>> Torah portion
This is the most powerful, infor-
Parshat Tazria (Shabbat HaChodesh):
Leviticus 12:1-13:59, Exodus 12:1-20;
n Parashat Tazria, we learn of the
personal crisis an individual faced
when they contracted tzaraat — a
contagious and debilitating skin disease.
For our biblical ancestors, this was a
very serious condition, one
that could easily be passed
on by the infected person
simply by standing under the
same roof with someone else
— even when there was no
actual contact between them.
For this reason, the leprous
individual was forced by the
Torah to live in solitude and
to tear his/her clothing like
a mourner. Furthermore, to
warn others to keep their dis-
tance, the leper had to further
alienate him/herself by calling out to all
who passed by, saying: "I am impure! I
To the modern psyche, it seems rath-
er unkind that a person who is already
physically ill would be made to further
humiliate themselves emotionally and
psychologically by drawing further
attention to their disease.
The ancient sages try to make sense
of this ritual by explaining that the
lepers are actually crying out for help
because they alone could not heal them-
selves from their suffering. Instead, they
needed to rely upon the sincere and
authentic prayers and well wishes of
others on their behalf.
I am reminded of a Talmudic story in
which Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi argues
with his colleagues about how to best
approach a group of highly contagious
people quarantined on the edge of town.
The majority of rabbis believe it was
more important to protect their own
health and that of their community.
But Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi dis-
agrees and singlehandedly decides to
approach each of the sufferers. He goes
over and sits with them, hugs every one
of them and learns Torah with them —
helping the afflicted connect with God
through sacred teachings. The rabbi pro-
vides much more than a physical pres-
ence at the risk of his own health and
life, he offers radical compassion that is
in striking contrast to his colleagues.
As Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi illus-
trates, in times of crisis, whatever they
may be — we need the commitment,
assistance and compassion of our fam-
ily and friends — because it is very
hard to get through these
types of challenges alone.
It speaks volumes when in
emergencies we are able to
step up in the interest of the
greater good and help make
a positive impact. So often,
the unwavering and uncon-
ditional support and kind-
ness of others truly makes
the difference between life
Giving others the oppor-
tunity to extend kindness,
especially in difficult situations, is part
of what the leper in our parshah is try-
ing to teach us. Yes, each of us can and
should try harder to express the little
acts of chesed (lovingkindness) we have
the opportunity to perform — for it is
in these acts that we have the power to
play a meaningful role in bringing heal-
ing to the world.
As we intensify our preparations for
the coming Pesach holiday, may we
increase the acts of lovingkindness we
perform — in everything from giving
tzedakah to making room at our seder
tables for individuals who could benefit
from us sincerely extending our hands
and our hearts.
And in so doing, may we, like Rabbi
Yehoshua ben Levi, recognize the true
opportunity we have to make a profound
difference in someone else's life.
mative and passionate speech
ever conducted about ethical
veganism. After watching the
lecture, Rabbi David Ingber
said, "Thank you for challenging
us to love all God's creatures."
During Gary's 2012 Israeli tour,
he exposed the obvious: "Jews
were sent to the concentration
camps in the same extermina-
tion trucks that still send ani-
mals to slaughterhouses."
Sadly, as Isaac Bashevis Singer
once proclaimed, "Human
in Giv'atayim, Israel, 2012
beings see oppression vividly
when they're the victims. Other-
wise they victimize blindly and
without a thought." It's time to
open up your circle of compas-
sion and let the animals in. It
will be the greatest Mitzvah of
Go to www.adaptt.org and click
WATCH A LIFE-CHANGING SPEECH
To view the speech with Hebrew subtitles and
see Yourofsky's Israeli media coverage, go to
Joseph H. Krakoff is a rabbi a Congregation
Shaarey Zedek in Southfield.
TURNING MOMENTS LTO
• How do I respond when I hear
that someone is ill or facing a
crisis? Do I call them on the
phone? Make a visit?
• Is there anyone else, preferably
someone in need, that I can invite
to our seder this year?
• What acts of chesed
(lovingkindness) have I performed
in the last month or so?
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March 27 • 2014