This week, we read Parshat Tazria. Like many of the parshayot in Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus), this parshah contains many laws and regulations governing ritual details. As is often the case with Sefer Vayikra, we wonder how such details matter to us today.
The verse from which our weekly middah is derived describes a ritual that involves washing clothes. In my mindfulness tefillah minyan, as we carefully fold our tallitot, I ask students how many of them wash their own clothing. A few hands go up. When I ask if anyone folds their own clothing, a few more hands go up.
In many of our households, children are no longer engaged in the daily chores that children once were. Indeed, even adults often outsource tasks such as the washing and folding of laundry to others. Yet, there is something significant about these daily tasks. They remind us of the importance of self-care, they force us to slow down and pay attention to details, and, when done together, doing these tasks can be a bonding experience.
In our family, when we fold laundry or rinse dishes, we often put on a podcast, or listen to a radio or TV show that we all like. When they were younger, my kids loved comedy, and I would hear giggling coming from behind the laundry pile.
I have noticed that routine tasks such as these can have a calming effect on students who are unsettled. I recall one child in particular who found immense satisfaction in folding clothes from the lost and found as a way of regulating herself after a difficult morning in the classroom. The relative ease and repetitiveness of the task helped this child feel a sense of accomplishment and self-control. Being helpful restored her confidence and self-esteem.
At Heschel, each class has a daily toranut program through which students rotate jobs such as watering plants, cleaning boards, and keeping boots and coats neat and orderly. These tasks instill a sense of ownership for the classroom community, a sense of pride in place, and a sense of personal satisfaction.
This Shabbat, may we all have the opportunity to do a small task that brings order to our minds and souls, and that helps our community along the way.