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Dvar Torah - Tazria

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clark

One of the defining aspects of technology is that, eventually, it becomes cheaper. It becomes available to everybody. So things that were at one point restricted to the very few are suddenly available to everybody." - Ted Chiang, in response.

Arthur Clark's observation critiques the wonder one should feel at the world. He thought the world around him was unremarkable. We are just insufficiently advanced to appreciate that fact. Ted Chiang takes this idea even further. Not only is the world a fundamentally unremarkable place, but all things that might seem remarkable either are or will one day be as accessible as television.

This week, the Torah presents us with a stark contrast. It tells us of a terrible disease, Tzara'at, whose cause is unknown and supernatural. It is unquestionably related to a person's state of spiritual pollution. Its cure lies in introspection, repentance, and redemption. But here's the catch - not everyone can proclaim the presence of the affliction. Only a Cohen, with his unique spiritual authority, may do so, underscoring the gravity and exclusivity of this spiritual condition.

What are we to learn from this strange condition? As many have said, we should learn to be more careful in speaking and acting towards others, less proud, and more reflective and considerate. However, that is just what the condition itself can teach us. What do we learn from the very fact of its existence?

What we learn above all is that Clark and Chiang are mistaken. The world is not unremarkable, but remarkable, filled with the wonder of G-d's creation. It is easier to appreciate this wonder when we don't fully understand, as is the case with Tzara'at. However, we must strive to recognise the beauty and the glory of the creation and of the Creator, even in those things that we understand quite well and even in those things that seem quite ordinary to us. This is a call to all of us to open our eyes and truly see the world around us, to be in awe of its beauty and to appreciate the miracles of everyday life.

In the lead-up to Pesach, this message is particularly poignant. The story of Pesach is not just a recounting of revealed miracles, but a testament to the purpose of these miracles. They were not, and never were, intended to bring us to expect such miraculous intervention in our own lives. Instead, the miracles of Pesach were designed to start a virtuous cycle, a cycle of spiritual growth and awareness, which leads us to a greater understanding of G-d's divine hand guiding our lives and our nation's existence. 

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