Our guest this week is Rabbi Sheldon Lewis, Rabbi Emeritus of the Kol Emeth Synagogue in Palo Alto. Born in Chicago, Rabbi Shelly Lewis was educated at the University of Chicago and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, where he was ordained as a rabbi. He was a student of Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel and was active in civil and human rights causes, especially the movement to free Soviet Jewry. Rabbi Lewis served as an Army chaplain in Vietnam. For 33 years, he was the rabbi of Kol Emeth, which he retired from in 2007. Rabbi Lewis has an abiding interest in reconciliation efforts in the Middle East as a supporter of the Open House in Ramle, the Al Amal School near Bethlehem, and Rabbis for Human Rights. He is a past president of the Northern California Board of Rabbis. In 2012 he published a book on peaceful conflict resolution within Jewish sources entitled The Torah of Reconciliation.
This Week’s Torah portion – Parashat Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33) – describes the purification process of people afflicted by Leprosy (Tzara’at), and continues to cover the symptoms and laws of ‘House Tzara’at’ (a situation which may result in demolition) as well as laws concerning ritual impurities resulting from bodily discharges and female menstruation. Our discussion focuses, among other things, on the vague definition of Tzara’at, a mysterious malady which can effect both one’s body and one’s home.