The Metsorah Question: Dying and Flying

Tirzah Firestone

The "Metsorah" Question:
Dying and Flying

By Tirzah Firestone

Every year, we have to look at this issue of what is m'tsorah. It's so much nicer to read other parshiyot, but m'tsorah is such a conundrum every year. What is this thing, m'tsorah? Is it psoriasis? leprosy? the disease du jour, AIDS, breast cancer? What do we do with it? Is it slanderous tongue? So many different interpretations of this word. So why is this Reb Zalman's chaylek (portion)?

One way to look at "m'tsorah" is to see it as a shortened form of two words, "mahtsah ra." Sometimes, in the place of what should be sustenance we found ra, negativity. When we looked into the depth of our birthright and lineage, we found stagnancy instead of running water; we found isolation and separation, not the big view.

Mahtseenoo, we found, ra, negativity.

We are all the m'tsorah at one time or another. And so what happens — we have to literally go out of the mahchahneh, out of the mainstream. There we are followed by the kohen who, for so many of us, is Reb Zalman, our beloved shaman, priest, teacher, friend.

He helped us to come from the tight myopic clustered vision into a broad expanse, to help us find the windows and the doors in Yiddishkeit through which we could come back in, and expand our consciousness. What we read in this chaylek really is about that healer and a healing that has happened to so many of us.

These are our shamanic rituals. And the one that we have for coming back into the camp, to bring our riches back into the mahchahneh, has to do with two birds, a cedar branch, crimson wool and hyssop along with the running water. Birds are a symbol of the soaring human spirit, the spirit that's alive within us. Notice that we take two; one is saved and one is killed. Why is that? The one that's killed has to do with that part of our spirit which has to be exchanged, sacrificed, so that we can fly free. In order to soar, in order to really have mocheen d'gahdloot, expanded consciousness, some part of us must be sacrificed.

Each one of us knows this in our own personal lives, and we certainly know it as a people, as a nation. On the way to being here now, renewing Judaism, we have suffered an incredible loss. One of our birds, the twin bird, has died, and on its wings come us.

And, having survived this loss, we know that we are never going to be the same; when we have come to consciousness we know that we are inalterably changed by this sacrifice. Our twin soul, perhaps the innocence in us, or the people that we had to leave in order to be where we are now, is gone. We are marked.

And so the Torah tells us in its deep wisdom that our wings are dipped in the blood of our twin soul. That blood is on our wings as we soar. But we do soar! And we're lifted off into the fields to fly freely.

Rabbi Firestone lives and teaches in Boulder, Colorado. She is the author of W ith Roots in Heaven.

Torah Portions: