The Torah reading of the week is Tazria. Tzora’at is a skin disease, usually identified as a disease like leprosy. Anyone who contracted tzora’at was examined by the High Priest and placed in isolation for seven days, then examined again. If the blemish didn’t heal, that person became a metzorah (that’s next week’s Torah reading!) and was sent to live outside the Israelites’ camp.
Because of the seriousness of this disease, the Rabbis linked it to the sin of lashon ha’ra, the evil tongue. Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan (1839-1933), otherwise known as the Chofetz Chaim, dedicated his life to teaching lashon ha’ra (our mussar group studies his lessons as part of our curriculum). According to the Chofetz Chaim and other rabbis, one cannot be clean on the outside (from the disease) until one’s lips are clean from evil speech. Here is one of his teachings:
The Chofetz Chaim once paid a visit to a prospective supporter of his yeshiva (school of Jewish learning). When he arrived, the wealthy businessperson was preparing a telegram to his business partner. He greeted the Chofetz Chaim and they began chatting. Soon the Chofetz Chaim realized that the discussion was leading to lashon ha’ra, talking about a certain individual. So the Chofetz chaim suddenly commented on the telegram on the man’s desk.
“It looks as if you had carefully thought out every single word there,” he commented. The man replied, “I certainly have. Every unnecessary word will cost me extra money.”
The Chofetz Chaim marveled, “If only everyone was as careful as this when choosing what to say!”
(Retold in From the Teachings of our Sages, Rabbi Mordechai Katz)
May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace.
Rabbi Debbie Israel