This week’s Torah portion is surely one that is hard to forget. To put it in teenager terms, it’s like a movie that you took a girl to go see hoping that she would get scared so that you’d be there to comfort her, but you end up being the one asking her to hold you. And no I’m not saying that has ever happened to me. But in all seriousness, Metzora tells the story of what is mistranslated as leprosy, an infectious skin disease. Those afflicted with the ailment at the time were considered to be in a state of ritual impurity and forced to leave the community. After the disease ceases to exist, the person can return to the community and be purified again by a priest in a special procedure using two birds, spring water, an earthen vessel, cedar wood, scarlet thread, and hyssop. Another phenomenon that plagued families was a green and red mold that would spread throughout the homes and seep into the clothes of the home’s inhabitants. Pretty scary stuff, huh?
I have to say for this being my fifth and final D’var Torah for a youth group service, I sure got a heck of a portion to end on. Nothing like talking about skin lesions and mold in my farewell event. But I’m going to take a different angle with this otherwise foul story. Remember that when a person was diagnosed with leprosy, they were essentially banished into isolation from the community. As high schoolers, don’t we see this all the time? Maybe not kids with leprosy, but haven’t you ever seen a kid with disabilities or social challenges or any type of insecurity turned away by another group of students? In the Torah we may refer to the excluded person as impure, but in the high school hallways the term used may be weird or unpopular. As strange as this portion may seem, I knew I could incorporate what NFTY-Southwest is all about: inclusion and acceptance.
I came into high school as a pretty small kid, but an ego that made me bigger than the world itself. What others may have called cockiness, and what I would call confidence, embodied who I was. With that being said, I still had those insecurities that are common among us teenagers. Does my hair look ok? Do I smell bad? Does that cute girl think I’m weird? Why do I have to be so short? There happened to be a change though. There happened to be a change when I boarded a bus to El Paso, Texas for Fall Kallah 2012. I came into a NFTY- Southwest environment that fostered pure acceptance of anyone and everyone. As I have reflected event by event either in my writing or in my thoughts, I can’t help but admire the open arms I walk into in every event. It’s an environment that in my life has been truly unmatched. With that being said, in a matter of about 24 hours, I will walk away from NFTY-Southwest. I have to say goodbye to a place that showed me that I can be whoever I want to be and never be ashamed of it. So to my underclassmen, cherish what you have right now. Cherish this environment. Cherish these four years and don’t take any of them for granted. I can’t imagine finding another place like NFTY that makes me feel so special. I encourage you not to dread doing mixers or programs or services, because I guarantee you its all a part of the process and you must make the best out of what NFTY-Southwest provides. You may not realize it now, but when it comes time to say goodbye, you will know what I mean. To my fellow seniors, this is it. In 24 hours, we say goodbye to what was surely an unforgettable experience. We have formed friendships that are bound to not have a four year limit, but to last a lifetime. As we take this next step into college, there is no guarantee that we will walk into an environment quite like this one. However I challenge you to take what you have learned here about acceptance and inclusion and take it withyou to college. Create communities like this one wherever ou go. NFTY-Southwest has put up with us and our shenanigans for four years and 16 events. NFTY- Southwest has been our ritualistic purification. 24 hours. That’s it. And then we move on.