In this parasha, we learn about Tzaraat (צרעת). We often refer to “צרעת” as leprosy - a skin disease, but it is actually a white skin mark that ‘ה gave to a person when he or she had acted improperly. Our tradition is that someone was afflicted with צרעת when they talked Lashon Hara (לשון הרע), or bad speech about someone.
However, Myriam, later in the Torah, is afflicted with צרעת only because she spoke out against Moshe and his wife Tzipporah. It does not appear from the text that she actually spoke לשון הרע. Still, she got צרעת and was sent out of the camp for seven full days. So why was she punished so severely?
One answer can be that it teaches us that ‘ה does not dispense with one-size-fits-all justice. Every individual is judged uniquely according to his or her abilities and potential. And for someone like Myriam, this behavior was considered wrong because she should have known better than to speak out against Moshe in public.
This reminds me of my family. I am the oldest, like Myriam. Sometimes, my first thought when my parents ask more from me than from my siblings is to think that they are being unfair.
However, when I remember that I am the big sister, their role model, I understand that I should always try to be an example and teach them what is right.
In this parsha we also learn the laws of ritual impurity. You could not go to the Mishkan, or later the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalayim, if you were not ritually pure. To become pure again you go to the Mikvah, or ritual bath.
Today, we do not worry about ritual impurity as much as we used to, but we still make sure to be pure in our lives. We still try to prepare ourselves for special events.
For example, before going to Shul, my family makes sure to wash up. When at Shul, we do not disrupt, and we do our best to act as proper as possible. We clear our mind, and focus on G-D. In this way, we try to make ourselves ritually pure and connected to G-D.
Our rabbis interpreted the skin disease of Tzaraat (צרעת) as a punishment for speaking Lashon Hara (לשון הרע). Lashon Hara (לשון הרע) is when people say hurtful things to other people, or spread rumors or gossip about others. It’s bad to speak Lashon Hara, and also to write or even listen to it. These days, it can spread very quickly: by texting, snapchat, and much more. It will stick around forever. You can never take it back. Just like toothpaste. If you take some toothpaste out of the tube, you will never be able to put it all back.
Another type of Lashon Hara (לשון הרע) is bullying. In my old school there was a girl who had fallen a grade behind so some of the kids bullied her. I told the other kids that she is no different than us so we should not treat her in a mean way. I think it helped stop the bullying. I hope I helped someone who was not being treated nicely.
This parsha teaches us that sometimes more is expected of us than others, and that we should look at this as a compliment and also act responsibly.
This parsha also teaches us that we should not talk Lashon Hara (לשון הרע), and that we should only talk when we have good words to share.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom!