Soap and Laughter: Parshat Tazria-Metzora

Ariel Platt
Courtesy of Rabbi Ariel Platt

By Rabbi Ariel Platt

We have been told that the top three ways to help fight COVID-19 are to: 1) Stay home as much as possible, 2) Keep your distance from people, and 3) Wash your hands for 20 seconds. This is what our current reality looks like. We live by the tag line “Stay home. Save lives.”

In this week’s Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora, Moses and Aaron tell the Israelites to do something similar. Basically, if anyone becomes affected by certain skin infections they must be quarantined from everyone else, and they must make sure to wash themselves so they won’t spread it. Both now and in the Torah, we are given ways to not only heal our bodies if we are sick, but also ways to protect others from catching it.

While this is all very important for the health and wellness of our bodies, it is missing something that is just as vital. What about our inner health? Being quarantined from everyone is hard. Not being able to see or touch loved ones or friends is painful. Living day by day not knowing what is going to happen next is beyond stressful. Our inner selves, our souls, need to be healed and protected as well. To be truly healthy, our souls as well as our bodies need to be taken care of.

There is a Yiddish proverb that goes “What soap is for the body, laughter is for the soul.” According to this piece of wisdom, soap cleans the body like laughter can clean the soul. In our case, soap not only cleans our bodies, but also protects us and others from COVID-19. So what can laughter do for our souls? What can it do for our inner selves?

Laughter is magical. Research has shown that laughter can actually help heal the body, mind, and spirit. When we laugh, even if just for a moment, everything brightens. Stresses, pains, discomforts of any sort disappear. Whatever darkness we might be holding onto lightens, and our hearts feel free. Laughter builds optimism and hope. When we laugh with others, we spread that light and create a deeper connection.

Now more than ever we need laughter in our lives. Find ways to laugh. Go out of your way to make yourself and others laugh. Even though things are hard right now, you have the power to heal yourself and others with laughter. As we often say, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Ariel Platt is the director of education and engagement at Beth Israel Congregation.

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