Selected Sermon/Article
2010-04-16 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Tazria/Metzora


Beyond Twelve Gates -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason

Parshas Tazria/Metzora  -  April 16, 2010



Beyond Twelve Gates     Parshas Tazria - Metzora       April 16, 2010


Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates.  This past week Michael Lawrence was hiking on a rocky beach in South Australia with his son Pete, 13, when they discovered an old whiskey bottle with a message inside that was written in Chinese characters.  A Chinese crewman dropped the bottle into the ocean after leaving Argentina five years ago.  The message read; "Happy to connect with you. I would like to make friends with you. Would you like to?", and according to a translator was signed 'Li Xing Bo'.  A marine ecologist said the odds of the bottle surviving the mammoth journey were incalculable. Mr. Lawrence said he would ask his son to write a letter in response to Li Xing.


Imagine receiving a message from intelligent life in outer space. The thrill would be breathtaking.  Now...imagine receiving a message sent from the Creator of the Universe.  Could we contain our curiosity about what the Creator wanted to share with us?  The Jewish people once received such a message on behalf of humanity.   It was called 'The Torah.'  Perhaps it can be said that the essence of G-d's message is similar to that sent by Chinese crewman Li Xing Bo: "Happy to connect with you.  I would like to make friends with you.  Would you like to?"


Parshas Tazria / Metzora   Leviticus 12:1 -- 15:33


Parshas Tazria describes in great detail the varying and numerous manifestations of the disease called tzaraas.  Although it has commonly been mistranslated as leprosy, this skin disease bears little resemblance to any bodily ailment transmitted through normal exposure.  Rather, tzaraas is the physical manifestation of a spiritual malaise, a punishment from G-d primarily for the sin of speaking loshon hara. Loshon hara, meaning literally 'the evil tongue', is often translated as 'gossip'.  However, loshon hara refers to derogatory speech about others that is true. Motzei shem rah is the Hebrew term for derogatory speech that is false and slanderous.


One who contracted tzaraas is known as a metzora. The appearance of a tzaraas-like patch on his skin was subject to a series of examinations by a Kohen, who would declare the patient to be either tahor (spiritually pure) or tamei (spiritually impure).  If tamei, he is isolated outside of the camp, an appropriate punishment for someone whose foul tongue caused friends to be separated from one another.  Parshas Metzora continues the discussion of tzaraas, detailing the three-part purification process of the metzora administered by a Kohen, complete with immersions, korbanos (offerings) and the shaving of the entire body. Tzaraas could afflict ones clothing and home, and necessitate the burning of ones clothes and demolishing of ones home if the disease spread.


Rabbinic Ruminations


Before famed skydiver Felix Baumgartner can jump out of a balloon at 120,000 feet, his ground crew will have to clear it first with the Federal Aviation Administration. "Felix will be coming in like a missile," says Dr. Jonathan Clark, medical director of the mission.  "We don't want him to be confused with one." 


Baumgartner, otherwise known as Fearless Felix, is a former paratrooper in the Austrian Special Forces who has already completed some of the most difficult jumps on earth.  Now he intends to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. His plan is to leap from a helium balloon in the stratosphere, gain a speed of up to 690 miles per hour in a 5.5-minute freefall, and open his parachute to land 23 miles below.  What makes Fearless Felix jump?


Every human being is created with an innate desire to grow, achieve and accomplish. Someone once said, "A ship is safe in a harbor, but that's not what ships were made for."   A ship is made to sail, and so are we (I'm not certain, however, that we were created to jump out of balloons 23 miles above earth!).  The Torah teaches that every Jew is obligated to say, "When will my actions reach the lofty levels of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs?"  This statement isn't simply 'good advice', but rather, a directive to strive for greatness.   Many of our Jewish brethren have admirably accomplished great things in the scientific, academic and cultural world.  However, with an insatiable desire to grow closer to G-d, there is no limit to what we can achieve spiritually, and to how good a Jew each of us can become.


Quote of the Week


Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter -- Martin Luther King Jr.



Joke of the Week


Years of silence were broken by an historic long-awaited meeting between the Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Pope.  No students, seminarians or members of the media were allowed to be close enough to listen to a word of the hour-long conversation.  However, those on the other side of the glass partition noted that the chat between the Chief Rabbi and Pope seemed to be friendly and cordial.  Of particular interest was their final interchange; observers saw the Chief Rabbi reach into his jacket pocket, pull out a small piece of paper, and hand it to the Pope.  The Pope carefully examined the paper, smiled, and mouthed the words 'thank you' to the Chief Rabbi. 


When the media had an opportunity to interview the participants, the first question asked of the Chief Rabbi was, "What was the significance of the paper you gave to the Pope at the end of your meeting?  Was it a statement of principles for future meetings?  Was it a request for an apology from the Church for past atrocities committed against the Jewish people?"    The Chief Rabbi shook his head slowly, smiled, and said, 'None of those.  The paper I gave the Pope was --- the catering bill for the Last Supper!"




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