Written by Jolie Intro, 6th grader, for her Bat Mitzvah on April 29th
Nelson Mandela once said “Our clean flowing rivers must be known by my grandchildren’s grandchildren, many years from now just as I knew them as a child many years ago.” The Earth is a present to us from HaShem and we should be thankful and care for it, not just for ourselves but for future generations.
After HaShem created Adam and Eve they lived in the Garden of Eden or Gan Eden. Hashem told Adam to work and guard his place. To me that shows us that the Earth is a vital part of our lives and it reminds us to be responsible. HaShem trusts us to take care of the land.
It says in Tehillim Perek 89 פט pasuk 12 יב “You are the heavens yours too is the earth the world and all it’s fullness you found them.“ Again it says in Perek 24 כד In the first pasuk that HaShem’s is the earth and its fullness the inhabited land and those who dwell in it. We are the ones chosen to take care of the land and we should make certain that we are not destroying HaShem’s gift.
In my d’var torah today, I will share words from parshat Tazria. This parsha talks about skin disease, the punishment for gossiping, and the laws of purity and impurity. Although, what I learned was certainly interesting, it was tricky connecting this skin disease, tsarrat, to my present day life.
So, I had a challenge placed before me when studying this parsha. How can I connect skin disease and gossip and all that was within this parsha to my life and to my love of rivers and nature?
First, Tazria, the name of my parsha, means seeds. Seeds planted allow things to grow, to thrive, and allow our Earth to bloom. Now that it is spring, we take notice of nature. We are more aware of the vivid flowers and of our land waking up from a winter’s sleep. For me being outside in nature makes me feel calm and at peace, so I certainly appreciate the seeds and all that they provide.
Now, here is how I connected my love of rivers with learning about the punishments for gossip. As a punishment for speaking poorly about other people/Lashon Harah, people would be given a form of skin disease- Tzaraat. It was a symbol of impurity for others to see. Besides the skin disease, those that spoke gossip were also sent away to think about what they did before they could return. When they were sorry and after some time, the disease would clear.
Lashon Hara or gossip never ends well for anyone. It seems to be a part of everyday news and life.
Today we do not get visible blemishes marking ourselves and our sins like Tzaraat, but we should still be careful with what we say. It is simply unkind to talk about others. When I am around people who speak unkindly, I consider the fact that they might speak about me when I am not around. It is hard for me to walk away, but also challenging to not worry or wonder what they will then say about me. I always try to think before I speak. We are human, though. Our tongues can react quickly. So fast…. that it is sometimes hard to not say something rude and painful. There is a pasook in Mishlei that says: “Death and life are in the hands of the tongue.” מָוֶת וְחַיִּים, בְּיַד-לָשׁוֹן
So when you say something nice to people you feel good, but when you’re not nice you feel horrible and feel regret. Today people could use their words to be kind and to model kindness for the younger generation. It is important to surround yourself with those that speak nicely. The Kohanim would not judge a person if they had Tzarat until they checked them twice. We learn from this that when we have a chance we should feel sympathy for people and to not run and judge others. Even teachers can give second chances if we are struggling. I know I feel happy when I get a second chance in school. So, again, can I connect this parsha to my love of rivers and nature? I can.
One: We must remember to always be thoughtful of those downstream of us. This can mean, protecting the cleanliness of our rivers so that pollution doesn’t continue to flow and disturb the quality of life downstream. In connecting this back to my parsha, this can also mean that you must protect your words as they too might flow in an unwanted direction.
Two: Just as rivers do We must remember to flow around obstacles with grace. Relating this to my parsha, I have learned to flow around people that aren’t typically kind to me or ones that gossip. I go with the flow. I move around them and continue on.