Part of the cornucopia of vital information my mother acquired while at Lorreto Heights College where she learned nursing was this rather non politically correct song:
Leprosy, it’s crawling all over me-
There goes my eyeball
Into my highball.
Oh My darling won’t you
kiss me quick,
There goes my upper lip,
There goes my ear,
right into my beer
Started to hum this tune at the Shabbat table. I was mentioning to the children something about how the leprosy mentioned in the Torah isn’t anything similar to what we know as leprosy today. Leprosy or Hansen’s disease, is particularly nasty bacterial infection of the skin and nerve tissue with only some of the symptoms similar to those described in Parshat Metzora. Today experts believe that the Tzaraath in the Torah could be a combination of several other diseases (which I would rather not topically treat at the moment) but the Sages state that it is a physically manifestation of some moral defect, diagnosing it as stemming particularly from malicious gossip.
Believing that there are G-d induced diseases as specific punishment is not very politically correct these days. Today we believe diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses and cancerous cells and not as divine punishment for writing how celebrities dress or talk. The Sages saw Tzaraath as a warning and also as a sign of a special divine connection between the Jewish People and G-d. Miriam, who was a prime example of someone was struck with leprosy, was a righteous person, and it is from her we learn that the connection between gossip and Tzaraath.
The Bible isn’t considered very PC these days. Tzippora is called a Cushite ( or Ethiopian), Priests are always male, Canaanites are mandated to be killed and mention Noah and you will hear a deluge of criticism (but at least no extras drowned as in 1928) . Luckily the Sages ruled that the Torah is not complete without the Oral Law or Judaism would be impossible for the modern world. Yet not being politically correct is what makes the Bible what it is, a book where no person is above criticism, whether he (or she ) is a prophet or royalty.
Today, for us mere bloggers, we are in a constant tango stepping and swaying between the bounds of gossip, opinion, private and public. Some of us bare our hearts and others, well, aim a bit lower. When politics are involved, we all too readily remove the gloves and let the pieces fly using language that is less than pristine. In a world of Miriams and Moses we would not only be white in our faces but infected by Tzaraath from head to toe.
Idle gossip is not a blogger’s only enemy though. Being always politically correct can also be debilitating. In fact there is an interesting view that Miriam was punished so harshly because she did not confront Moses directly , but rather spoke to Aharon :
As a leader of the Jewish nation, even if she felt uncomfortable broaching the subject with Moses, it was her obligation to do so. Interestingly, this was the one time when Miriam did not speak up fearlessly when she perceived an injustice. The one time she goes to Aaron instead of confronting Moses directly is the one time she fails. And she gets called out on it by G‑d, as if to say, “From you I expect nothing less than total fearlessness.”
For myself, I can not ignore what I see as the injustice of releasing murderers in order to talk to with Abbas, I refuse to accept that we are conquerors in our own land and I will continue to defend the rights of Jews to continue to live and build in all of the Land of Israel. My views do not have to be popular. They do not have to be PC. I believe I can express non PC views without forgetting that my enemies are also human and that those who disagree with me are neither (all) self hating Jews nor idiots. It is a fine line to walk, but that is the path I would like to choose.
So when should we be PC and when not and can we be blunt without falling into gossip and hurtful words? Can’t say I know myself, but I can at least try to be always truthful with myself and I can make the effort to keep the same standards that I expect from others to keep. Not to do so would be more than a bit hypocritical. And Hypocrisy is all of a piece with leprosy, and I want no part of it.
Hypocrisy, it has got the better of me.
What I believed once, now just affronts
The rules I knew, were not for me, but you.
DO as I say, not as I do!