Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12-15 )
I have been waiting several months for
the start of baseball season to share this one with you. Do you
know the SIX ways to get to first base? The first three ways are
obvious -- walk, get a hit, be hit by a pitch. Now come the
interesting ones -- the catcher drops the ball after strike three, the
ball gets caught in the umpires mask or gear, and lastly, the pitcher
throws the ball out of the field. Now, would you like to know how to
get to first base with the Almighty and your fellow human beings?
This week's Torah portion has the answer! Don't speak Loshon
Hora. So, now all we have to do is ask the question: "What is
Loshon Hora and What Do I Need to Do?"
Q & A: What is Loshon Hora and What Do I Need to Do?
Loshon Hora literally means "evil tongue." In our day and
age we would call it "derogatory speech." The Torah has three
classifications of Loshon Hora. The first, classical Loshon Hora --
what one says is true, but defamatory. The second, Motzie Shem
Ra, ("bringing out a bad name") -- defaming through a lie. The
third, Rechilus, ("tale bearing") -- telling someone what another
person did or said about them. All of them are forbidden. One is
not allowed to speak, listen to or believe Loshon Hora -- except for
very specific situations to prevent loss and damage.
Loshon Hora destroys friendships, bankrupts businesses,
ruins marriages and shortens lives. The Talmud tells us that we, the
Jewish people, are in exile because of it (Yoma, 9b; Gitin 57b).
There are 17 prohibitions from the Torah and 14 positive
commandments which may be violated when one speaks or listens
to Loshon Hora. Included amongst the negative commandments
are: "You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people"
(Leviticus 19:16), "You shall not utter a false report" (Exodus 23:1),
"You shall not profane My holy name" (Leviticus 22:32). Amongst
the positive commandments that may be violated: "Love your
neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), "In righteousness shall you
judge your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:15), "The Lord your G-d shall you
fear" (Deuteronomy 10:20) and "Walk in His ways (Deuteronomy
If you really care about the world, humanity, ecosystems,
poverty, health, education, perfecting the world, being happy and
creating happiness for others -- then the place to start is with your
mouth, guarding your tongue. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage
Foundation, an organization established to promote proper speech
puts it elegantly, "G-d desires that people live together in peace
and unity, and the laws of proper speech are the Torah's way to
achieve this. Actually, it is a simple principle: If one removes
gossip, slander, divisiveness and anger from one's vocabulary, one
automatically and dramatically improves one's own life and the lives
of everyone in one's environment."
There is no way that I can give you everything that you need
to know for the laws guiding speech. I highly recommend Guard
Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. It is available from your local
Jewish bookstore or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242. Also, one
can contact the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, 800-867-
2482 or visit their website at http:\www.chofetzchaimusa.org.
Ours is an age of instant gratification -- or at least the
desire for it. People also want instant spirituality. They want
something that will give them instant communication with G-d and a
feeling of G-dliness. In the immortal words of the ages, there are no
free lunches. Spirituality and G-dliness take knowledge and work
on oneself -- one's character traits. Being careful in one's speech
IS a genuine way to be spiritual, to come close to G-d. Try it. See
what it does for you, your family, your relationships -- and your
relationship with the Almighty.
ESSENTIAL LAWS CONCERNING SPEECH:
(Read Guard Your
Tongue by Rabbi Z. Pliskin for greater depth!)
- You are forbidden to make a derogatory comment -- the
person did something wrong, has faulty character traits or lacks a
virtue -- even if it's true.
- Any comment, even if not derogatory, that might
ultimately cause financial loss, physical pain, mental anguish or any
damage is forbidden.
- Any method of conveying or implying derogatory
information about others is forbidden: writing, hand motions, facial
- One is not allowed to relate derogatory information even
- Even if the derogatory statement won't cause damage
or loss, it is forbidden.
- When it is necessary for someone to know derogatory
information for a constructive purpose, you are obligated to relate
the information to him, i.e. someone is planning to cheat or harm
Portion of the Week
Tazria - Metzora
The Torah continues with the laws of physical and spiritual
purity. These portions focus upon Tzora'as, a physical affliction for
transgressing the laws of speech -- and the purification process.
Tzora'as progressively afflicts home, clothes and skin unless one
cleans up his speech.
based on Growth Through Torah by
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "And the Lord spoke to Moshe saying, 'This shall be the law of the metzora in the day of his cleansing (a physical and spiritual purification process performed after he has
done Teshuva, corrected the manner of his talking and the damage
he has inflicted); he shall be brought to the priest (the Cohen)"
(Leviticus 14:1,2). What is the source and the meaning of the word
The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 16:2) states that the word
"metzora" (a person afflicted with tzora'as, the physical affliction for
transgressing the laws of speech) comes from motzi shem ra (a
slanderer), since the disease of tzora'as is a punishment for
speaking against others. Because of the relationship between
tzora'as and loshon hora, the Midrash on our verse relates the
followng incident: A peddler traveled from village to village in the
area of Tzipori, calling out, "Who wants to buy an elixir of life?"
When someone was interested, he would take out a book
of T'hillim, Psalms, and show the verse, "Who is the person who
desires life ("chofetz chaim") and loves days that he may see the
good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking
deceit" (Psalm 34).
Speaking against others causes quarrels, disputes, strife,
and heartache which can shorten a person's life; refraining from
speaking against others will lead to a much more peaceful and
tranquil existence and a person will live longer.