This week, we read the double parshah Tazria-Metzorah. 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, 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 daily chores in ways they once were. Indeed, even adults often outsource tasks, such as washing and folding laundry, to be performed by others. Yet, there is something significant about these daily tasks. They remind us of the importance of self-care, and they force us to slow down and pay attention to details.
When done together, chores and tasks can be a bonding experience. When we were younger, we would fold laundry together while watching our favourite TV show M*A*S*H. My kids loved comedy, and I would hear giggling coming from behind the laundry pile.
I have noticed that routine tasks like these can have a very calming effect on children who are unsettled. I recall one child in particular who found immense satisfaction in folding clothes from the lost and found. It was a way for her to self-regulate after a difficult morning in the classroom. I believe that the relative ease and repetitiveness of the task helped this child feel a sense of accomplishment and self-control. 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 in students 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 small tasks that bring order to our minds and souls.