let us embrace the potential for growth and renewal that comes with repentance and self-improvement. Let us listen to the signs our body is giving us about our own limits, and may we take this message to heart as we move forward into the coming week.

– Rabbi Eve Posen

Source: Vital Signs – Parshat Metzora 5784