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This Week's The Torah Portion:

Torah reading "Tazria & Metzora"

Summary:

This week's "twin" Torah portions teach the Mitzvahs that pertain to recovery from life-threatening illness. The priestly tribe of Kohen is charged with the duty of overseeing a gravely ill person's transition from impending death to normal life: "...The Kohen shall examine the patient outside the Israelite camp..." (where he/she has been living in quarantine, since the illness may have been contagious.)

If the Kohen determines that the patient has fully recovered, the latter shall undergo a ritual of rebirthing. This highly emotional ceremony involves two doves - one to be sacrificed upon the altar, and the other to be released into the wild. The former dove symbolizes the person when he/she was critically ill, which is now thankfully in the past.

The dove is slaughtered and sent up in smoke on the altar, amidst fervent prayers for atonement. The second dove is then released into the wild, symbolizing the individual's impending return to normal life. The ritual culminates with the patient's "rebirth" in a pool of naturally flowing water – a "Mikveh".

The lesson here I believe, is: If G-d has given one a new lease on life - a "second birth" - it behooves him/her to acknowledge it, and to express gratitude. All too often we are so quick to blame G-d for our illnesses as "acts of G-d". But are we as quick to thank G-d for recovery? This week's Torah reading, I believe, reminds us to do so!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Alvin Wainhaus

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