Lessons from the weekly Torah portion: Talk about intimate issues with your children!

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol on what Torah portions Tazria-Metzora, and 'redundant' language, are trying to teach us about talking with our children.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Guy Taib

We all hope and pray that our lives will be filled only with joy and fun, but what can you do - sometimes life is challenging.

Our Torah is the "Torah of life," and it comes to fix those unpleasant situations in life. And the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus) introduces us to the complications of life and teaches us how to deal with them. The parshas (Torah portions) we read this Shabbat (Sabbath), Tazria-Metzora, deal with life situations that we would rather not have to deal with: impurity of the mother after birth, leprosy, and the pinnacle is the laws of ziva (a woman or man who becomes ritually impure due to a medical condition) and nidda (a woman who becomes ritually impure due to her monthly period).

These are embarrassing topics that are commonly said to be "better left unspoken," and it is best to discuss them as little as possible. And to our surprise, not only does the Torah "allow" us to talk about such intimate issues, but as we will now see, it emphasizes the importance of these topics and encourages us to discuss them.

At the beginning of the section that discusses ziva it says: "And the L-rd spoke unto Moses and to Aaron, saying: Speak unto the Children of Israel, and say unto them: When any man hath an issue out of his flesh, his issue is unclean." (Leviticus, 15:1-2)

As you can easily notice, there is a double opening here, "Speak unto the Children of Israel," and "say unto them." And in the words of the Netziv of Volozhin (Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin): We do not find in all the Torah portions this language, "Speak unto the Children of Israel, and say unto them." Why? What is the reason for this repetition?

The Netziv clarifies a very important element of education: "[This is] since it is difficult to discuss the issues of ziva and kri (nighttime emissions), which affect the reproductive organs, which are influenced by thought, and we would believe that it is better to limit discussion and learning of them..."

Meaning, we would think that it might not be worthwhile to deal with such subjects, so the Torah emphasizes, "and say unto them," that both Moses and Aaron should study these subjects with the Children of Israel.

G-d teaches Moses and Aaron that there is no need to escape from dealing with intimate issues. When talking about the subject is done with modesty and purity, and from a connection to the Torah of life, dealing with these issues is not only non-negative, but is required and positive for the mental health of children and adolescents.

In our generation, these teachings are more true than ever. It is precisely in our generation, where knowledge is so accessible across the internet and social media with a quick click on the keyboard, that it is imperative that our children receive the information about all intimate issues from their parents.

Creating an atmosphere of openness surrounding these topics will allow our children to ask us parents the questions they have regarding these delicate issues, rather than searching for answers on the internet, and finding them in inappropriate places.

The corona period that forced us to stay home and spend a lot of "family time" with our children can be a wonderful time to spend with our sons and daughters, having deep conversations on issues that sometimes, because of the quick pace of life, we fail to have.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol serves as Dean and Founder at the Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics and Community Development, and as rabbi of Kehillat Shaarei Yonah Menachem in Modi'in