Keeping the body, cloth, household items or the house clean and pure, and ways of doing so, is the crux of the teachings of the two portions of the Torah we read this week. When some suspicious impurity is found it is brought to the priest for examination, or the priest has to attend to the place where such impurity is found. For example, “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body” the priest is expected to check that person thoroughly and he may identify that “the hair in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is an infection of leprosy; when the priest has looked at him, he shall pronounce him unclean.” If after seven days when the priest checks the person again “and if the infection has faded and the mark has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a scab. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean.” There is a process here, things are checked, conclusions are reached and action taken. If, for example, it where to be a garment “and if the mark has faded after it has been washed, then he shall tear it out of the garment or out of the leather, whether from the warp or from the woof”.
The leprosy may appear in structures and buildings too, not only on people, garments, or other kinds of household articles. If there is a concern about a house having that condition it must be evacuated and they must “empty the house before the priest goes in to look at the mark, so that everything in the house need not become unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to look at the house.” The priest, based on an inspection decides what needs to be done and may quarantine the house for a period of seven days. Then, “if the mark has indeed spread in the walls of the house, then the priest shall order them to tear out the stones with the mark in them and throw them away at an unclean place outside the city.” If this does not help and the condition persists then there is no other conclusion but that this “is a malignant mark in the house; it is unclean.” This house must be torn down and “its stones, and its timbers, and all the plaster of the house” must be taken “outside the city to an unclean place.”
We can read the words, that is quite easy, we can even provide some interpretations, maybe from a distance of generations, because it seems really far away from our daily lives today. When was it last when we could not take care of something in our houses? Or had experience with some defect in our cloths that could not have been fixed? Well, maybe in our houses today we do not see leprosy but we do see faults, and cracks, and damages, rust in the iron rods strengthening our structures, an electrical line not properly grounded, a swimming pool not properly equipped with the necessary precautions from unauthorized entry, or exposed electrical outlets where babies crawl around. So maybe it is not yesteryears leprosy but it is certainly a malignant condition a result of which people get hurt and sometimes die from. If once when such a malignant condition appeared, the priest was called to inspect the condition, now too many times those who are supposed to keep their eyes open conveniently look to the other side. The procrastinate, postpone, ignore or are otherwise indifferent to an imminent danger. We must find a cure for that complacency, be more diligent to avoid such threats, be cognizant of them and take action that does not merely include complaining why others are not doing what they should be doing, but taking action ourselves.
The leprosy touches not only there. Today we find that leprosy has crept into the way we talk and people talk around us. It is a malignant discourse that is unwilling to accept the right of the other to have a different opinion on an issue, the right to act differently from us. It is not a discussion anymore but rather a demand to obey my way of thinking. Accepting my opinion as an ultimate truth. It is a discourse where in fact deaf persons shout at each other at the top of their voices, finding the leprosy laying with the other but failing to see where we caught the disease ourselves. We see it on him, we recognize it on her, we skip the objective inspection, forget about a period of quarantine, and determine – through it away at the unclean place that is outside of our city. This is not the way a democratic discourse should be taking place, this is not the way to amend things that need fixing – destruction is its only course of action.
From the two portions of this week we learn that key to being able to amend an illness is patience. It should take time before we decide to destroy something because it is not fixable anymore. We must check, inspect, observe, have someone of true understanding do all of that. Maybe these days someone would have enacted laws to circumvent the authority of the priest to make a determination because they would not have like the priest’s decision. These portions of the Torah teach us that this is not the way to go. The right way is to thoroughly investigate, reach facts based conclusions, and take the necessary action to solve the problem which is not based on the crowd’s demands and pressures. I think that with this kind of reading we can make these readings a way of life today/
Shabbat Shalom and wishes for a Khodesh Tov and a Happy Independence Day.
Reuven Marko, 13 April 2018, 29 Nissan, 5778