From questions to the priest from the old Temple journals

BY RABBI JAMES STONE GOODMAN

Dear Holy Kohen (Priest),

If a house has tza’ara (a growth, a fungus) the Torah tells us: The Kohen shall command them to clear the house before the Kohen comes and looks at the affliction “so that everything in the house shall not become contaminated and afterwards the Kohen shall come and look at the house.” (Leviticus 14.36)

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Why is the stuff in the house? What if the tza’ara has already spread? How to control it?

Signed,

Helpless

Dear Helpless,

What is this tza’ara? I don’t know. That’s the truth. As Kohen, I don’t what the tza’ara is, this pollution, this inner corruption, this sickness unto the soul, I don’t know what it is. Deep in the house, it is, but what it is — I don’t know.

The Chinese never wrote histories of their dynasties until the dynasty had passed, as if the truth of their own reality was too difficult, too deep, too elusive to tell it as it was lived.

I know there is tza’ara, deep within the house, in the heart, but what it is — I cannot quite say.

Perhaps it is the part of our story that is not written yet. That’s where to search for definition — in our stories, our music, our paintings, our poetry, the tale as articulated by the ones who hear the hoof beats in the distance, before the herd reaches the river.

I know there is tza’ara, I see signs of it everywhere, I will call it to our attention, there is a sickness here — in our houses, deep unto the soul — it is everywhere within and without the house, and it will not be cleansed until it is acknowledged, identified, encountered. But what it is exactly, what it consists of, what causes it, how to control it — I do not know.

Rabbi James Stone Goodman is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association.