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Showing posts from April, 2010

Bending the Truth Toward Peace

It is amazing how the Torah manages to find the strangest, and yet somehow the most powerful means of healing and transforming humanity.In the Torah this week, we learn of the strange, leprosy-like disease called Tzara’at, and the rituals for its healing and purification.We learn about the rituals for the final purification of one who has recovered from Tzara’at:the priest takes two birds.One bird is sacrificed, the other bird is set free.The whole affair seems so very strange and mysterious.Why so much attention to the disease of Tzara’at?And why are these birds used to purify people from this disease?In order to begin to unpack this ritual, we must remember how our ancient sages taught us to understand the disease of Tzara’at: that it was an affliction that represented evil speech.Through slander, gossip, through any kind of words that brought ill-will and violence against others, one became afflicted with this disease.Our skin, our clothes, even our houses would erupt in a snow-whi…

Healthy Shame

There’s a very poignant moment right at the beginning of Parashat Shmini in the Torah.Moses calls to his brother Aharon to take his place officially as the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest of Israel.And Moses says “Krav el hamizbe’ach,”“Come forward to the altar.”Rashi, the great medieval commentator, explains that Aharon himself wouldn’t come forward.He was bashful—“Hayah Aharon boosh v’yareh lageshet,” Aharan was ashamed and afraid to approach to take his place—not until Moses verbally proded him—“Come forward!”—“Lamah atah boosh?”Why are you ashamed, Aharon?For this [for this priesthood] were you chosen!So why was Aharon so ashamed and bashful?We get lots of theories from our rabbinic commentators.The M’norat HaMa’or explains that Aharon felt ashamed to take such an exalted position after having assisted the Israelites with the sin of the Golden Calf.That in fact, it was because he felt such shame and remorse for his past sinful actions that he was chosen to become the High Priest in t…