The rabbis interpreted "leprosy" (as it is often translated), the skin disease described in this parsha, as a consequence of Lashon Hara, the evil tongue. That connection is made explicitly in Numbers, when Miriam is punished for how she speaks about Moses with this same skin disease.
In order for your students to have a story to hook some of these ideas on, consider studying the story in Numbers 12 first (below). You might also consider looking at the stories of the spies (Numbers 13) as well. Their negative report about the promised land was also considered lashon hara.
- Consider that God creates the world through language-- if you like go back to Genesis 1:1-- invite your students to think about how we create our worlds through language each day.
- Using the story of Miriam and Aaron explore why we speak badly about one another. What is the effect on us? How does it effect the other person?
1. What are Miriam and Aaron speaking about?
2. How does verse 1 relate to verse 2?
3. Why do you think God gets so angry?
A Hasidic Story about Lashon Hara:
A man went about his town telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, “Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds.” The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, “Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your word
have done than you can recollect the feathers.”
Activity for Younger Kids:
Read the hasidic story. Go outside with your students and blow bubbles (in lieu of collecting feathers). Ask your kids to go and catch them.
Activity for Older Kids:
In the novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde features a portrait that reflects the inner state of Dorian Gray's soul. Ask your students to consider the good things they do as well as some of the things they do that they feel badly about and how that might physically mark their souls. Ask them to create a self portrait.
Discuss with them the best way to address things they've done that they feel badly about. What does it mean to repair relationships? How might their "soul portrait" shift?
For other texts related to Lashon Hara see this document.