Sometimes we wish we were mind readers. Occasionally, I’ll ask a question in class and get nothing but blank stares. Should I assume that because there were no questions and everyone seems to be working away on their own, that they understand the material? Unfortunately I don’t know what’s going on in their heads, and it can be hard to offer them help if they don’t take the first step by asking for help.
When we have a problem, we’re often too afraid or proud to let others know about it. This week’sTorah portion, Tazria, teaches us about asking for help in our world. The parshah mainly covers purities and impurities. The text is also laden with images of how a woman must purify herself after childbirth and what to do if you contract various skin diseases. It talks about the sanctity of our bodies and our obligations to keep them pure especially with the food that we put into them and the words that come out of them.
In the end of the parshah we learn about the requirements of the person becoming purified. Chapter 13, verse 45 of the book of Vayikra reminds us that no one is a mind reader. The text reads: “As for the person with leprosy, his clothes shall be rent, his head shall be left bare, and he shall cover over his upper lip; and he shall call out, ‘Impure! Impure!’” According to the Talmud, a person calls out “Impure!” not only to warn others of the contagious nature of their bodies, but also so that others will know about it in the first place. The Torah teaches that we cannot expect others in our community to know our needs unless we tell them ourselves. If we want to have someone come to our aid, we must first be comfortable asking for help.
When we’re too afraid to ask for help, we deny the community a chance to welcome us and love us through a difficult event. The truth is, we’re not mind readers, and as difficult as it is to stand up and call out “Impure! I need help!” in the long run, the love and support provided will help you heal faster and allow you to receive the care and friendship you need.
By the same token, each person in our community is deserving of our nurturing support during a time of need. This parshah calls out to each of us to not be afraid to admit when we need help from others and to come to the rescue of others when we hear that voice call out. We should not shun those who need help, just because they are different. Rather, we should move forward and offer prayer, support and encouragement.
Family Discussion Question:
- Our “ethical covenant” speaks about giving the benefit of the doubt. We often push our own interpretation of a situation on others without taking into account their individual situation. How can you work towards being more likely to give the benefit of the doubt?
- What can you do as a family to embrace the mitzvah of Bikur Holim, visiting the sick so that no one in our community will feel alone in a time of need?