On the eve of Elul
I’ve got tzara’at. You know — the Biblical oozing creeping scales & red spots. Otherwise known mistakenly as “leprosy” which I’ve written about here and here. Also known as unidentified bug bites (not bedbugs, however, thankfully — my sin wasn’t bad enough for that), perhaps spiders, who knows what, that got slightly infected & began to itch like there’s no tomorrow.
I went to the priest known as PromptCare and was given antibiotics, topical steroids, and a tetanus shot (just because it had been a while). Just having the diagnosis made me feel a whole lot better (despite the low-grade fever I didn’t know I had) and got me thinking about how damn scary any never-seen-before skin eruption would have been back in the day several thousand years ago when the only explanation was your lack of moral fiber, swamp gas, or small devil-like creatures — and the only medicine a poultice and time.
I’m not opposed to poultices on principal. This is actually the first time I’ve been to see a “regular” medical doctor for anything more than an annual exam in close to a decade. My health care of choice tends toward the alternative. But when I saw little inexplicable red lines branching out from these hive/bite things, it freaked me out. I’m in danger! Get me a cure!
Coincidentally, my tipping point — from unconcerned & annoyed to freaked out — came on the eve of the first day of the month of Elul, the month before the High Holy Days, a month designed for taking stock.
I consider this timing no coincidence, but rather a cosmic reminder in the midst of the final preparations for my stepdaughter Lonica’s wedding on Sunday. It is easy to get lost, when worrying about seating charts & flower delivery & the music playlist, in just how joyous an occasion this is, how lovely this sort of beginning. To forget about love and commitment and dreams.
It is also easy to forget that the rest of the world goes on — floods in Vermont, gunfire in Tripoli, death & destruction everywhere. A dear friend was admitted to the hospital yesterday with neurological symptoms and a suspicious brain scan. Another dear friend sits with her 93-year-old dying mother after a very rough couple months. Still another drove toward the bad weather on the East Coast 3 days ago to be with her father in the hospital. With all our medicines and advanced understanding, there are still mysteries. Still fear. Still things we cannot understand, predict, or fix.
My tzara’at will likely not kill me (pooh! pooh! pooh!). But dear readers, it does remind me to not take anything — not one damn thing — for granted. This is a blessed way to begin the month of Elul.
And p.s., if you’re interested in a post about this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim (Judges), click here for last year’s offering.