This week we read a double portion in our Torah: Tazriah and Metzorah which deals with plagues and afflictions which infect people, houses and objects. When the disease is located, the person or object is separated from the community, the house closed up, until the disease has passed and the infection is cured.
Even though there is a physical separation of a person there is also an elaborate process by which the community remains in contact with them, and when it is time for them to return, there is a celebration and joyous welcoming. The person, although physically isolated from those around them, is still visited by the priest and is linked to their community. And interestingly, there are requirements upon the priest for his visit. Cantor David Berger in his d’var Torah notes that the Torah commentators recognised the repetition of the word “ra’ah” to see, in the priest’s instructions for diagnosing and visiting a suspected case of Tsara’at. In chapter 13 the word appears 9 times in 8 verses. Since no word is superfluous in the Torah, this repetition must signify something important. The rabbinic commentary Sifra Tazriah, Cantor Berger points out, says that this is to stress to the priest that when he is performing his diagnosis, he must not look just at the affliction, he must see the whole person. The looking and seeing which is required of him is deep and spiritual, it goes beyond the surface to truly see within and to notice the depths of a person’s soul. For the separation is also not only a physical distance but it is far more and the priest must be aware of the nature of a person’s struggle and tend to all their needs, not merely those which appear on the surface.
What an important lesson for us all: to look and see and notice the people around us, to look beyond the surface and see what is within, to pay attention to their struggles, their wounds, their vulnerabilities as well as the surface we all present to the world. And this is a poignant and important message for us as we commemorate Anzac Day and pay tribute to all those who have fought and died for our freedoms. We give thanks to all those who have dedicated their lives to protecting and caring for us. The service men and women of the past and present who uphold our values, keep us from harm and provide strength and safety for us and so many other places in our world. We offer thanks for the blessings they provide and we remember all those who lost their lives in service.
In this week of Tazriah Metzorah, our “ra’ah” our“seeing” is a commitment to each one of you, to recognise all you have given and continue to give. We will work to see you in a deeper way, acknowledging each one of you who has or does give of yourselves through your work in our armed services. And at this time of commemoration, we pray for a time when there will be healing for the world and peace and harmony will be a gift for all.
Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio