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D'var Torah:
Weekly Torah Portion Commentary

Metzora-Shabbat HaGadol - 4/18/24

Parashat Metzora continues the description of rituals for dealing with a “metzora", a person afflicted with “tzara’at”, a disease that was also the subject of last week’s Torah potion, Tazria.   Here we learn that when the metzora is ready to re-enter the community, s/he is to “bathe his/her body in water” and then be considered “pure.”  (Lev. 14:9) One commentary points out that this is not a cleansing ritual, but a symbolic rebirth, much like the practice of going to a mikvah, a ritual bath.  Indeed, when one recovers from illness, it is often a feeling of a new chance at life, a new beginning, as when someone who converts to Judaism emerges from the mikvah.  (Sefer HaHinukh, Eitz Hayim Commentary, p. 661)

On this Shabbat before Pesach, known in Jewish tradition as Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Sabbath, we also recognize the role that water plays in the birth of our people as a nation in the Passover story.  It is only after the parting of the Red Sea, that our life as a free people truly begins.  The cleansing waters of redemption set us on a new path as a people.  How appropriate, then, that many contemporary Seders add a symbolic glass of water on the table.  It is called “Miriam’s cup” because according to legend, Miriam, Moses’ sister, was rewarded by God for her kindness to others by a well that followed the Israelites throughout their wilderness wanderings.  Miriam also plays a key role at the Red Sea, by leading the women in song and celebration.

Chag Samei’ach!  Happy Pesach and joyous Seders to all!

-Rabbi Dena A. Feingold


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