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Tazria-Metzora 5772

Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12-15 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! What common everyday occurrence kills 3 people with one action?

The Talmud (Arakin 15b) tells us that Loshon Hora -- derogatory or slanderous (literally: "evil") speech kills three people -- the one who speaks it, the one who hears it and the one who is spoken about. Of course, the Talmud does not mean literally killing them; it refers to the detriment to their souls.

Speaking badly about others is so pernicious that our Sages tells us that if one speaks negatively about someone (without a specific mandated positive purpose) that the speaker acquires the transgressions of victim -- and the victim receives the merit of the good deeds of the speaker. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of the rumor mill knows how painful and damaging words can impact one's life, marriage, job.

What constitutes defamatory speech? There are three essential categories: 1) Loshon Hora -- The facts are true, but are related for no positive purpose. An example of a positive purpose: "Be careful when you consider a business deal with George. He's been in prison three times for embezzling." 2) Motzie Shem Ra (slander) -- The facts are false and the story is told to besmirch someone's reputation. 3) Rechilus (talebearing) -- creating ill will against someone who spoke negatively ..."Did you hear what Martha said about you"?

One of the reasons we must be so careful about our speech is the difficulty and near impossibility of retracting what is said. It is like tearing open a feather pillow in the middle of the town square -- and then trying to gather up all of the feathers and put them back in the case.

Another reason is that so often we are wrong about the person or his behavior. We jump to conclusions -- or slowly arrive at our conclusion -- that the person is guilty of doing something despicable. There are two books by Yehudis Samet, The Other Side of the Story and It Wasn't How It Seemed with story after story of "slam dunk" wrong behavior that was misinterpreted or misunderstood.

We justify ourselves by saying "It's true!" However, truth alone is not sufficient justification for saying something negatively. As mentioned, there has to be a real necessity for conveying the information, not just the desire to share salacious gossip. Often people who speak negatively about others are trying to bolster their poor self-esteem by portraying themselves as better than, or at least no worse, than another person. There are two ways to appear big -- rise to the occasion or push others down.

What can you do if someone starts speaking Loshon Hora? How do you stop them without getting into a fight or embarrassing them?

For years I have had a "vest pocket" question to pull out if someone started speaking gossip, slander or defamatory words. I'd just ask, "Who do you think will win the World Series?"

It works! People look at me aghast and say, "What are you talking about? It's football season!" Or, "Who cares? I hate baseball." And then the conversation continues in a whole other direction!

Two years ago I opted for a new question: "What pitcher threw two consecutive no-hitters?" It is rare to throw a no-hitter and it happened only once in history that someone threw two in a row. For someone who likes baseball, it is a fascinating question. A fan feels that he ought to know the answer. Even to a casual or non-fan it is of intrigue -- and the question has yet to fail in changing the topic!

There is a fabulous book, Guard Your Tongue, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin which is highly readable, easily understandable and has lots of stories to illustrate the laws of proper speech. I highly suggest buying a copy. Many people read a paragraph at two with their family at each meal. If you want spirituality, one of the best paths is to be careful about what you speak. It is available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.

And for those who want to know -- it was Johnny Vander Meer. He pitched two consecutive no-hitters in 1938 for the Cincinnati Reds. The first against the Boston Bees and the second against the Brooklyn Dodgers. If you really want to "wow" the person you are diverting from speaking Loshon Hora -- or you need a second question to strengthen the diversion -- you can ask "And who was the last person he struck out?" Leo Durocher.


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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.

As mentioned above, there are three types of speech transgressions: 1) Loshon Hora (literally "evil tongue") -- making a derogatory or damaging statement about someone even though you are speaking the truth. 2) Motzie Shem Ra -- slander -- where what is spoken is negative and false. 3) Rechilus (literally "tale bearing") -- telling someone the negative things another person said about him or did against him. Check out for daily lessons in Shmirat HaLoshon, proper speech -- or ask at your local Jewish bookstore, or call toll-free to 877-758-3242 for books and tapes!

The second Torah Portion, Metzora, 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 one afflicted with tzora'as) shall call out: 'Unclean, Unclean' (Leviticus 13:45).

The afflicted person, as he moves about, calls this out about himself as a warning to others.

The Shaloh HaKodesh, a revered commentary, writes that one can also read the verse in another manner. It could be that the afflicted person is calling out ABOUT other people, "Unclean! Unclean!" That is a person who finds fault with others is really projecting his own faults and imperfections onto others. As the Sages say in the Talmud (tractate of Kiddushin, page 70a), "Those who try to invalidate others do so with their own blemishes."

One means of finding out your own faults is to see what faults you tend to notice in others. When one points a finger at someone, three fingers point back at himself!


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Jerusalem 6:41
Guatemala 6:00 - Hong Kong 6:29 - Honolulu 6:36
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Wise men talk because they have something to say;
fools talk because they have to say something
-- Plato


With Deep Appreciation to

Jonas and Judy Mimoun

Sunny Isles Beach, Fla


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