This week’s parasha, is all about… skin diseases! On first glance, let’s be honest: it’s not the most inspirational material.
For me, it’s the midrash (rabbinic stories) written about this parasha which really helps to make sense of all these recommendations for dealing with skin problems. The rabbis compare these verses to a story about Moses’ sister Miriam, who contracts leprosy (a skin disease), because of her negative attitudes towards others.
The big idea? It’s not really any physical ailment that made Miriam impure. It’s the behavior that lay beneath the outward sign.
The bigger lesson is to remind us that there are attitudes – thinking ill of others, prejudice, hatred, injustice – that have the potential to really put us “outside of the camp” and make us a stranger towards others.
Impurity is not really a skin disease. It’s a disease of the heart instead.
Dr. Laura Yares is Director of Educational Research and Innovation at the Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Experience.