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Tazria-Metzora 5777

Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12-15 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  The Talmud (Arakin 15b) tells us that Loshon Hora (literally: "evil speech") kills three people -- the one who speaks it, the one who hears it and the one who is spoken about.

What is Loshon Hora? There are three essential types of defamatory speech -- 1) 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) The facts are false and the story is told to besmirch someone's reputation. 3) Talebearing -- "Did you hear what Martha said about you?"

What do 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 perfectly! 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!

Lately, I've added a new question, "What pitcher threw two consecutive no-hitters?" The reason why this is such a great question is that it absolutely doesn't matter. It's a piece of trivia that is perhaps interesting to someone who likes baseball, yet it is a prodigious feat to anyone who knows anything about baseball -- and it absolutely turns the conversation in another direction!

What one speaks about begins with his thoughts and perspective. The following is from "Why Not Jump to a Good Conclusion?" published by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation (845-352-3505 or check out their website at, which effectively educates Jews about the Laws of Speech:

The Torah teaches that, whenever we experience or hear about the negative behavior of another person, we must "judge favorably." In simple terms, that means giving the benefit of the doubt. But how can one follow that advice when it seems that the facts clearly point to someone's guilt?

Sometimes we jump to the wrong conclusion because the facts are different from what we perceive them to be. Even if our facts are accurate, we often misinterpret the intent behind them. When we drop the assumption that there was a negative intention behind someone's actions towards us, we automatically deflate much of the anger and hurt that we feel.


The Six Questions for Judging Favorably

  1. Are you sure it happened at all? Sometimes our perceptions of what we see and hear are mistaken.
  2. Are you sure the details are correct? One small detail can completely alter the scenario. Something may have been exaggerated or omitted that would make a big difference.
  3. Do you know if the other person intended harm? Often the consequences are unforeseen.
  4. Do you know the assumptions the other person was operating under? Maybe the other person was operating under a misconception that would explain their behavior.
  5. Could the other person's act have been the result of an innocent, human error? Everyone has limitations. Perhaps this person lacked experience, was forgetful, distracted or simply didn't think carefully enough before acting.
  6. Do you know what events preceded the negative action? The other person may be enduring a great deal of pain, frustration or stress. This might be a response to a specific situation, like an illness or financial loss. Or it could be a deeper, more pervasive problem that affects the person's entire life.


Although the Torah requires us to judge others with favor and compassion, we are not required to accept abusive behavior from others. Physical, verbal or emotional abuse must be addressed and corrected.

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. 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, 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

Tazria, Leviticus 12:1 - 14:9 & Metzora, Leviticus 14: 1 - 15:33

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.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah writes regarding one who is afflicted for speaking gossip or tale bearing:

"All the days the plague is in him ... he shall dwell alone; outside the camp shall his dwelling be" (Lev. 13:46).

What lesson can we learn from this?

The Sages said that since the metzora caused the separation of friends and the separation of husbands and wives, he should also be separated from others.

The isolation of the metzora gave him time for introspection. He could now recall the marriages and friendships his malicious gossip has dissolved. Removed from society, he would feel the mental anguish he caused others when his slander caused them to be ostracized.

From here we see that a person should learn from his own experiences the pain that others feel when they suffer. If anyone ever spoke Loshon Hora against you, you certainly did not like it. Remember those feelings and refrain from speaking against others.


Candle Lighting Times

April 28
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:42
Guatemala 6:00 - Hong Kong 6:31 - Honolulu 6:38
J'Burg 5:22 - London 8:01 - Los Angeles 7:17
Melbourne 5:19 - Mexico City 7:41 - Miami 7:33
New York 7:31 - Singapore 6:49 - Toronto 7:50

Quote of the Week

The difference between
stumbling blocks and stepping stone
--  is how you use them



In Memory of
Binyomin Ross
Binyomin Yitzchok ben Meir

His Loving Family

With Special Thanks to
Steven Saiontz


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