Drash on Parashat Tazria (HaChodesh)
Rabbi Gary J Robuck
Temple Beth Israel, St Kilda, Victoria
Founder, Gesher Educational Services
The Tazria-Metzora Principle
This week’s parasha, Tazria, challenges readers to find contemporary relevance in the ancient text. Its detailed account of skin affliction, the impurity associated with childbirth and the handling of one who is deemed leprous are all remote from our modern sensibilities. Perhaps it was Parashat Tazria that I had in mind earlier this year when identifying for my students 19 different principles to keep foremost in mind when approaching Torah text. Among them were these four:
Let’s test this last principle. Towards the very beginning of the narrative, the Torah demands that two offerings, an olah (burnt offering) and then a sin offering be presented to the Priest. In the rabbinic commentary, a lively discussion follows which leads us directly to an insight about parenting.
In an article appearing in My Jewish Learning, Rabbi Joseph Ozarowski, citing the late Rabbi Menachem Sacks of Chicago, explains the relationship between childbirth and the two offerings:
“The olah, considered the highest offering, symbolises the high aspirations we parents have for our children. We expect great things from them in their Torah learning and personal piety, in their academic and financial pursuits, indeed, in almost everything they do. We want them to be great and we want them to be perfect. And we want to be perfect parents. We want to give them everything they need to succeed and shelter them from any obstacles to success.
But commonly it is the chatat (offering) that is brought for unintentional sins that more closely resembles our efforts. We make mistakes while parenting. We make mistakes raising and training our children. No parent can avoid this” (Menachem Tzion).
Can one find relevance even in a passage concerning leprosy? Well, it would appear so. As I write this, Jocelyn and I await the birth, God willing, of our fourth grandchild. No-one knows what will await this child, but of this I’m certain: our children will do everything possible to secure the brightest future possible for our grandchild but, being human, make mistakes along the way. And that is OK.
Jewish wisdom recognises that we are not perfect; not with respect to raising our children or in any other respect. Making peace with our imperfections, like bringing offerings of different kinds, can help to ensure our well-being and bring us closer to God.