Parshas Tazriah speaks about the symptoms of tzaraas (leprosy), and the laws
pertaining to one afflicted by it. One of the reasons for Tzaraas was as a
punishment for speaking Lashon Horah (slander).
The Torah connects this topic to the topic which speaks about permitted and forbidden
animals to teach us a very significant lesson: not only must we watch what comes into our
mouths, we must also be careful with what leaves our mouths.
How many people shudder at the mere thought of eating pork, yet give no second thought
to sharing a juicy bit of gossip? In fact, eating a kezayis (measurement the size of an
olive) of pork causes one to transgress one commandment, while speaking one word of
Lashon Horah causes one to transgress up to 37 commandments!
In the times of the Bais Hamikdash, if someone spoke Lashon Horah they were immediately
afflicted with a full blown case of tzaraas. (Tzaraas also came as a
punishment to other sins, but in the case of other sins it appeared gradually.)
Tzaraas is not a merely physical affliction, as many tend to think. It is rooted
in the spiritual. The Kli Yakar explains that the word metzorah (leper) comes from the
words motzi rah - it brings out the bad. Tzaraas exposes the sins of the one
afflicted by it.
When the possuk speaks about tzaraas, it uses a double wording - "Adam ki
yihiyeh bohr bsaro seis oh sapachas oh baheres, vhayah bohr
bsaro lnegah tzaraas"(Vayikra 13:2) - If a person will have on the
skin of his flesh a seis or a sapachas or a baheres (types of afflictions), and it
will become a tzaraas affliction.
The Kli Yakar explain this double wording to mean that on a regular person this
affliction would be able to be cured easily through physical measures (such as a cream or
medicine), but since they are found on the skin of one who sinned, they become the
spiritually rooted affliction of tzaraas.
Since the Torah is speaking of a spiritually rooted disease, the cure that it
prescribes is a spiritual cure. The person is brought to a Kohein (priest) and if it is
indeed this type of tzaraas, the Kohein declares him impure. Even if he is a learned
man and recognizes by himself that he has tzaraas, he still must get it diagnosed by
a Kohein. For only the Kohein can declare him impure. He must rend his clothing and let
his hair grow in the manner of mourners, and call out "Tamei, tamei" -
contaminated, contaminated. This will make people aware of the fact that he is a metzora,
and they will know to avoid him. It will also influence him to repent. He is required to
live in isolation all the days of his affliction. Rashi explains that this is a fitting
punishment - through his slander he caused strife and separation, so now he is to remain
isolated. Next weeks parsha, Parshas Metzora, discuses what he is to do when he is
Through seeing the severity of the punishment of one who speaks Lashon Horah, we can
infer something about the great reward of one who stays away from Lashon Horah, since we
know that the midah tovah (the measure with which Hashem repays those who do His will) is
many more times greater that the midah raah (the measure with which Hashem punishes
those who dont do His will). If this is the harsh punishment of one who speaks
Lashon Horah, imagine the great reward bestowed upon one who watches his speech! And
indeed, "Kol regah vregah sheadam chosem piv, zocheh lohr
haganuz sheain kol malach uvaryah yachol leshaer"
(Vilna Gaon from Midrash)- For every moment that a person remains silent, he merits
reward that is beyond the comprehension of angels! May we all strive to merit this eternal
Next page / Previous page