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Metzora 5771

Metzora (Leviticus 14-15 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Would you like to have better relationships, create peace and make a better world? The place to start is by elevating your speech - not just refraining from crass words, but also refraining from speaking negatively about others. Loshon Hora is the Hebrew term for speech that causes pain or harm to others. It literally translates as "evil speech" and while it has its own specific definition, it is used as a catch-all for all categories of negative speech. The Sages tell us that Loshon Hora kills 3 people: the one who says it, the one who hears it and the one who it is spoken about.

There are three main categories: 1) Loshon Hora - where what is spoken is negative, though true. 2) Motzie Shem Ra - Slander -where what is spoken is negative and false. 3) Rechilus - Tale Bearing - telling people what others have said about them.

One of the shining lights of our heritage is that we actually have laws governing how and when one may relate negative speech. No namby-pamby cliches of "Be nice" but guidelines. I highly suggest The Chofetz Chaim: Daily Companion or Rabbi Zelig Pliskin's classic Guard Your Tongue, available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.



  1. Speak No Evil. Say only positive statements. Let words of kindness be on your tongue. This means to respond instead of react. Edit your speech before you speak.
  2. Hear No Evil. Refuse to listen to gossip, slander and other negative forms of speech. If you're on a diet, don't bring the cake and cookies into the house. If you're ending gossip, try and keep away from conversations that may tempt you to listen or chime in. If avoiding the conversation is impossible, have another topic of "positive" interest you can quickly bring up in order to change the subject.
  3. See No Evil. Judge people favorably, the way you would want them to judge you. If you've ever been accused of doing something for which you know you were innocent, then you know how it feels to be misjudged. Remember, if you weren't there, you don't know. Even if you were there, you may have missed the context of what actually happened.
  4. Don't Rationalize Destructive Speech. Excuses like "But it's true" or "I'm only joking" or "I can tell my spouse anything" just don't cut it. Gossip is gossip. The fact that it is true is what qualifies it as gossip. If it were not true, it would be libel or slander, depending upon the medium.
  5. Beware of Speaking Evil Without Saying An Evil Word. Body language even with positive speech can bring tremendous destruction.
  6. Be Humble. Avoid Arrogance. These will be your greatest weapons against destructive speech. Take pleasure in your accomplishments, not pride. This way you recognize the Ultimate Source of your accomplishments. Those who are arrogant are so full of themselves, that there is no room for God in their lives.
  7. Beware of Repeating Information. Even positive information needs permission before being repeated. Telling someone who's out of a job that your mutual friend got a raise, does not constitute proper speech.
  8. Honesty Really is The Best Policy - Most of the Time. Be careful to always tell the truth unless it will hurt others or violate privacy. Strive for honesty in everything you do. If being honest means unnecessarily hurting another's feelings, it's better not to be so truthful. Those who boast about being "brutally honest" are usually more brutal than honest.
  9. Learn to Say, "I'm Sorry." Everyone makes mistakes. If you've spoken badly about someone, clear it up immediately. It might be embarrassing, but get it over with quickly. Apologize, ask for forgiveness, and let him or her know it won't happen again.
  10. Forgive. If you have been wronged, let it go. Forgive for your sake, if not for theirs. Those who can forgive live healthier, happier, and less stressful lives. Those who say they'll forgive but not forget are actually saying that they'll neither forgive nor forget. (from GOSSIP: Ten Pathways To Eliminate It From Your Life And Transform Your Soul by Lori Palatnik and Bob Berg, available at

For more on "Loshon Hora" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

The Torah continues with the laws of physical and spiritual purity. The focus of this portion is upon tzora'as, a supernatural physical affliction sent to warn someone to refrain from speaking badly about others. The disease progressively afflicted home, clothes and then one's skin - unless the individual corrected his ways and followed the purification process stated in the Torah.

This week's portion continues with the purification process for the metzora, the person afflicted with tzora'as and then the home afflicted with tzora'as. The portion ends with the purification process for discharges from the flesh.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And the priest shall command to take for him who is to be purified two birds alive and pure, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop." (Leviticus 14:4)

What lessons about life do we learn from these?

Rashi, the great commentator, cites the Sages that the cedar symbolizes arrogance (a cedar tree is tall and "haughty"). Tzora'as comes from arrogance and the contempt for others which allows him to talk negatively about others.

The Chofetz Chaim commented that someone who speaks against others views himself as above other people and therefore feels that he has a right to say negative things about them. If he were aware of his own faults and limitations, he would not seek out the faults of others.

What is the cure? He should work on humility, which is symbolized by the scarlet that is made from a lowly worm and the use of hyssop which is a small, low bush. (The two live chirping birds are symbolic of the chatter of idle gossip.)

Our lesson: Be aware of one's own faults and limitations rather than focusing on the faults of others.


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No one gossips about other people's secret virtues.
--  Bertrand Russell



wishes you joy, peace, health,
happiness this Passover Season!

(certified Kosher OU-P for Pesach)



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