A Water from the Well blog post, Parashat Tazria/Metzora
Written by Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
The section of Torah we are reading this week deals with a variety of powerful moments in life when it may be necessary to separate oneself from communal life and then, after a period of time, return to community connection. It calls for periods of separation and seclusion during the delicate period just after childbirth and at times of illness. Our Torah is consistently concerned with maintaining healthy boundaries such that the integrity of the individual, the integrity of the community, and the integrity of natural world are preserved. Torah sees no distinctions between these different realms of being and throughout its laws and texts promotes the idea that all of these realms of existence are interconnected. If we create balance within ourselves, we positively affect our community and environment. If we create balance in our environment, we positively affect our community and our personal lives, and so forth.
This particular Torah portion deals specifically with one’s body at times of disruption from the norm. It offers rituals that respect the need for temporary separation and creates rituals for return to communal life. In essence these are rituals that bring one back into balance with self and community after a disruption.
In our society these days, in our 24/7 digital lives, the notion of separation or tuning out from communication for any length of time provokes a sense of anxiety. We have become accustomed to lives of instant messaging, such that the idea of turning off one’s phone for even a few hours may create a deep unease. Our Torah calls out to us from ancient times with an eternal wisdom that says, there are times when we need to be in connection and times when we need to separate ourselves. Torah focuses on the body in particular and asks that we listen to its wisdom and seek out balance.
Rabbi Yael Levy writes: The natural inclination of the human being is to seek harmony, to find balance, to revel in beauty. And of course, there are so many things in life that knock us around, mix us up and leave us unsettled. Sometimes we are thrown off balance by joyful surprises, spectacular sensations, wondrous events. Other times our equilibrium is upset from fear, pain, challenging encounters and difficult situations. And sometimes it is just the natural flow of what a day requires that knocks us off center… Tradition teaches that when we listen to the body, we realize there are times for us to be outwardly engaged and times for us to focus inward.
Finding balance, seeking harmony is a practice that requires motion. We step, shift, realign, finding the center again and again.
This week, an ancient text about childbirth and leprosy offers us a gift. It teaches us to respect the wisdom of the body, to learn to modulate times of connection and give ourselves the opportunity to disconnect when needed.
May we all seek and find a better sense of balance in our lives, creating an inner harmony that ripples out to our families, friends and world.
Ken Yehi Ratzon, May it be so.