Leviticus – Vayikra – can really take us into the weeds – or the tzaaras, a leprous-like affliction. So many words devoted to descriptions of this affliction and what is to be done. Yet, even the Rabbis say, “There never was nor will there ever be a rebellious and gluttonous son; why [then] was it written? Study [it] and receive a reward……There never was nor will there ever be a leprous house [requiring destruction]; why [then] was it written? Study [it] and receive reward…” Bavli: Sanhendrin 71a.
This week we read a double parashah – Tazria/Mezora, much of which is concerned with this leprous-like condition of skin, of cloth and of house. But if this condition never actually afflicted a house – then why does Torah introduce the matter, and why do we concern ourselves with learning about it?
Study, learning, involves, amongst all else we learn, teaches us the principles of halachic decision-making, and learning how these principles can narrow the gap between dry textual legalities and the varied rich chaos of life as actually lived. Many of our scholars suggest that the process of learning suffices – Dayeinu!
Some suggest that even if this particular circumstance never arose – and never will (black mould aside), there is much to learn symbolically and psychologically. Even as the Reform movement abrogated its official commitment to halachic observance to the collective whole, individuals are encouraged in their Jewish observance as a means to cohere to that larger entity, k’lal Yisroel, the community of Israel. The CCAR provides an online link to Responsa that goes back through many generations and many centuries of legal decisions, as our movement attempts to provide source teachings for all circumstances of life and of death. Above all, our tradition recognizes that each circumstance is utterly unique.
One of the greatest teachings we can uphold is the value of living in local community – including the rabbi, so that we all become familiar and responsive to each other’s circumstance. Halachah, this ancient pathway – so old, it could be seen from space if it were an actual roadway – is our inheritance and our legacy. One of our greatest of traditions is deep respect for learning, and even in this age of Zoom, our learning continues. So for the audacious and the cautious, for those who gravitate to the minutiae and those who prefer the big-picture, our tradition has a place for you. The rewards are many.