Tazria’s NCAA tournament thought
Often coupled together, the parshiyot of Tazria and Metzora deal with the skin disease known as tza-ra-at. The Rabbis regard tzara’at (leprosy) as divine punishment for slander or tale bearing (motzi shem ra). To slander is to not be part of our community. The Kohanim act as both spiritual guides and medical experts, diagnosing who is allowed to remain in the camp, and who must be quarantined.
The leprosy discussed in Tazria involves both the individual and their garments, while Metzora continues to deal with leprosy in the house itself (even going as far as to remove bricks from a home if they are found to have tzara’at). Behind all of these sets of laws, is a separation, between pure and impure. There are consequences for speaking lashon hara (literally “evil tongue”). However, Jewish law stipulates that once you are clean for a period of time, you can return to the fold.
This separation, of pure and impure, comes full circle in this week’s glance at the NCAA tournament. On one side, we have two coaches and programs on the rise. They are mid-major athletic programs with young leaders at the helm. No one contends that their respective rides to the Final Four are in any way tarnished by misdeed. They are teams built on pure shooting, pure grit, pure determination. Virginia Commonwealth University boasts more than 29k undergraduate students, but it isn’t support to be in the Final Four. Neither is its coach. Butler University, on the other hand, lost a 1st round draft pick from last year’s Cinderella run yet somehow made it back to the promised land. While the two Cinderellas try to fit into one shoe, we have the other side of the bracket. One coach begins his probation next year but can celebrate his two NCAA championships. The other is making his 3rd appearance in the Final Four with his third different program, but his record so far is 0-0. That’s because both programs came under scrutiny immediately after he departed. The banners have been removed, the records do not exist.
One side pure, the other, maybe not so pure. On one hand, Jewish law allows for the return of those who were deemed impure back into our midst. While they may have been impure before, I hope and pray that this amazing tournament will have a pure champion. I hope that the coaches and universities play by the rules, or else we might all go to quarantine.