How many of us remember last week’s sermon? One from last year? (It’s OK, you don’t have to admit anything out loud.) Well, the idea for this post comes from a sermon I heard two years ago, delivered by Rabbi Marc Saperstein to the Cornell CJL (yup, Cornell alumni and native Ithacans, it was the Sermon Contest finale).
The four lepers in our HafTorah are literally (and, yes, figuratively), mi’chutz la’machaneh, outside the camp. They are forced to sleep outside the city walls, in the midst of a wartime siege. There isn’t a barn or hut or chicken coop safely behind the gate (and its armed guards) they are allowed to use. Which means they owe their coreligionists nothing.
Yet, when they find the Aramean camp abandoned, and with food and water, and even supplies, to help their besieged brothers, they decide – after some debate, yes – to alert the King and his guard (not to be confused with the Kingsguard GoT fans). They decide, despite how they have been treated, despite the shunning and the exile, to act responsibly for king and country. They forgive past sins and treat their countrymen as they’d have liked to have been.
This is of course a great lesson for a metzora, someone who could not put others first and was willing to benefit from demeaning friends and hurting neighbors. But it is also a lesson for each of us.
There are times when to do what’s right, to stand on the side of good, means to do for another who’s an opponent, or to speak up for one we disagree with. It means turning around and throwing your lot in with the folks who just tossed you outside the city gates and locked them behind you.
It’s hard to do in politics, it’s hard to do in our communities, and it’s hard to do at home. That’s probably why the prophet teaches it.
Words to consider. Ideas to ponder. Politics, prophets, and the parsha.