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Rabbi's Weekly Teaching
Friday, April 24, 2020
Our spiritual ancestors, like others in the ancient Near East, suffered from frequent eruptions of a variety of skin diseases, called tzara’at.
Many of these skin afflictions were quite severe, and they carried a prominent social stigma in every culture in the ancient world.
Countless stories in the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud attest to the dreaded consequences of tzara’at , and the devastation it could bring into the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
According to the biblical view, tzara’at, like all illness, was a divine punishment.
The Biblical assumption was that people got their illnesses because they deserved them, and the only question was to ask which disease resulted from which deed.
According to the Midrash Va-Yikra Rabbah , God inflicts tzara’at as a response to “libel, bloodshed, vain oaths, sexual crimes, robbery and refusing to pay your appropriate tithing of tzedakah".
While one can respect the mindset of our spiritual ancestors in wanting to tie their moral behaviors into a Divine "just reward and punishment scenario", we moderns realize that there are too many examples where the punishment of the innocent via illness is commonplace.
There are fundamentalist preachers who presently wave the Bible and pronounce the present pandemic is a “punishment for our sinful ways.”
Rabbinic Judaism responds that we are not living in simple Biblical, non-evolved times.
Rabbinic Judaism takes the moral teachings of the Bible and modernizes them to a higher understanding of God’s true intentions.
Several thousand years ago, the Sages of Blessed Memory taught that our overriding obligation is for humanity to become God’s partners in creation, actively applying our learning and our skill to intervene and improve the world in which we live.
God commands us to heal others when we confront illness; to feed others when we perceive their hunger; to alleviate the pain of all those who unnecessarily suffer.
The Talmud understands the biblical injunction to “not to stand idly by the blood of your brother” as mandating the best medical care possible.
Simon, our oldest son, works at Stamford Hospital. I pray each day for the welfare of him and all his Healthcare colleagues.
I ask God to watch over all our doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers.
During this pandemic, I ask God to grant them the courage of heart and strength of mind and body.
That God should keep them safe from harm.
I also hope that they know our sincere gratitude for all they are doing to heal and help those affected by the coronavirus.
May God provide a sheltering source of protection and peace for all of them, and all of us, during these challenging days.
Stay Safe and Healthy.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mitch

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