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Metzorah: The Answer Is To Unify (April 14, 2019)

1) What do you do with a diseased house?

It’s Sunday, April 14, 2019.
2) This week in synagogue we read Parshas Metzorah (“Infected One”)

Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33

HAFTARAH – supplemental
Malachi 3:4 – 3:24 
3) The content of this Torah portion is extremely upsetting.
4) First we hear all about the leper, and then the discussion turns to normal physical functions – bodily emissions from menstruation (women) and sex (men). (Women are considered spiritually impure after childbirth too, longer for a girl than for a boy.) 
5) Let us imagine now a conversation between the Dean of Harvard University (or Yale, or Princeton) and God concerning the “spiritual uncleanliness policy” that has just been described in the Bible.
6) Dean: Hello, God?

God: “Yes, what is it Dean Blabberdegook?”

Dean: “God, we really need to have a talk.”
7) God: What can I do for you?

Dean: “Well, it’s this uncleanliness policy you just rolled out.”
8) God: “Yeah, what about it? I’m a little bit busy as you can probably imagine.”

Dean: “Well, the parents aren’t going to like it and neither will the students.”

God: “Why not?”

Dean: “Why not? Well, it blatantly equates normal bodily function with a spiritual disease!”
9) God: “And?”
11) God: “Well, Dean Blabberdegook, that is why we pay you the big bucks.”
12) Let’s talk about leprosy for a minute.
Why did people contract this disease?
13) “A person spoke derogatory words about another and as a result contracted a spiritual malady: a skin disease called tzaraat (the person with tzaraat was known as the metzora). According to our Sages, God afflicted those who had engaged in lashon hara.” 
14) “Birds are sacrificed in response because they constantly twitter and chirp, creating sounds like the chatter of lashon hara.” 
15) How did the Bible anticipate that Twitter, whose logo is a bird, would be used to spread gossip, a.k.a. #FakeNews?

@POTUS constantly addresses the reality and the risks of fake news.

This is nothing short of astonishing.
16) Gossip is fake news. Fake news leads to baseless hate. Baseless hate leads to violence.

The second Jewish temple, for which we still remain in exile, was destroyed because of baseless hatred. 
17) To paraphrase President Lincoln, a house divided against itself by fake news gossip cannot stand.
18) Now we’re going to talk about the supplemental reading for this week’s Torah portion, because it tells us what to do with the people who use fake news with intent.

Malachi 3:4 – 3:24 
19) In the end, it will be God himself who testifies against the liars.
20) “I will come near to you to judgment; & I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, & against the adulterers, & against false swearers; & against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, & the fatherless, & that turn aside the stranger from his right”
21) Because lying, worshiping false idols, sexual immorality, and the oppression of people go hand in hand.
22) Revisionist history — where you try to take your contemporary political agenda and force-fit the facts to match — is a form of fake news gossip, and it is despicable.

Our Founding Fathers and mothers were not genocidal maniacs.

They were awesome, awesome people.
23) You know, yesterday I had the privilege of attending a day full of classes. Jewish classes. The kind I used to attend in religious school, and never get the chance to attend anymore. (Thank you Aish HaTorah @YourJudaism)
24) As I listened to the lectures, I was holding on to the edge of my seat, looking for flaws in the argument. As I am wont to do.
25) At one point, a little boy, who was listening intently to the speaker, also spoke up with a comment.
26) The speaker had just said: “Who remembers, from last night’s discussion, the source of this lesson in the Gemara?”

A few people called out the answer in response.
27) But the boy’s answer was more specific than the others.

“Wow, how did you remember that in such detail?” asked the speaker.
28) This young man literally had the holiness of God shining from his face as he responded.

“I took the time to look it up.”

And he was beaming, and the speaker was beaming, and so were the rest of us.
29) In just five words, that young man captured the entire solution to our problems today.
30) If we would only look up the truth for ourselves, and engage in a reasoned attempt to gather all known information and combine it into a coherent narrative, we would stop fighting altogether.
31) What God is promising us, in this week’s Torah portion, is that even if we don’t achieve this remarkable feat (and let’s be honest, it looks unlikely) — He is going to tell us the truth directly.

And that truth will wipe away all human oppression.
32) While we’re here, I’ll tell you something else that happened yesterday.
And then I have to go do Sunday stuff.
33) The speaker started his “why bad things happen to good people talk” with a request to the audience for examples of suffering.

And after awhile of listening to extreme examples, I just couldn’t take it.
34) “The problem with your premise is that you’re making it sound like suffering is occasional. The truth is that most people’s lives are very unhappy — in fact, they suck — and there are only a few brief moments of respite from this.”

Oh shit, I ruined the talk.Every1 stared.
35) The speaker was startled.

He literally didn’t know what to say.
36) But I had to stand up and say that to him.

Because I don’t have any hate in my heart, toward anyone.

I know that most of what people do, they’re doing from pain.
37) Later on I said to him, “I am a victims’ rights advocate. I think you are wrong to focus only on the individual. The truth is that most of the time, we have to organize to fight those who are trying to oppress the people.” (paraphrase)
I gave the example of pogroms, Zionism.
38) The speaker looked up at me from his lectern.
I will never forget the expression on his face.
39) “I can’t argue with you.”

And then he rolled the lectern backward, looking weary.
40) We can sit here all day & fight with each other about whose oppression is worse, whose tragedy is more painful, whose family or group has borne the most pain.

But the answer is to UNIFY.
To stop the people who make the suffering go on.
And who use #fakenews to do it.

By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain. You can also read this online here.

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