My Parasha of Tazria talks a lot about leprosy.
Yes, I got the portion that is all about leprosy! But the beauty of Torah study is that you can find interesting things to say even about a portion that is all about leprosy. Not only that, but it even ties into my special interest - Tae Kwon Do.
You see, the word for leprosy in Hebrew is tzara’at – or, using the title of next week’s parasha, Metzora. Now the commentators compared metzorah to the Hebrew term for gossip, motzi-shem-ra. Just like leprosy, which was contagious, gossip can spread very quickly, and when it does, it can cause a lot of damage. The rabbis added that just like a disease, gossip can kill.
The only way to steer clear of dangerous gossip is to have lots of discipline.
And that’s where Tae Kwan Do comes in.
Tae Kwan Do is something I love to do ALMOST as much as studying for my bat mitzvah! But the two really go hand in hand.
Tae Kwon Do teaches discipline. Last November, I became a Black Belt, which means I have the distinction of being both a Black Belt AND a Bat Mitzvah.
It’s even harder to become a Black Belt. I had to break a brick with my palm - not easy – and that was after breaking four wooden boards, in four different ways. I also had to keep a raw egg for four weeks without breaking it. I took it to tae kwon do three times a week and it didn’t break!
Oh, and one other thing. One morning last September, I had to meditate for an hour. At 7:45 AM, I went to the Tae Kwan Do academy and sat there silently with about a dozen other kids - without saying a single word!!!
That takes lots of discipline. Just as in tae kwan do, it takes a great deal of discipline to be a Jew – and in both Tae Kwan Do and Judaism, we need to watch what we say.
A couple of months ago, my class at school learned the rules of proper speech in Judaism, and after meeting with Rabbi Hammerman, I tried to follow them as strictly as possible for a whole week. I found out something very important.
Just as it was very difficult not to talk at all during the hour of meditation, it is very difficult to go a week – or even a day – without gossiping.
Let’s just say, I gave it a good try – but by some coincidence on the first night of the week, I had a sleepover with two friends. It was just impossible to go a whole night at a sleepover without gossiping.
Even though I had limited success, I did learn from the exercise. Throughout the week, I was definitely more aware of the dangers of this kind of speech.
Passover is coming. In my maftir, we are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus to future generations, so telling is very important to the holiday. The book we use at the Seder is even called the Haggadah – which means “the telling.” We also learn the laws of Matzah in the portion. Matzah is called the bread of affliction, and the bread of poverty, but it is also the bread of discipline. We have to be very disciplined about what we eat on Passover.
Judaism teaches us, then, to be careful both about what goes into our mouths and what comes out.
My mitzvah project also has to do with Passover food. I am collecting food for the Kosher for Passover food drive at Schoke Jewish Family Service. I was the student liason for Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy where I helped collect and sort food. And I also helped at 2 local food drives. I felt this was an important project because no one should be without food on their table, especially on a holiday like Passover where we are celebrating our freedom. JFS is still accepting food for their drive and you can learn how to donate in my program.
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