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Parashat Tazria-Metzora - 5777

Dear friends,

The Torah is divided into 54 portions that are read one portion each week. This occurs mostly when we are in a Leap Year, when a full month is added. When it's a regular year, like the current year of 5777, on some Saturdays we read a double portion in order to complete the full cycle of Torah readings in one year. This is one of those Saturdays, as we will be reading Tazria and Metzora from the Book of Leviticus.

These portions deal mostly with the laws of Tum-ah and Taharah - Uncleanliness and Cleanliness. These terms have nothing to do with being physically clean or unclean. One may roll in the mud and be called Tahor, clean, and another person who just had a shower may be Tameh, unclean.

One becomes Tameh, unclean, by coming in contact with a dead body, or if the priest determines that the skin disease he has is Tzara-at (leprosy). That person must stay out of the camp for seven days. The Kohen checks the person again after the 7 days have passed and either declares the person Tahor, clean, so he can return to the camp, or declares that the person is still Tameh, unclean, and another 7 days of isolation are added.

Our sages had difficulties with this law. Since the Kohen was not a physician, why is it up to him to diagnose and decide whether the person should leave the camp or be able to return? In a play on words, our sages teach that 'Tza Ra At' is the same as 'motzi shem rah', slandering another person. The skin disease that appears is a punishment meted out against the person who spoke vile of another.

This coming week, Israel and Jews throughout the world will celebrate Israel's 69th birthday. In the year 70 C.E., the Romans defeated Judea and exiled our people to the four corners of the world. No matter where we were, however, we always yearned and prayed for the Return to Jerusalem.

Our ancestors witnessed many miracles as stated in the Torah. Our generation has been privileged to witness the biggest miracle of all. When an ancient people, after having wandered and suffered in many countries in its 2000-year exile has finally returned to its homeland and has successfully defended its new/old home against numerous enemies.

Give thanks to G-d for the privilege to be alive during this time. Celebrate Yom HaAtzma'ut, Israel's Independence Day. And, 'Shaalu Shlom Yerushalayim' - Pray for the peace Jerusalem. For 2000 years we could only do it in words. Today, we can do it in actions as well. Yes, continue to pray for its peace and security, but also contribute to Israeli causes, and visit Israel and Jerusalem, if you are able.

Shabbat Shalom and Yom HaAtzma'ut Sameah!