Weekly Torah Commentary — Metzora April 4, 2014

METZORA Leviticus/Vayikra 14-15

We spoke last week of how God takes very seriously the sin of loshon hora, speaking evil of other people. Whether it’s true or not, whether it’s deserved or not in our opinion is irrelevant. What matters according to Torah is that we discipline our tongues to NEVER speak negatively of others.
A tall order, to be sure.

And we learned that the sin of gossip and slander carries the penalty of leprosy. Sometimes in our day when medically speaking the disease of leprosy has been almost eradicated from our planet, it seems difficult to relate to this scenario.

However, it is important to understand that God was not haphazard in designing the laws of leprosy as a punishment for lashon hara, slander. He was also not being arbitrary to apply leprosy only to bodies, clothing, and homes. Why not to one’s animals or crops? Obviously, there is a strong relationship between slandering and gossiping about someone and being struck with leprosy in general, and in specifically receiving it on body, clothing and home.

If we apply the principle of “measure for measure”, the consequence of Leprosy is readily seen as appropriate. Contracting Leprosy invades your intimacy and forces you to become humiliated in public – which is exactly what the original gossip did to its victim. Clothing grants a person dignity and the lashon hara invaded the dignity of the one spoken about. Therefore, a leprous person is stripped of his clothing.

Similarly, lepers are driven out of their homes and when we speak lashon hara we have denied our victim his comfort and privacy in his home. In some cases, individuals even relocate due to the embarrassment and humiliation that our lashon hara has caused them. At the very least, the person about whom evil has been spoken no longer feels safe and relaxed in his own community, even in his own home. He may even feel somewhat paranoid now that everyone has been talking about him. This is what we have done to him by speaking gossip and slander.

The other principle that follows from this is that “measure for measure” is still the rule. Those who gossip about others eventually become the victims of gossip. Those who slander, are slandered at some time by someone. What you do to others will be done to you. It’s a principle.

Sometimes it can happen that we “appear” to be suddenly the object of someone’s gossip or slander and we are shocked. “How could he/she say such a thing? I never did anything to them.”

That may be true. However, if we stop and think a bit, we will recall that perhaps last year – or five years ago – or even longer, we slandered someone else and that seed of loshon hora that we planted back then has now borne its fruit and we are now the ‘slandered’ or the one about whom others are gossiping. You see, the measure for measure principle does not always mean that the specific person you slandered will slander you in return. Not at all – In fact, most of the time the result of our loshon hora comes back to us later from someone else. But come back, it does.

And the sad result is that we if miss making the connection that we are simply reaping the negative result of past offense we have committed against others, we don’t learn from our discomfort and we don’t grow.

In Tune with Torah this week = recognizing that the commandment to treat others as we ourselves want to be treated is a profound truth and when we fail to do so, we bring upon ourselves the negative results. Let us examine ourselves this week and repent from the heart for past gossip and all negative speaking about others, asking God’s forgiveness and where appropriate, forgiveness from those whom we have victimized with our speech.

Shabbat shalom – this week from Jerusalem!

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