Skin in the Game: Tazria 2016

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Leadoff Questions: What kind of personal topics are off-limits to you and your friends? Are there taboo topics within your own family? Is it healthy to keep certain matters close to the vest?

The Torah portion of Tazria is the first of two that discuss highly personal matters of physical purity, sometimes touching upon things of which we typically say “TMI”, or “Too Much Information.” But is it?

The Pitch: “As for the person with a leprous affection: the clothes shall be rent, the head shall be left bare, and the upper lip shall be covered over; and that person shall call out, ‘Impure! Impure!’” (Leviticus 13:45)

Swing #1: “Nobody likes to talk about such things as skin disease and blotchy skin – and yet the Torah includes this topic and devotes two full portions to it. Precisely because we find these things difficult to discuss, synagogues should provide opportunities to discuss them and to learn more about them – for the sake of our lives. … Synagogues need to get involved in teaching and promoting the mitzvah of health care. For if our bodies are not well, then our souls cannot be well either.” – Rabbi Jack Riemer, “Take Care of Yourself!”, from The Modern Men’s Torah Commentary, edited by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin

Swing #2: “’The upper lip shall be covered over’ – this means that he is to keep his mouth covered so that his breath does not offend anyone around him as it contains bacteria harmful to others.” – Rosh

Swing #3: “He informs that he [the one with tzara’at – not the other people in the vicinity] is impure, and they keep away from him.” – Rashi

Late-Inning Questions: While Rabbi Riemer advocates for open discussions about bodily conditions, even the Rosh and Rashi believe that there are times when personal physical matters must be acknowledged, if not discussed openly. Are there occasions when you wish to keep your own personal bodily issues completely private? How about the issues experienced by family and close friends? Does the way we treat sharing information about our bodies say something broader about our level of openness on other matters?

On Deck At Emanu-El: I’m always proud when the men of our synagogue come together to run services on Men’s Club Shabbat. Congratulations to Charles Richards and other devoted Men’s Club volunteers for another solid year of programming and service to our congregation. Please join us for Men’s Club Shabbat tomorrow – beginning with Danish & D’rash at 9:00AM, followed by services starting at 9:30AM.

The Big Inning At The End: I reserve the right to say very little until my Cubs lose a game in 2016. For now, I wish to enjoy our 3-0 start, in the hopes that we keep it going …

Shabbat Shalom!