Community Rabbi Corner, April 12, 2019

Rabbi Steven Wernick
Beth Tzedec Congregation
Toronto, Ontario
Parashat Metzora

The parashah this week, Metzora, is about leprosy, or at least what our ancestors understood as leprosy.  For 100s of years our sages and scholars have sought symbolic meaning in the text, beyond the literal understanding.
For example, when the text describes the Israelites entering the Land of Israel and we learn that their houses will be inflicted with tzaraat, leprosy, what does that mean?  How can a house get a disease?  Our sages understood this metaphorically, the problem they wanted to address was how does one build a home which protects one from life's diseases?  They suggested a response which is not about how one keeps things out, but rather, what do we let in?
As Jews, what do we want to let into our homes, such that we can protect ourselves from the plagues of society?  Here are a few suggestions:
* Education.  The more you know, the better equipped you are to deal with any challenge.  And even more than knowledge, Judaism values a question, curiosity, learning.  That's ultimately what wisdom is about.  How do we understand the plagues of society?  What are the root causes?  Where are the opportunities for impact?  How can we make a difference?
* Tzedakah, gemilut hasadim, blessings, family time and more.  When we let in mitzvot, Jewish practice, we create the habits of holiness that help us to lead lives of meaning and purpose.  That's when we take our learning and put it into practice.
The mezuzah we affix to our doorposts are daily reminders of these values.  When we walk into our homes we can remind ourselves to nurture these values inside, and when we walk outside, we can remind ourselves to live by them in the world.  In other words, we are the cure to society's ills.
One last thought as we are also just one week away from Passover.  We recall the Exodus from Egypt with the words ha lahma anya -- this is the bread of affliction -- let all who are hungry come and eat; all who are needy come and sit down.  You have a place.  There's an open door.  We open our doors for Elijah because he is supposed to announce the coming of the Messianic Days in which there will be no more plagues -- medical or societal.  This is the language of invitation.
For our family, Golda Och Academy, more so the people who make up this extraordinary community, has been all of this and more.  As we reflect on our time here -- 9 years; three children -- we thank the community for helping our children and us learn these values.  More importantly, we thank you for sharing with us in living them.