This week’s Torah portion, Tazria, focuses on how to diagnose and deal with people or objects infected with tzaraat, a condition traditionally translated as leprosy, but in some sources also considered a spiritual malady. If someone is suspected of being infected, the priest is to inspect, and if diagnosed with a tzaraat, the individual is to isolate for 7 days before getting re-evaluated. After this period, if the individual is deemed pure then they can rejoin the others, and if not, “that person shall dwell apart – in a dwelling outside the camp.” (Leviticus 13:46).
I find this parsha challenging. How could our tradition, which emphasizes the power and importance of community, ostracize one of its own by isolating those who are suffering? But in re-reading, I’ve realized that I was only focusing on the first part of the process of separating the afflicted, and not on the details of how the priests are to re-examine with the goal of re-integrating them into society.
As our world slowly reopens, I think a lot about how we will reemerge from our own physical isolation, and perhaps spiritual isolation. Importantly, how do we welcome each other back into the fold? How do we exercise our social muscle that may have atrophied over the past 2+ years? And encourage others to do the same. How do we once again see each other in our entirety, and not just through a computer screen or through a mask? And how do we acknowledge the changes and growth that one may have had through this experience? I recognize that we will each rejoin in our own way, and as Beth Emet continues to reopen more and more, our doors are wide open as we aim to safely encircle our community with welcoming arms.