Parashat M'tzora: Searching for the Issues on the Campaign Trail and in the Torah

M'tzora, Leviticus 14:1-15:33

D'Var Torah By: Aaron Arbiter

“This race will be decided by the issues.” Senators Clinton and Obama and even presumptive Republican candidate Senator John McCain have all said it at some point this campaign season. As accusations of character assassination continue to cloud the air, discussions of race and gender persist, despite this being, “an election about the issues.” Having been busy lately, I was unsure if I was informed enough to write about health care. So I picked up copies of the Boston Globe and the New York Times to try to brush up on the issues, but as I opened both papers, I was hard pressed to find an article on health care. Browsing the homepages of major newspapers across the country, the prognosis doesn’t bode well—especially for health care. While the issue is discussed, in terms of the presidential race, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of coverage on how the candidates relate to the issue. Age and youth dominate the airwaves, but those discussions are more about Sen. Obama’s “inexperience” and Sen. McCain’s age then they are about the growing numbers of children and seniors without affordable or acceptable health care in America.

But where are the issues if not in the media? This week’s Torah portion, M’tzora, is about ritual cleansing in the community. Not only does it make mention of individuals who are sick, but it also talks about the cleansing of homes that have been damaged by mold and mildew. Hurricane Katrina, anyone? There are more concerns about communal health care issues in the Torah than the candidates can wave a stick at.

As we read this week from the Torah, we must ask ourselves why we have allowed our leaders to talk at the issues of health care in this country, which affects not only the lower class, children and the elderly, but also anyone who could be a victim of a natural disaster. All the candidates agree we have a problem and they certainly all have ideas about solutions. Because the media doesn’t seem to want to focus on the issue, we need to do the footwork. It is up to us—and a huge responsibility—to do the research, find out what the candidates are saying and figure out which solution makes the most sense to us.

Related Questions

  • Is Health Care a Federal Issue?

In fact, Medicaid, the leading governmental provider of health care for low-income families is only partially funded by the federal government and is managed almost entirely on a state-by-state basis. Find out how your state is involved. You often have more access to state legislators and officials than federal legislators or officials, so it can be easier to confront them about their involvement in Medicaid.

  • How has the Reform Movement Addressed this Issue?

In addition to the advocacy work that the Religious Action Center (RAC) has been doing and continues to do, at the 2007 URJ Biennial Convention, Rabbi Yoffie offered up health care as one of the major areas of focus for our Movement. As he said in his d’var Torah on Saturday morning, "We live in a country with a pitifully inadequate health insurance system that causes horrors every day so tragic that they could rip the heart out of a stone.... The time has long since passed when our leaders should have done what every other advanced country has somehow managed to do: provide all its citizens with essential health care....But we need not look only to Washington for answers. ...I propose, therefore, that this Movement begin immediately to support state initiatives to expand health insurance. In almost every state of the Union, we have identified one Reform synagogue that has agreed to coordinate these efforts. We will bring Reform Jews, and our allies, to state capitals and we will make our voice heard and our presence felt." Health Care for All has become a Movement-wide effort to advocate for health care reform in every state.

Taking Action

  • Make Your Voice Heard

Even if you’re too young to vote, you can still have an impact and you have the right to speak up. Writing letters and making phone calls to the government is one way to let our leaders know what you’re thinking and what you believe.

The media is just as responsible as the candidates for making this race not about the issues, and you should be angry. Write to your network news station; write to your local and major regional newspapers. If they don’t print your letters, write some more!

  • Know the Facts

Health care is a dizzying issue…so much so that this article isn’t even a scratch on the surface. Beginning the process of informing yourself gives you the advantage of knowing which politicians have better track records on this issue that is so vital to the future of this country. So program on health care! Doesn’t sound exciting? Try a simulation or role playing program that goes beyond choosing between groceries or medication. Do some research on Medicare and Medicaid and write a program that really goes in depth into learning about the system. Once you know that much, you’re in a much better position to take action.

Food For Thought

Other than serving as a call to action, how can this week’s Torah portion influence the way we deal with this issue?

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