April 2021 – Parshat Tazria-Metzorah

This past week we had the good fortune of celebrating many wonderful events. Last Friday night we hosted Her Excellency the Consul General of the United Arab Emirates Dr Nariman Almulla at our Centre. She reflected on the exciting nature of the Abraham Accords and how these Accords have reshaped the Middle East for the better. Her Excellency also had an important message about focusing on the bright future ahead instead of the past and looking at what the increased relationship between Israel and the UAE will look like as part of the UAE’s 50-year plan for growth.

We also celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut today, commemorating Israel’s miraculous founding 73 years ago. The State of Israel has truly been a miracle that all Jewish people have had the incredible privilege of celebrating and being a part of since its founding.

In my life, and the lives of my peers around me, we take it for granted that the Jewish people have a State. However, with the happiness and joy that we celebrate the founding of Israel, there is no denying the heavy cost that the country continues to bear through the many wars it has fought to keep the State safe. Yom Hazikaron, taking place a mere 24 hours before Yom Ha’atzmaut, marks this solemn tribute by recognizing all the fallen and slain soldiers killed in war or battle.

I have been in Israel during this period and can attest to the rollercoaster of emotions that Israelis endure during this period each year. Mourning the loss of the best and brightest of Israel and just 24 hours later celebrating the miraculous founding of the State and Jewish homeland. It is a period of high emotional intensity and urges all people to consider the privilege that all Jewish people have today to know – wherever they are living – that a vibrant Jewish state exists.

Which brings me to this week’s Parsha, Tazria-Metzorah. The Parsha describes the affliction that can affect one’s skin, commonly translated as leprosy, if they speak Lashon Hara (gossip). This divinely ordained disease causes someone to break out into white spots making them need to quarantine themselves for 7 days before re-entering the camp and being rendered clear of the disease by the Kohen (priest).

While the punishment seems quite dire, the message to society is clear: gossip, and the associated damages it causes, tear apart the fabric of society. It has been said that knowledge is power. Unfortunately, many people like to spread damaging information or intimate details about others, whether true or not. People use gossip to hurt people, to feel good about themselves and to feel like they have power over others.

The Parsha comes to remind us of how careful we have to be. In fact, it reminds us that the old children’s chant of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” could not be further from the truth.   While most people are eager to hear gossip, the words that people use to describe how they feel after they have been gossiped about include: sad, unhappy, disappointed and hurt.

In a week of such celebrations, but also solemnity as we mark the fallen soldiers of Israel, we should take it upon ourselves to look out for others and instead of gossiping idly and causing hurt, offer to do acts of goodness and kindness.