A Change of Season: Shabbat Message by Rabbi Elana Rabishaw

In a place like Boca Raton, it is easy to forget about seasons. I seldom check the weather before getting dressed in the morning because it is usually either hot or really hot outside. But this week, I have started preparing for Passover, including the dreaded spring cleaning. It’s funny though, because once I started thinking about spring, I noticed it more in my surroundings.

Suddenly, I started noticing more butterflies while walking my dog.

In order to reach my walking path, these butterflies undergo a radical transformation from a caterpillar. They begin by eating and growing, shedding their skin in order to make room in their being. One day, the caterpillar hangs upside down and spins a cocoon. In a cocoon, the caterpillar is protected while it goes through the next part of their transformation.

Every being needs time, space, and a certain level of protection in order to undergo change.

In this week’s Torah portion, Tazria, Aaron and the priests receive commandments on how to care for someone with leprosy. The Torah explains exactly what the priests ought to look for in an infection, and that treating the person with leprosy requires that person to be isolated for seven days.

Daat Zkenim, a Torah commentary compiled in the Middle Ages by a school of Franco-German scholars, explains that the seven days someone isolates is meant to help the priest help the patient. They teach us that when we look at something every day, it is difficult to notice changes. But when a little time passes, changes are easier to notice, even if they are gradual.

A cocoon of healing enables profound transformations to happen. Just as the caterpillar undergoes a metamorphosis, the individual with leprosy experiences a process of physical restoration. However, the journey toward healing is not merely a physical one; it is also deeply spiritual and communal.

Throughout the seven days of isolation, the person with leprosy is not abandoned but rather held in the collective consciousness of the community. Their solitude is not a sentence of ostracization, but a period of introspection and preparation; much like the caterpillar’s seclusion within its cocoon.

The ritual assigned to the priests demonstrates an understanding of the importance of both time and community in the process of transformation. The seven days provide the necessary space for the individual to undergo change, while the eventual examination by the priest symbolizes not only physical healing but also the reintegration of the individual into the fabric of society.

In this way, the Torah offers not just a medical protocol but a profound lesson in empathy and community care. It teaches us that true healing involves not only the restoration of the body but also the reaffirmation of one’s place within the community, reminding us that even in moments of solitude, no one is truly alone.

Spring is a season of change, not only in nature but also within ourselves and our communities. Just as the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, and the individual with leprosy undergoes physical and spiritual healing, spring symbolizes renewal and growth. It serves as a reminder that even in the midst of life’s challenges and transformations, there is beauty, resilience, and the promise of new beginnings, even if they sometimes take time to see.

As we each grow, may we be like the priests, holding patience to recognize change, acting with empathy towards those in need, and always remembering the role of community, so that even in solitude, no one is ever alone.

As we begin preparing for Passover, which marks both the arrival of spring and the renewal of tradition, there’s a heightened awareness of the subtle shifts in the surroundings. I hope you notice the emergence of butterflies.

Their metamorphosis can become a poignant reminder of the transformative power inherent in nature’s cycles—a sentiment echoed this week.

Shabbat Shalom.

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