tazriah and metzora

The Parsha this week is Parshas Tazria and Metzora. In these Parshas the Torah deals at great length with the affliction called Tzaraas – an affliction that was caused as a punishment for a person who spoke evil of another. This sin is called Lashon Hara – evil speech. This is strongly prohibited, and is punished in a most severe way.

One who has tzaraas must leave the Jewish community. He or she may not even be in the same area as other people. They must remain alone until the affliction leaves them, a cohen (a priest) examines them and says that they have been cured, and they bring the required sacrifices to the Temple. Our Sages explain that this severe punishment is in direct relation to the sin of the person who spoke this Lashon Hara. Since by speaking bad about someone one creates separation between that person and others, the person who does this is punished by himself being separated from others. Nowadays we no longer have the affliction of tzaraas –for if we did, without a Temple in which to bring the sacrifices, we would never be healed. However, the famed Chofetz Chaim quotes our Sages who tell us that the punishment of tzaraas –today comes in other forms. In particular, they explain, the punishment of poverty is substituted for the punishment of tzaraas. Just as tzaraas can come in varying degrees of intensity and strength, it is self understood that the punishment of poverty can be brought in varying degrees of strength and intensity. Whether it means not having a deal work out, loss of a job, unexpected expenses, - however it is, certainly we all want to avoid any form of this punishment. If we are serious about that, we must think about the sin of Lashon Hara and how we can avoid it.

If we examine what motivates us to speak bad about others, one of the most basic causes is jealousy. If we were really content with what we had, we wouldn’t really be upset with other people having what they have. The source of being content with what we have is real trust in Hashem that we really do have what is best for us. If so, the bottom line of being able to live as a content and fulfilled person is to feel assured that Someone is watching over us and giving us exactly what we need.

The Chofetz Chaim makes another most important point regarding Lasohn Hara. Jewish Law dictates that one who is a shochet – a ritual slaughterer, must constantly review the laws of slaughtering an animal. The concern that a person may make a mistake out of forgetting the details of the law is a very real one, and must be prevented. If so, the Chofetz Chaim says, we all have that status regarding our capacity to speak. Since communication is something we do on a constant basis, we must review the laws of what we can speak and can’t speak on a regular basis.