Parashah of the week: Metzora

“He should dwell outside of the tent for seven days” Leviticus 14:8


Have you ever walked into a room full of people and felt all alone? Can you remember a time where you felt left out from the crowd?

There is a story in the Talmud about a man named Choni who slept for 70 years and woke up to find that all his friends had died and a new generation had developed in his town. He was devastated; he prayed for mercy and died.

The rabbis explain this episode as follows: “Either friendship or death!” We are social beings and we all crave friendship. In this fast paced world, with social media and long work hours, studies have shown that we are more lonely than ever.

In this week’s parashah, Metzora, we read about the affliction of tzara’at and the requirement for a person affected with the disease to go outside of the tent.

Our rabbis say that because one caused others to separate due to harmful or divisive words, the person is instructed to leave the camp for seven days.

This forced period of isolation will help them realise how awful it feels to be an outsider, ostracised from the community. It is hard for us to notice the effect of our words. Only once we are in the position of those we have slandered, can we truly regret our unkind words and commit to meaningful change.

Loneliness can be felt by anyone — even those who may seem popular. Some people have an air of confidence that hides an internal deep insecurity. We tend to gravitate towards friends at a kiddush or an event, and may not realise that there are people around us who feel “out” or unwanted.

When at social events, it is a great mitzvah to take a few moments to look around and see if you can find anyone who is maybe feeling a little uncomfortable or out of place. Walking over to them and welcoming them or introducing yourself can make all the difference to them.

If each one of us decided to open up our hearts to make a new friend, it would not only help the other person, but it would serve to widen our own perspectives on life too. The strength of our people is in our unity, and unity is built step by step by small gestures of friendship and caring.

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