Restoring Ourselves, Our World

“When the heart cries, only God hears/The pain rises out of the soul/Hear Israel my God/now I am alone/Make me strong/make it that I won’t be afraid.”

Parshat Metzora is about purity and impurity. It is about skin disease, rashes and eruptions on the body, clothing and dwelling. These are not the most pleasant of subjects. The Torah describes how impurity causes exclusion from society, shame and loneliness.

Impurity is brought on by many things. What rabbis have most discussed as a cause of impurity is the sin of lashon harah — gossip and slander. Everyone knows that the Torah talks a lot about kashrut and how we must watch what we put into our mouths. This parshah, however, stresses how we become impure for not watching what comes out of our mouths. Words have meaning and can do tremendous damage.

Parshat Metzora describes the elaborate rituals whereby one is purified through a process that is truly like a rebirth. One of the most important elements includes the mayim chayim, or living waters. This mikvah, together with the other rituals, cleanses the body and soul of impurity so one can re-enter society.

There are times when all of us need a process such as this. None of us is perfect, and we need to work to recognize when we do wrong and address it. The Torah challenges us to realize that sins such as lashon harah that make us impure are natural human traits, yet traits that we must try to resist.

As we look inward at what we need to fix within ourselves, we are also challenged to look at the impurities of the world and start to restore it. This is tikkun olam, repairing a world that has been broken into pieces.

Our job is to try to put the pieces back together. We can start to do this by helping those in need and by including those who have been left out.

The words of the song at the beginning of this d’var Torah give a message of hope and urge us to look to God for strength and courage. This song, “When the Heart Cries” with lyrics by Yossi Gispan and Arlet Tzfadia, is a reflection of how I have begun my part in the work of putting the pieces of our world back together.

As part of my bat mitzvah project, I became involved with Meir Panim, an Israeli charity that helps the hungry and impoverished in Israel. I participated in the Meir Panim singing competition and helped raise funds for the organization. Continuing this work, I have organized an event at the Meyerberg Senior Center, where I will bring many of my classmates to sing and perform for seniors. Additionally, the seniors will have the opportunity to perform for my classmates and each other. I hope this will bring joy and a sense of connection to all of us.

Each of us has a role in effecting tikkun olam. I hope we can all think about the idea of rebirth and how we can work to improve and purify our world.

Shira Pomerantz is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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