Making solo space within — Parsha Tazria

| parsha reflection |

This week’s Torah portion, Tazria, explains that during specific periods in a person’s life,
she or he must spend time in physical seclusion, truly alone, in order to return physically and
spiritually to a balanced state of being; once a person returns to this place of balance, she is
then ready to return to the welcoming arms of the community. Tazria begins with a discussion
of the seclusion and purification period that women were required to go through after giving
birth. Yet the majority of the portion discusses the mandated period of isolation that had to be
undertaken by a person stricken with tzara’at, a disease usually translated as leprosy. People
who developed physical symptoms associated with this disease, such as patches of white hair and
scaly discolored skin, had to report to the Priest, Aaron, or to one of his sons, and if the diagnosis
of tzara’at was confirmed, the prescribed treatment was immediate isolation. Yet interestingly,
according to many commentators, tzara’at was not leprosy at all, but actually a kind of spiritual
disorder or confusion, and one of the ways in which this spiritual disordering manifested was as
physical symptoms.

When I first started reading Tazria, I initially felt disappointed- what did leprosy have to do
with my life in 2011 and the lives of the people I know? But the commentaries, in describing
tzara’at in spiritual terms, provided me with an entry point, a way to connect. Commentary after
commentary discussed spiritual affliction and the ways in which seclusion, silence, time alone,
can and do provide an essential part of the answer to healing oneself and one’s soul. I started
to think, what helps me when I feel confused, conflicted, in a state of imbalance? In our day-to-
day lives, we speak and interact constantly, and often, in auto-pilot mode, I immediately turn to
friends and family when I am in need of support. But then, at some point, I realize that it is time
once again to turn to myself for answers, or at least for more specific questions. Basically, it is
time to sit again, to do the inner work that only I can do for myself.

And why do I do it? When something is not quite right internally and I am not tending to
myself, I find that my interactions are often not quite right as well. Maybe this is why the Torah
mandated such periods of seclusion. A state of spiritual confusion that goes undiagnosed and
untended often harms more than just the afflicted person; members of the community may suffer
as well, a kind of spiritual second-hand smoke. So I attempt to return to my breath and see what
arises, because sitting here is about much more than I initially understood: it is about offering up
my own attempts at inner healing in an effort to bring more balance to my interactions and to the
lives with which my own life is intertwined.

Those afflicted with tzara’at were required to seclude themselves in order to heal themselves,
but those who meditate are, admirably, choosing to do so through meditation. When you are
about to meditate or during a meditation session, you might consider why have you chosen the
silence and internal seclusion of meditation at and in that moment. How does the seclusion heal
you or re-balance you?