Friday, April 20, 2018

Family Shabbat: Parashat Tazria-Metzora

Shabbat Shalom! Together we count the omer:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us concerning the counting of the Omer.
Hayom echad v’esrim shehem sh’losha shavuot la’omer.
Today is the 21st day, that is three weeks, of the Omer. Today’s realm is Malchut She’b’Tiferet, or Majesty within Compassion. In the Omer Calendar of Biblical Women, this day is attributed to the Witch of Endor, a woman of humble livings who is cast out by society for her divination. It is this divination that also leads King Saul to her door. She summons the spirit of his old mentor, the prophet Samuel, to give him guidance one last time as Saul himself is also seeing the end of his reign and his ultimate reunion with Samuel. The Witch, despite her lowly status in society shows the greatest majesty of compassion as she comforts the sick king in his final days.

In our Torah portion this week, Parashat Tazria-Metzora, we read about some terrible skin diseases and the way our ancient people interpreted them. In the second half of this double parasha, the Metzora part, the Torah explains that one of the diseases was a punishment for arrogance. In Leviticus 14:4, we are told that in order to cleanse someone afflicted with the skin disease of Metzora, the priest needed to gather ceder wood and hyssop grass. A Midrash asks, “Why these two plants? Because he has praised himself as a cedar tree... he should humble himself like a blade of grass.” The Chasidic masters add on this: “If the point is that he should show humility, why does he bring both a cedar and hyssop? But the true meaning of humility is not to be broken and bowed, but to be humble even as one stands straight and tall.” Just like the Witch of Endor, even one who is humble and humbled, can still do their job and do great things with a calm and majestic air, to carry with them the strength of the cedar and the soft flexibility of the hyssop.

This means that in school, you can be proud of the work you do, the Spelling Bees you win, the art you make that gets showcased, the role you got in the school play. But you don’t need to brag about it. And if you haven’t won a spelling bee or gotten the lead in the play yet, you can still be proud of being exactly who you are. You can carry yourself with the quiet air of self-satisfaction and just know that you are doing the best you can, and everyone around you is probably doing the best that they can too. It’s good to feel proud of yourself, and to show your friends and your family you’re happy for them when they do something to be proud of as well. And just like sometimes you might need reassurance that you’re on the right track and doing your best, you might want to reach out to a classmate you see struggling and reassure them in the same way.

And old Jewish saying goes, “A person should have two pockets in his coat. One should contain the Talmudic saying (Sanhedrin 37a), ‘A person is commanded to declare: For my sake the world was created.’ In his second pocket he should keep the verse (Genesis 18:17), ‘I am but dust and ashes.’” May we always remember that we are doing our best, and we can always strive to do better. May we always be humble yet self-assured. And most of all, may we always find majesty in our compassion.

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