April 8, 2022 / 7 Nisan, 5782

Pura Vida!

Vayikra 14:1- 15:33

tender alone time
in the midst of suffering
pura vida joy

In non-leap years, this Torah portion is read as a double portion with last week’s parashat, Tazria. It is a continuation of the laws of purification. (This year, 5782, is a leap year on the Hebrew calendar.)

This photo was taken with my friend, Manuel, on my first work day in Gandoca last September … the day after I arrived in this small village on the Caribbean coast, just north of Panama. My intimate interconnection with the many, many too-tiny-to-see insects here began on this day.

The Torah continues this week with a deep dive into the innumerable ways our bodies can be plagued with blemishes, sores, swelling, discoloration, and every kind of eruption and discharge … and the ways we can, once again, become “pure” and return to a state of well-being.

בְּי֥וֹם הַטָּמֵ֖א וּבְי֣וֹם הַטָּהֹ֑ר
On the day of impurity and on the day of purity

The ideas of טָּהֹ֑ר (ta-HOR) and טָּהֹ֑ר (ta-MAY) in the Torah, generally translated as “pure” and “impure,­” have been challenging concepts for feminists and others who recoil at the notion, for example, that our moon time of menstruation somehow makes us “impure.” Or that disease makes us impure. Or coming into contact with the dead makes us impure.

Though the ancient rabbis and modern thinkers have grappled with how to understand the states of purity and impurity as a kind of spiritual openness and readiness to engage in relationship with others and with the Divine, still, it’s a framework that is not always easy to hold.

Living in the land of “Pura Vida,” for the last 7-1/2 months, has given me a whole new perspective and experience of what it means and feels like to live a “pure life.” In Costa Rica, the phrase “Pura Vida” is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. It is the country’s motto and the land’s offering. It is used much like “Shalom” in Hebrew … as a greeting of coming and going, but also as a response to the question of how things are going, as a toast when drinking, and as ­­an acknowledgement of gratitude that the life we are living here in the wild, immersed in the largely unmediated natural world, infused with the Divine is, indeed, the purest joy that can be experienced in our lifetimes and in our physical bodies.

Just saying and hearing the phrase “Pura Vida,” the whole body lights up. It feels almost impossible to offer or receive the phrase “Pura Vida” without smiling. And even laughing a little. Delighting in the very notion that we have the incredible good fortune to experience life in its purest form of goodness and beauty here in the wild. You can feel it on the soul level. And our whole body is invited to relax into the perfection of this world, to let go of all outside worries. It puts into perspective what is real and true. What matters most. Life in its purest, truest form.

I am remembering the sage advice my father (z”l) repeatedly shared with me in times of trouble: “If money can solve it, it’s not a problem,” he would remind me. It presumed, of course, that we had the money and, of course, he was not disregarding the very real and huge challenges of living in extreme poverty and even not having enough money to make ends meet … but, even still, it put into perspective what fundamental problems are. Problems of ill-being and heartache that can’t be resolved with money —those are fundamental problems. War and violence. Ignorance and hatred. Racism and bigotry. Oppression and injustice. These are fundamental problems that loom large, and call us to the work of transformation and healing throughout our lifetime.

When bogged down with the challenges of the modern world and how to pay our taxes, I try to return to the awareness of what matters most. To return to my breathing and the basics of living a humble, honorable life. A pure life … meeting what’s real and important and enlivening. Immersing in the essence and fullness of life and well-being. And, especially in this Shmitah year, returning to the care and deep nourishment of my physical body in its purest form.

And, while it’s true, that coloradillas (chiggers) have been having “a field day” for weeks throughout my body, thriving on my blood and draining my inner resources, sending me into a compromised and weakened state … nevertheless, I feel strengthened by the pure experience of being fully alive and engaged with the work of cultivating understanding and compassion and healing.

I am grateful beyond measure for the guidance and support of the natural world on this journey. For the presence of the Divine and the love that surrounds me in the wild. And for the pure joy of dwelling as fully as I can in the present moment, filled with gratitude.

Pura Vida!




3 responses to “#28 METZORA – Pura Vida!”

  1. Love your haiku. If and when you return to Sonoma Cty, hope you can appreciate the Pura Vida there as well. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this wonderful connection to difficult concepts in Torah. You remind me that I always have choice to respond creatively and find meaning.


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