This week’s parsha is Tazriah, which talks extensively about biblical purity laws, specifically relating to women after childbirth and to people with various kinds of ancient skin diseases. Oftentimes, the Torah uses ideas of purity or holiness as a proxy for cleanliness or health. So why does the Torah spend an entire parsha dealing with questions of cleanliness and health? Isn’t the Torah concerned with more lofty ideals?
In the Torah, physical disease is often associated with a lack of emotional or spiritual wellbeing as well. Thus, when the Torah talks about how to deal with such diseases, it’s addressing our physical and our spiritual sides simultaneously. In our tradition, Lashon Hara,the evil tongue or gossip, leads to the leprosy described in this week’s parsha! In the parsha, when someone has such a disease, they have to go to the high priest to be examined. It’s not a doctor who addresses their ailment, but a spiritual leader. The social and spiritual aspects of our lives are deeply entwined with our physical health. Our mental health is as important as our physical health, and we need to take care of our inner selves the same way we take care of our bodies.
At camp, we have the Marp to help us out when we’re not feeling well. But equally important is the love and support of our bunkmates and counselors. The lesson of Lashon Hara is particularly important. When members of the aydah aren’t getting along and are gossiping about one another, it brings down the mood of the entire group. It takes everyone’s compassion and empathy to make sure that all the other members of the aydah are doing well. I hope that this summer, we can all find harmony between our minds and our bodies, and that we can all support one another in being our best selves.