We all know what it's like when we hear about a party and then find out that we were not invited. That sense of exclusion can be very painful whether it happens to us as children or in some cases as adults. In today's world of social media that exclusion is even more immediate because we don't just hear about a party after the event, we see in real time the pictures posted on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. A recent article on the Today website was titled: “Slumber Party Blues: Social media means kids are excluded in real time”. It's clear that social media has just exacerbated this sense of exclusion that some people feel.
As we approach this weeks Torah portion of Metzorah we might think of it as a Torah portion about exclusion. It is about taking the impure and removing it from the camp. The impurity might come from leprosy or from a discharge and necessitates that the person be removed from the community. But in reality the Torah portion’s focus is not really on the exclusion of the person, instead it is focused on how we can bring that person back in.
The Torah portion begins: ‘Adonai spoke to Moses, saying: “This shall be the ritual for a leper at the time that he is to be cleansed”’ (Leviticus 14:1-2). The Torah portion is not interested in the exclusion, but rather its focus is on how we bring the person back into the camp; how we ensure that they can be purified so they can rejoin the community.
The ritual for return is explained in verse after verse, so that at is culmination the person can be cleansed and return to the camp. Throughout the Torah portion as it deals with things that make a person impure, its primary concern is how this impurity can be removed so that the person can return to the community. The Torah portion of Metzorah is in this way a reminder that we should always be seeking that ritual of return; seeking ways to include rather than exclude.
What can we do in our friendship circles, in our societies, and in our communities to ensure that no-one is excluded? The first thing should be that we find ways to include people rather than having people undergo the pain of exclusion.
As we read this week's Torah portion it is clear that impurities should only ever be a temporary status and as such the exclusion of a person should only ever be temporary. We need to include so that we can be a complete community, and it is only with this inclusion that we can then find our way to continue our journey towards the Promised Land.