Friday, April 12, 2013


Certain people are not accepted in society, regardless of their character or intelligence. Today our society is striving to break down our prejudices, and people of different races and ethnicities, the disabled, and gays and lesbians are more accepted than ever before. But we still have a long way to go.

In biblical times, there was a type of person called a "metzora." (Our Torah portion this week is a double reading, Tazria-Metzora.) We normally translate "metzora" as "leper" but the characteristics of the disease do not fit leprosy as we know it today; nor do they fit any other known illness. But the metzora, the "leper," was required to be isolated. In Lev. 13:46 we read  "he shall be impure as long as the disease is upon him. Being impure, he shall dwell apart: his dwelling shall be outside the camp (mi-chutz la-machaneh)."

Israel Independence Day. usually coincides with the week we read this parasha, as it does this year.  Zionism arose in the late 1800s as a movement to establish a Jewish state. The early Zionists considered Zionism to be a cure for antisemitism. For thinkers such as Moses Hess and Theodore Herzl, Jews were analogous to lepers. We were mi-chutz la-machaneh. A Jewish state, they felt,. would be the remedy for anti-Semitism. The leper can come back to the camp after he is purified. Once we are “purified” of our nationless status, we can come back to the camp. The idea is not just that the Jews who live in their homeland will be normalized – even those who choose not to go there will be “normal” as well because we have a homeland even if we don't live there.

Were they right? Did the rise of a Jewish state "cure" antisemitism and normalize the status of Jews?

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