D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
This too, shall pass.
When things gets tough it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and wonder why life is so difficult. During those tough times it can feel as if our serenity, our contentment is inversely proportional to our expectations. The higher our expectations, the lower our serenity, the lower our contentment. But, if you feel like life is down in the dumps, a Zen proverb reminds us to keep going no matter how bleak things might look – This too shall pass. Until then, fetch wood, carry water, walk the earth.
This week’s double Torah portion Tazria/Metzora, focuses in part on the laws of tzara’at. Tzara’at is often translated as leprosy but can also be interpreted as a plague that afflicts people, as well as garments and homes. According to the Torah, when a priest determines that an individual is afflicted with this condition:
וְהִסְגִּ֧יר הַכֹּהֵ֛ן אֶת־הַנֶּ֖גַע שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִֽים
The priest shall isolate the affected person for seven days. (Lev. 13:4)
After the seven days are up, the priest is instructed to conduct another examination. Isolation is continued until the priest determines the patient is cured. The isolation is a necessary step not just as a cure but as a precaution against spreading an illness often associated with lashon ha-rah-- evil speech or gossip, to others in the community. For the one afflicted and for the community, this too shall pass.
As we enter our second month of staying at home and social distancing, we are all finding ways to manage each passing day. Whether we distract ourselves with work, school, TV, movies, books, jigsaw puzzles, house cleaning, walks, or Zoom events, each of us in our own unique way, is adjusting and adapting to this new mode of living. But, as we walk around our neighborhoods, watch TV and read the newspapers, we are also continually reminded exactly what is at stake – the lives of millions of people.
The future may be unclear, but like the example in this week’s Torah portion isolation isn’t a permanent condition. It is however a necessary one. In any case, this too shall pass.