By: Zak Bashir
Shabbat Shalom! This morning I am going to be talking about boils and skin rashes, I know it’s before lunch but bear with me. For the past year I have been learning to chant my Torah portion Tazria –Metzora correctly, but knowing what it actually means gives me a whole new perspective on it. My Torah portion talks about what to do when faced with someone who has come down with an affliction, such as a leprous skin disease.
The one question I really wanted an answer to is how is any of this relevant to my life at all? Without looking deeper you might think this would be a pretty bland and gross topic to learn and write about. What I paid attention to though wasn’t what they said about what the diseases were like, but instead what they did to bring the person who was recovered from the disease back into the community. First the Kohen, a priest, would visit and judge a person’s illness and quarantine them for a certain amount of days, however the Kohen’s main goal was to return the person to the community. It says in the Torah that once the person has recovered they must clean their bodies and clothing and bring an offering to the sanctuary. They were required to bring a special offering of lambs or birds. If they were poor and couldn’t bring that offering they were allowed to bring what they could afford to bring. After this they could go back and be part of the community as they were before.
The point here being that the Torah is teaching you to not be afraid of someone who had recently come down with a disease but instead to try and welcome them back into the community as best you can once they have gotten better.
Another issue related to my Torah portion is what to do when you want to visit someone who is sick. This portion meant a lot to me because I spent a lot of time visiting my grandmother when she was at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale, MA. I learned from the booklet, Give Me Your Hand about the traditional Jewish practices of visiting the sick and learned how to compare them to the modern ones. I realized that while there are many differences between the modern practices of visiting the sick and the traditional ones, there were a lot of similarities as well.
For example, I learned that when visiting the sick talking is not necessary, and today it seems like that virtue has been retained. I know from visiting my grandmother that often when I went to see her with my mother we might just sit and keep her company and she might sleep while we were there, but I still felt that she knew I was there and I felt good having spent that time with her. It didn’t matter if we talked or not, what was important was that I was there, and when she became sicker there were more visits like this, and I know that they were important to her and to me.
Another example has to do with the time of day that a person should visit someone who is sick. Both the traditional and modern visiting times are very alike. Traditionally you were not supposed to visit a sick person during the first 3 hours of the day and the last 3 hours of the day, because in the morning they usually feel the best and you might not understand how sick they are, and during the last 3 hours of the day they feel the sickest and it might make you believe they are not going to get better. Now a days most of the time you are supposed to visit in the middle of the day not very early in the morning or late at night for reasons that are pretty much the same. I would often go and visit with my grandmother when she was having her dinner or lunch and I would eat with her and we would bring her some of her favorite things she liked to eat. This always seemed to be a good time to visit.
Maybe one of the most important guidance about visiting a sick person talks about touching the person. I think there are people who might say they don’t think it is good to touch a sick person, and of course if there is a medical instruction not to than you must go by that, but both traditionally and in the modern view touching is one of the best things you can do. I know how happy it made my grandma to hold my hand or have me give her a kiss.
The things that I learned from spending time with my grandmother when she was sick, was how much she loved having me visit, eat with her, laugh with her. Spending time with her motivated me to want to visit other people who are at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, but might not have someone to visit them. That is whey I have chosen that for my mitzvah project.
There are so many people who have helped me get to this day and become a bar mitzvah. I want to thank my friends for supporting me. I want to thank all my Hebrew school teachers throughout the years. I’d like to thank Tracy for making sure I learned all my Hebrew for today and the Rabbi for helping me with my d’var Torah. And my mom and dad for being there my whole life and for helping through the process of becoming a bar mitzvah.