"Going for a Spiritual"

The beauty of our Torah tradition is grounded in the hope that each of us will uncover some unique meaning in the verses we read and that our discovery will feed both our minds and souls. Even more powerful is when we can share these insights with others.

This week I am introducing a new initiative that I hope will further enrich our collective Jewish experience. I am inviting members of our community to share with all of us that special message or insight they discovered in our weekly Torah portion, which will feed the minds and souls of our community.

The following is a wonderful piece shared by Jessica Fish, a member of the Federation Board of Directors. Delivered at this month's Board meeting, this D'var Torah presents a powerful message that I believe will resonate with everyone.

This week's Parshah of Tazria is a discussion of the laws of tumah v'taharah, ritual impurity and purity. It looks at a woman experiencing a mikvah following giving birth, a process of purification and male infants being circumcised on the eighth day of life. The parshah also refers to Tzaraat (often translated as "leprosy"), a supra­natural plague. This last one is the topic I'd like to touch upon.

In this week's Torah reading, we read all about the Kohen examining people to determine whether they were afflicted by tzaraat, the leprous curse. It was a physical inspection which had spiritual implications. The person might be pronounced tahor (pure) or, tamei (impure); all depending on the results of the Kohen's examination.

I read a wonderful piece by Yossy Goldman* that made the connection and makes us think about going to the doctor for the requisite annual medical examination, or "physical." We all go through the routine checkup ­ height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and, as we get older, stress tests on the treadmill and up and down the little staircase.

But have we ever thought of going for a "spiritual"? This is the insightful inspection that his article shared:

What's our "height"? Do we walk tall? Are we proud and upright Jews, or are we apologetically stooped and bent over by the burden of an inferiority complex?

What about our "weight"? Are we on a well­balanced diet of spiritual study, the sustenance for our soul, or do we suffer from spiritual malnutrition?

And how is our heart doing? A Jewish heart doesn't only pump blood; it pumps warmth and love. A healthy Jewish heart is the emotional center of the person. It emotes and feels the pain of another. And healthy hearts are inspired by events that point unmistakably to the hand of G­d in the world. If we aren't feeling what we should be, then we might be suffering from blocked arteries.

When the doctor takes our blood pressure, we can make the obvious connection to tefillin. There's a story of a simple farmer who went for his first medical checkup. When the doctor checked his pressure, he asked what that was all about. The doctor explained patiently that he was checking the heart rate. "But why are you holding my arm if you want to see how my heart is?" "When I check your hand," replied the physician, "I know how your heart is." The hand that gives charity, for example, indicates that it's connected to a healthy Jewish heart.

Then comes the stress test ­ up the stairs and down the stairs, up again and down again, and again and again. How do we handle the ups and downs of life? Are we smug and arrogant when we're up, and dejected and depressed when we're down? How do we deal with stress? Do we trust in G­d that everything has a purpose, and a positive one at that? Or do we become angry and bitter at life's unkind twists of fate?

Finally, there is the treadmill. Many of us really dislike treadmills. After just a few minutes, we've had enough.

Life can be a tedious treadmill. We find ourselves running and running and getting nowhere fast. A grueling race ­ all of it leaves us wondering what it's all about and why we are working so hard with no meaningful, consequential reward.

So this year, in addition to going for our physical, why not go for a spiritual? Find a Jewish spiritual teacher who can search your soul for its healthy characteristics as well as your necessary growth points, and prescribe a spiritual fitness program tailored for you. And as the board members of Jewish Federation, are we taking the temperature of our community and evaluating us as a whole? As the seasons are changing, this is a great time of year to do just that. May we all be healthy, physically and spiritually, as individuals and as a community. (Shared by Jessica Fish)

* "When was your Last Spiritual?" by Yossy Goldman

We at the Federation recognize the important value of supporting everyone's individual Jewish journey. Let us know how we can be helpful. Wishing everyone a meaningful and rewarding "Spiritual."

Shabbat Shalom.


Howard Sovronsky
President & CEO

P.S. I welcome your thoughts on messages we can share with our community gleaned from insights from the week's Torah portion. Please feel free to contact me with your ideas at hsovronsky@jewishhartford.org.


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