At some point, I realized that the traditional translations we find in this week’s Torah reading cause problems for what’s really going.
This week and last week, we read the portions of Tazria and Metzora which go into great detail about issues that are ‘pure’ and ‘impure’… and when I say ‘issues’ I mean that in more way than one.
The Torah is concerned with bodily fluids issuing forth as well as a variety of skin diseases. Unfortunately, the English words ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ carry connotations of ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ which is really not what’s going on in our text. Our ancestors were concerned with the power of these bodily fluids which contain life force. Like a high voltage line lying on the ground, it’s powerful. Don’t touch it unless you are properly protected and if you pick up the charge it must be neutralized before you come into contact with something else.
Our ancestors created an elaborate process to neutralize the power for one who had been exposed including… shaving off all of one’s hair. See Leviticus 14:9.
This week we witnessed an impressive head shaving ritual. About 50 rabbis at our convention in Chicago and a couple dozen more throughout the country shaved their heads to raise funds to fight childhood cancer. My wife, Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, offered her hair to the cause and has so far raised over $10,000. I am so proud of her and the difference she and our colleagues are making in this great effort. Please consider making a donation, making our effort even greater and saving more lives: Rabbi Laura's page with St. Baldrick's Organization
We’re honoring the memory of ‘Superman Sam’ the son of our colleagues Phyllis and Michael Sommer and the effort continues so I encourage you to log on and make a contribution. Every dollar counts.
Our ancestors created an elaborate process to insure that the power of life force would not inadvertently hurt people. This week, we engaged the force of life to save lives. There is no question that the power in the room was awesome and offering up hair was a life affirming act.
We’ve used the terms ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ to discuss the life force. I prefer to render these concepts as ‘charged’ and ‘neutral.’ Our ancestors shaved their heads as part of their neutralization process while Rabbi Laura and our colleagues’ shaving has charged our energy and is bringing life.
At the end of our ceremony we lifted up a glass of wine and concluded the blessing with the traditional Jewish toast, ‘L’chaim!’ and never has it felt more appropriate… ‘To Life!’
Rabbi Laura making the leap for a good cause. Thanks to her stylist Alex Contreras who clearly felt the deep meaning of the moment.