Written by 7th grader Ben Goldberg, who will become a Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat
The name of my Torah portion is Metzora. The verses I recite come from Leviticus, chapter 14:1-12. This parsha is mainly about a purification process and how one could cleanse himself from various ritual impurities. Thousands of years ago, the priests would offer an animal sacrifice to begin the purification process. Thankfully, that is no longer the case!
If we study the verses a bit more, we can see that this Torah portion teaches us important lessons about how we can change from impure to pure and how to regain a fresh start. We always have a second chance to improve and the ability to change. Although the unique rituals of the Torah don't make much sense to us today when read literally, they do serve as important reminders for us and our potential to start again. Let me tell you what I mean.
In the Torah, if a person was being cleansed from a ritual impurity, the priest would sacrifice a bird and then take some of the blood from that sacrifice and rub it on the ridge of the person’s right ear, on the person’s right thumb, and the big toe of the person’s right foot. Disgusting, and definitely strange! I thought about why these three locations on the body, the right ear, thumb and big toe, might have been chosen. I think the Torah is trying to teach us a lesson.
The first place on which blood was placed was the ridge of the person’s right ear. The ear actually has a lot more power than we might think. With the ear, one can choose to hear another’s words, to listen to someone’s problems, or sometimes to do neither. What if the ear was chosen as a way of reminding us to always think about who we choose to listen to, what we decide to hear, and when it is best to tune something out?
The ear can protect us from many things, it is not always strong enough to block out foul or hurtful language directed towards you, which can be very painful. While a punch or a slap might hurt for a short time, evil or hurtful speech can be damaging for years. Well, maybe my punches last a little longer when we’re talking about my sisters.
Why was the right thumb chosen as a place on which to put some of the blood from the sacrifice? Think about the power and all of the incredible things our hands do. The hand carries, writes, protects, helps others, hugs, and offers support, and much more. If we are using our hands for good, they can do amazing things for others. But, we also know that hands can be very dangerous and violent. They can not only strike others, but also push people away and keep us from connecting with others. With the simple wave or gesture of a hand, people can decline personal dialogue and dismiss someone instantly and without thought. Perhaps the idea of putting blood on a person’s right thumb is a way of reminding us of the hand’s power and potential in the hopes that we will always try and use our hands for good.
Lastly and certainly strangely, the big toe. If we think about it, our feet, just like hands, they have an enormous amount of abilities. Our feet, balanced by the big toe, enable us walk, run, dance, and participate in athletics. We can also use our feet to walk for an important cause, or run to help when we see someone in need. The foot can clearly do a lot of good. But we also know that, if misused, a foot can also harm others very easily.