This week's Torah portion, Tazria, is one of three Torahs that we read from this Shabbat. What’s unique about Tazria is the story of a person who suffers from illness. The Torah instructs that the person who is ill must go out and announce, "I am impure, I am impure." He walks with torn clothes, unshaven and messy hair, alone, outside the camp. The rabbis wonder why this person calls out "I am impure." On the face of it, the person who says that they are impure in the Temple society is effectively telling people to stay away. Their impurity would scare everyone away. But that is not the case here. The sick person who calls out "I am impure" say the rabbis, is saying: "Please help me, please pray for me, please be worried about me, please check in on me." That is the human experience in this week’s Torah portion: underneath the ailment there is a human being who is lonely and in a state of grief.
All of us will encounter a person who is calling out, in their own way, for help. They are sometimes very vocal and clear about their needs. But at other times, the person who is in desperate need doesn’t know to call out for help though they most certainly need it.
In a community where we consider ourselves responsible for one another, our concerns for another person in need must extend so far that even if the other person cannot cry out or if the person doesn’t know what to say, we are there to help.
On Passover night, the four students sit at the Seder table. One of them doesn’t know how to ask the question. What is our instruction for such a person? The Haggadah teaches us to open this student’s mouth and put the words there for them. These are times when our hearts are being pulled in every direction by those in need of help. Many of those suffering illness and displacement are unable to express their needs to us. They cannot reach us and they cannot speak our language. But when we know that if another person is in crisis, desperate for help, we still respond to their silent cry.