Campaigning has once again begun in the British elections. And, as a result, it is inevitable that there will be debates about immigration policy and immigrants in British society. Once again, political leaders will do battle trying to determine who is in and who is out. And, all too often, they will try to score points by being harsh on immigration and the immigrants who have contributed and do contribute so much to British society. At times, when listening to the politician’s campaign, it will seem like they’re trying to determine who is acceptable to be a part of "our" group and who is not, rather than seeking to find ways to include everyone in society.
In this week’s Torah Portion of Tazria-Metzora, we appear to get a similar kind of situation where the Torah lays down a legal system and laws for who is considered clean and unclean. And, by virtue of a person’s uncleanliness, who needed to be removed or kept separate from the camp for a period of time. Tazria-Metzora is often considered to be one of the yucky Torah Portions dealing with subjects such as skin disease, discharge, emissions, leprosy and other bodily functions. At its core, the Torah Portion deals with when a person is clean or unclean and the ritual by which a person can be re-admitted and re-included in the camp.
At first glance, when we look at this torah portion, we may therefore assume that it is about exclusion, about searching out the unclean and excluding them from society. But I would suggest that it is the opposite. Tazria-Metzora serves as a reminder of the importance of finding ways to include all, so that when a person was removed from the camp because of the suspicion of leprosy, this was a temporary removal. Ultimately they would be returned and re-admitted into the camp and into society because Judaism and the laws of Tazria-Metzora sought to find a way to include everyone and to find a way back for those who had once been excluded.
It would be nice if the politicians in this year’s British election remember the message of this week’s Torah Portion.