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Tazria-Metzora 5780

04/23/2020 09:52:13 PM


Rabbi Adam Mayer


This week's parsha, Tazria-Metzora, is often used as an opportunity to talk about lashon hara.  This comes from a comment in the Gemara (Erchin 16a),

 מצורע = מוציא שם רע.  

The word metzora (perhaps a leper) sounds like the words motzi–ra - one who brings forth evil; meaning one who speaks lashon hara.  Everyone seems to know that lashon hara is something to avoid, but to what lengths will I go to avoid it?  Is it unhealthy like candy or soda? Do I put on gloves and an NF95 mask so that I don’t expose myself and get sick?

When Chazal discussed lashon hara, they took the issue quite seriously.  Chazal said (Erchin 15b) “Lashon hara kills three people: the speaker, the listener and the one about whom it was spoken… Reish Lakish says: anyone who speaks lashon hara increases sin all the way up to the heavens.”  Chazal teach that lashon hara is the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple, equal to sins of murder, adultry and idolatry.

These incredibly intense comparisons force me to rethink the severity of lashon hara, and its connection with the metzora. It is not just a play on words that connects the metzora with one who speaks lashon hara.  We are told to remove from our midst anyone and anything that presents symptoms of tzara’at.  We are aware of the danger of this contagion and take drastic steps to prevent its spread.  Similarly, we are all aware of the potential destructive force of speech at every level of society, from one on one arguments to disputes and rumors among peers, to fake news, hateful rhetoric or irrelevant information about others.

While the treatment plan for tzara'at is simply to wait outside of the camp until after it is gone, when it comes to lashon hara, there are things we can do to flatten the curve and strengthen our spiritual immune systems. When we look at the positive - lashon hatov - we can focus on the role of speech in building community based on trust and communication. In fact, the Meor Einayim (Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, 1730-1797) teaches that speaking lashon hara is the failure to acknowledge the best gift G!D gave us. G!D created the world through speech.  G!D shared the Torah with us through the spoken word.  As humans, created in the image of G!D, we are blessed with this gift of speech. It should be holy. To use this ability for anything other than goodness would be to profane that which is holy.

May we all renew our commitment to using constructive speech that helps build lasting friendships and communities worthy of heralding the guela.

Thu, July 25 2024 19 Tammuz 5784