Tazria and Metzora

This Shabbos we read two parshas - Parshas Tazria and Parshas Metzora. In these two portions, we are taught about the sickness called tzaraas that came anyone who spoke lashon hara – evil words, about another Jew. The Torah tells us that when a person would contract this illness, they had to leave the Jewish community. They were not allowed to be in the same place as any other person (Leviticus 13:46). Our Sages explain that this was a direct punishment for speaking ill about other people. “He caused (with his words) separation between husband and wife, between father and child, between one neighbor and another, therefore he is forced to be separate from the rest of the community.” This punishment was for as long as the tzaraas was on the person. When the tzaraas did leave the afflicted person, he had to go through a long process of purification. Among the many things that were done to him, he had to take two birds, one of which was slaughtered, and one of which was left alive. Our Sages explain that the significance of taking birds is that they are constantly chirping. This is to atone for this person who spoke wrongly and said words of lashon hara.

The question is raised, if this is the message that we wish to convey, why do we need two birds? Wouldn’t this lesson be taught by taking one bird? The lesson of not using our speech in the wrong way is certainly pointed out very strongly when we slaughtered the first bird? If the Torah did insist on using a second bird, why wasn’t that one also slaughtered? Why was only one bird slaughtered, and one bird left alive?

The commentaries tell us that if we would only use one bird and slaughter it, then the lesson being made may be understood to say that a person should not talk at all. If we would take this lesson to heart, we would stop talking unless there was some special need or pressing reason to talk. In truth, though, we want a person to use his power of speech for good things. When we have the opportunity to speak, teach, or study words of Torah, or when we have the opportunity to give words of strength and inspiration, to lift someone’s feelings, to promote peace, the opportunity must be seized. This is a very definitive and special part of our service of Hashem that can’t be left on the sidelines.

This is the reason for the second bird that stays alive. The person who had tzaraas has to learn two lessons; to avoid evil – to stay away from speaking lashon hara; And to do good - to speak words of Torah, kindness, consideration and of peace.

Wishing you and your family a great Shabbos!!!