Shabbat Shalom. I write this on a particularly rainy day in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m not saying that simply for context or as light banter, but because it holds a great significance to this week’s Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora. There is a popular proverb that states: “April showers bring May flowers,” meaning that what seems like a negative situation at the time (i.e. rain) has a positive outcome (i.e. flowers) afterwards. At the center of this metaphor is the cleansing power of water. Water is the primordial fluid from which life on Earth began, it’s the substance that makes up half of the human body, and it is all over the Torah.
The most obvious example is Noah’s Flood, which created a clean slate for the entire planet, but Tazria-Metzora takes this theme of renewal to a much more personal level. In it, G-d tells Moses about the cleansing ritual of the mikvah, a naturally gathered pool of water that the participant fully submerges in. In the context of the portion, G-d specifically instructs pregnant women to engage in this ritual. While mikvahs can be used for a plethora of life events in the 21st century, it is still closely linked to the idea of renewal, and specifically rebirth.
The second commandment in Tazria-Metzora feels particularly relevant to our current situation. It describes the procedures around handling Tzaraat, a proto-virus resembling leprosy. The prescribed solution is a seven-day quarantine. At the end of these seven days, if the patient is healed, then they engage in a water ritual to fully cleanse themselves. Just like the patient, we have all been in self-quarantine not only for the past week, but for some of us the past month and maybe even longer.
This portion is a reminder that this too shall pass, and rebirth is imminent. For those of us residing in the Northern Hemisphere, that rebirth can be seen physically in the form of Spring. Around the globe, we celebrated Passover, which marks the rebirth of the Jewish people from mere slaves into a great nation. But on a smaller scale, we each experience our own personal rebirth each Shabbat. This is a time to reflect on our week and prepare for the next one. Like submerging in the mikvah, Shabbat grants us the opportunity for a clean slate. Like the glimmering reflection of water, may this Shabbat be a reflective time for all of us.
Ethan Rubenstein, Greater Atlanta Region
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