This Shabbos we read Parshas Tazria and Metzora. In the Parsha, the Torah discusses at great length the plague of tzaraas. Tzaraas is an affliction that was brought upon one who said lashan hora – evil news about a fellow Jew. This is a very serious prohibition, even if the evil report is true. Whether one says that someone has a temper, is a thief, or did a sin, this is lashan hora. In the times of the temple, an affliction called tzaraas would come upon a person who spoke lashan hora. This affliction had to be examined by a Kohen, by a priest. If it indeed was determined to be tzaraas, the person who was afflicted by it had to go outside the Jewish camp. He or she was prohibited to be in the proximity of any other Jew, until the Kohen would declare him healed. Why was the punishment for speaking lashan hora banishment from the Jewish community? Why was it the Kohen the only one who could determine if a person had tzaraas or not?
The gravity of loshon hora is that it separates people from each other. When Steven hears what Barry said about him, he no longer wants to associate with him. Michael, who was the person who told this to Steven, has separated people from each other, and will now be punished with tzaraas, which will now separate him from others.
The Kohen represents those who make peace among others. Indeed, this was one of the 3 traits that the Torah compliments the children and disciples of Aaron the high priest for using. For example, if Neil and Chaim had a disagreement, Aaron would walk over to Neil. He would tell him that he spoke recently to Chaim, and Chaim told him how much he regretted what he had said to Neil. After that, Aaron would go to Chaim and tell him that he spoke recently to Neil, and Neil told him how much he regretted what he had said to Chaim. In this way, the Talmud says, when Chaim and Neil finally met each other, they were already feeling like friends, even before anyone made an apology. This trait is totally different from the extreme self centeredness of the one who speaks lashan hara, who only sees faults among people, and causes friction and divisiveness. This is why the Kohen is the one who must be the determining factor of whether or not there is tzaraas here, to help impart upon others the traits of peace and harmony to those who spoke lashan hara.
This lesson of the importance of not causing friction among Jews, and of promoting peace and harmony among others, is one that remains with us to this day. Although we no longer have the affliction of tzaraas, the lessons we learn of actively speaking good about others.