Our Torah portion deals mainly with laws about different skin diseases and how each should be evaluated and treated. When somebody is declared impure by the priest this should be the procedure, “And the person with tzara’ath (a skin disease, maybe leprosy), in whom there is the lesion, his garments shall be torn, his head shall be unshorn, he shall cover himself down to his mustache and call out, “impure! impure!” (13:45). According to the Torah when someone is diagnosed with this skin disease the person should go around declaring “impure! Impure!”. He should cry out that he has been afflicted with this spiritual state of impurity. Why? Why should he be exposing himself to the world declaring publicly that he is in a state of impurity?

The Talmud (b. Moed Katan 5a) brings two possible answers. According to Rabbi Abbahu he should shout in order to warn others of his state of impurity so others might “remove themselves” from his path so they do not became impure by touching him. This is the way that Rashi explains the verse: “He announces that he is unclean, so that everyone should stay away from him.” Why he chose that interpretation I don’t know but the Talmud offers another possible reading and understanding of the verse, “And he shall cry: Impure, impure”; this teaches that the leper must inform the public of his distress, and the public will pray for mercy on his behalf.” According to this reading the leper should shout twice “impure” for two reasons, so others would know of his suffering and so they can pray for his recovery.

I personally prefer the second interpretation. Shouting “impure! Impure!” is not meant to scare people away but rather to let them know how you are feeling, your pains and your worries. The Talmud is saying that when we are suffering instead of keeping everything to ourselves we need to share it with others; we need to share our pain so others can understand what we are going through and so they can help us (by praying? By listening to us? By giving us some advice?).

Don’t be afraid to open yourself to others; you don’t know from where the help will come.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Uri