Recently, I attended a performance of the Carl Orff cantata Carmina Burana. The piece is based on a medieval manuscript on the themes of fate and nature. The best known of the movements is “O Fortuna,” whose first lines translate as: “O Fortune, like the ever-changing moon, you always wax and wane. Life is brutal; then pampers us.” This week’s parasha, Tazria, echoes this theme. Chapter 13 of Leviticus begins with the exhilarating high of childbirth and then quickly transitions to calamity– inexplicable and disfiguring skin diseases. But, the Torah does not chalk up these highs and lows to “Fate.” Instead, they are part of the mystery of God’s world, and the religious leaders, the ancient Israelite priests, are tasked with helping people through them with specific purification rituals. Rather than portraying a random “Wheel of Fortune” whose whims batter and bruise us and also sometimes lift us up, the Torah describes a world that can be controlled and eased by human action, informed by Divine instruction.
Rabbi D. Feingold