Ethan Davis is a senior from NFTY-MAR. He serves as Southern Membership Vice President. The following is his D’var Torah from NFTY-MAR SPring Kallah.
This week’s parsha, Tazria and Metzora, continues the discussion of the laws of tumah v’taharah, ritual purity and impurity. First, outlined is childbirth. If a women gives birth to a boy she will be impure for a total of 40 days, yet for a girl she will be impure for a total of 80. Ding, ding, ding. Off goes my NFTY alarm. This years NFTY action theme is Shivyon, equality. Why is it that if a girl is born, the mother is “impure” twice as long as if she had bore a boy?
I dont know where my brother came from. My family is a bunch of liberal jews, yet my brother is a conservative christian. Whaat, crazy right? We seriously struggle to civilly express our ideas to each other because our views are so incredibly different. However, there is something he once told me that really made me think before miraculously… agreeing with him: “The one thing that I really admire about Reform Judaism is that the religion allows for change.” Yes, while the Torah does have some inequality in it, I think we can find deep meaning if we take a step back and look at it from a different perspective. 20 years ago, gender inequality was much worse than it is today. Less than 100 years ago, women in America were still fighting for their right to true citizenship and voting rights. However, I genuinely think that some people think the problem is fixed. While in Waka Flocka’s Presidential Campaign video, he states, “I feel like women got all their rights already,” then adding, “What else they want?” As fun as Mr. Flocka is, it truly saddens me because I know that there are people who genuinely think that gender equality is no longer an issue.
Another topic that is covered is the sense of being tahor (ritually pure), or tameh (impure), which like leprosy, is a very contagious disease. This torah portion goes into great detail about different diseases going around in this time. It says that the kohen, or the priest, is the one who diagnoses people with the disease. If you are diagnosed with such, you are summoned to live outside of the town parameters until you are healed. You might ask, who is the person who says that the victim is healed? Again, it is the kohens job, despite the risk of being infected or not. Now, how is there any way for me to relate a disease like leprosy to modern day society. The thing that intrigues me, is that there are actually two whole chapters dedicated to talking about leprosy, but to me, and I’m assuming that most of you are thinking that this is so random. Well, this strange disease is apparently the result of gossip. Yes, gossip! Technically, we might say slander. Remember the point of a D’var is to relate it to my audience, to my life, and to modern day society. Raise your hand if you have ever been effected by or participated in gossip. Wow, well I guess this is how I can relate a parsha about leprosy to all of you. Now gossip, or slander is never a good thing, the Talmud even goes so far to say that when you slander another person three people are killed; the slanderer, the person slandered, and the person who listens. Now slander, or gossip in hebrew is rechiluth. It comes from a root out of which is formed the word rochel which means a peddler, usually a peddler who sells perfume. Whoa Whoa whoa, how did we go from leprosy, to gossip, and now perfume! I know, this parsha has a lot of connections but I promise I have a point. When you open up the cap of a perfume bottle the fragrance escapes and once it does you cannot grab hold of it, push it back. It does its work. Gossip is like an evil , lingering odor it is irrevocable. And the gossipers are like the rochel: once what he/she is peddling has been unleashed, they can’t take it back. Here the rabbis quote from the book of Proverbs, 26:18, “As a man that pretends to play and casts firebrands, arrows, and death so is the man who practices deceit upon his neighbor and says ‘halo n’sachek ani’, I’m only joking, it’s only a joke, I’m only kidding.” But the thing with joking, is that in my mind, a joke, or any type of gossip in this case, can easily be compared to a gun. Once you pull that trigger, it cannot be redone.
To recap, this torah portion talks about tahor and tameh, ritual purity and impurity. Even though we may not fully follow torah definitions of purity and impurity, the torah can help us to understand aspects of human behavior that are inherently “pure” and “impure” because of what it does to our eternal selves and others, like we just talked about with gossip above. As youth, we are literally the future. NFTY is an organization with the base of youth leadership. When we see a problem, we fix it. We are an informed, smart, and passionate group of people. We know what problems there are and we do a lot to fix them. I mean look at the jugs, look at the Gun Violence prevention we are doing in the SA network as well as the “Nothing but Nets” campaign in which they have provided 1 million nets by 2016. We, as a movement know when to start up and say, “Tameh! Tameh! Enough is enough!” “We must become the change we seek in the world”, as Ghandi said. The most amazing thing about this movement, about NFTY, specifically NFTY-MAR is when we see a problem, we aren’t afraid to name it, and try to go out and be the change by fixing it.