I attended a funeral recently where the child of the deceased described his parents’ first date in vivid details. It was such a beautiful description of that date I am sure that anyone listening must have been brought back to their first date with the one they love. The mind has an amazing ability to transport us back to beloved moments from decades ago even when we can’t even remember what we ate for lunch.
It is with similar love and nostalgia that I think about the first baseball games I attended as a child with my family. We grew up going to Mets games and I remember traveling to Shea Stadium… the vivid “NY” printed in orange on the blue hats we had; and of course the stadium food. I rooted for my hometown team and loved these games. They formed some of the most wonderful memories of my childhood and fostered my never-ending love for New York.
When life gets busy it is easy to forget the idyllic nature of first dates or childhood trips to the ballpark. This week’s Torah portion Tazria, urges us to look beyond the person in the present moment to the person we are deep down inside, full of love and dreams and joy and memories. Tazria is part of a section of the Torah that deals with skin disease. It is an ugly and gross section of the Torah. This disease can be on skin or clothing or a house. A mistranslation of the Torah led to the word “leprosy” being used for this disease, but it not exactly that. Here is what I understand it to be.
An opportunity to examine how we are in the world. If we only see the disease, the wrong, the unwelcome when we view a person, we lose an opportunity to know them on a deeper level and potentially learn and grow from that person. When we are with the ones we love, do we get bogged down with the day to day failings we perceive in those we love or can we reconsider and act with the excitement of the first date or of the awe we felt when we saw our child for the first time? When we live in a community, do we take advantage of its resources – its ballparks, its museums and its parks?
I think this Torah portion, as ugly as it may appear on the surface, is an opportunity to do what the priests are ordered to do in this portion – examine and consider. When we look at someone, really see who they are, we gain a different perspective on the human condition. When we appreciate the world we live in and marvel at it, even when not seemingly perfect, we realize our power in helping it. By allowing ourselves deeper access to one another – by asking about those first dates and early baseball games and hopes and dreams of someone, we see beyond the surface, deep down into who they are.
Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Mates
Temple Beth El of Boca Raton