Parshat Tazria-Metzora 5781: The Link Between Loshen Hora (Sins of Speech) and Tzara’at Affliction

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua for Tazria-Metzora is being sponsored by David and Julie Morris and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh Lilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of Julie’s Mother Shulamit Devorah bat Rav Shimshon Raphael z”l and a refu’ah shleima to all cholim of Klal Yisrael. To the Morris family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Parshat Tazria-Metzora 5781: The Link Between Loshen Hora (Sins of Speech) and Tzara’at Affliction

by Moshe Burt

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin writes in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra as a summary and context on the double Parshiyot of Tazria-Metzora (pages 81, 101):

After a… section reviewing the laws of tumat yoledet (impurity resulting from childbirth), Parshat Tazria quickly turns its attention to the primary topic of these two Parshiyot: the diagnosis and treatment of tumah brought about by the plague of tzara’at, biblical leprosy.

The Torah reviews, in great depth, a wide variety of physical ailments, conveying critical information to the Kohanim who will be responsible for the identification and management of afflictions falling into the category of tzara’at. Included in this review are afflictions affecting persons, garments, and dwellings.

…Parshiyot Tazria and Metzora deal with a description of the dramatic effects of tzara’at…

Parshat Metzora closes with additional laws concerning zav, impure bodily emission, and niddot, the laws surrounding a woman’s monthly cycle.

The Torah delineates in fine detail the specifics of this… affliction — which affects individuals, clothes and dwellings — and the steps to be taken under the guidance of the Kohanim toward its diagnosis and treatment, (ibid, page 101, Rabbi Goldin providing an overview of Sefer Vayikra, Perakim 13-14)

Rabbi Goldin continues (ibid, pages 101-102, 104-105):

Given the myriad diseases that afflict humankind, why does the Torah devote so much text to a description of this specific malady, its diagnosis and treatment?

The Abravanel, for example, explains the Torah’s concern for “afflicted” clothing…. Tzara’at will spread from… an individual afflicted… to his garments. To prevent further contagion, therefore, all suspicious stains and growths on clothing must be examined by a Kohen. (Rabbi Goldin citing Abravanel on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 13, posukim 47-59)

The Talmud lists, in the name of Rabbi Yonatan, seven sins that cause the affliction of Tzara’at: evil or damaging speech, murder, perjury, sexual immorality, arrogance, robbery and miserliness. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Arachin 16a)

The Rabbis find support for the link between… sins of speech and the affliction of tzara’at in a series of clues including:

      1/ The term Metzora itself can be broken down and linguistically connected to the expression “motzi shem ra” (slander). (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli, Arachin 15b: Rabbeinu Bachya, Introduction to Parshat Metzora; Da’at Zekeinim MiBa’alei HaTosafot, Rabbeinu Bachya and numerous other commentaries on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 14, posuk 1)
      2/ Moshe is temporarily stricken with Tzara’at at the Burning Bush when he casts aspersions on the B’nei Yisrael by doubting their willingness to respond to Hashem’s call for the Yetziyot Mitzrayim [the liberation of the B’nei Yisrael from Egypt]. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Shemot, Perek 4, posuk 6: Rashi, ibid)
      3/ Miriam is punished with Tzara’at when she maligns her brother, Moshe. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 12, posuk 9)
      4/ The practical response to Tzara’at (seclusion from the community) results in a punishment that fits the crime. The Metzora must distance himself through isolation from society because his words created distance between husband and wife, between man and a friend. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli, Arachin 16b)
      5/ The bird offerings brought by the Metzora at the end of his period of seclusion mirror the nature of his sin. He injured others through the “chatter” of slander and gossip. His purification is, therefore, effectuated through the means of “chirping, twittering” birds. (Rabbi Goldin again citing Talmud Bavli, Arachin 16b)

The treatment of the illness itself, [according to] the Meshech Chochma, is… enforced isolation and [the afflicted] required to to actively alert others to his condition…. The Torah, therefore, assigns the task of… the diagnosis and treatment of the [afflicted] to the sons of Aaron who, …as Kohanim, are separate from the rest of the people and are granted extraordinary Divine protection. (Rabbi Goldin citing the Meshech Chochma on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 13, posuk 2)

To focus for a moment on the Tzara’at afflictions of Moshe and, later, Miriam:

“Hashem said… to him [to Moshe], ‘Bring your hand to your bosom,’ and he brought his hand to his bosom, then withdrew it and behold, his hand was stricken with Tzara’at like snow.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 4, posuk 6 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah, with Rashi’s Commentary”)

Rashi comments: With this sign, too, He hinted to [Moshe] that he spoke derogatory talk when he had said, “They will not believe me.” Therefore, he smote Moshe with Tzara’at, just as Miriam was stricken with Tzara’at because of derogatory talk. (Rashi on Sefer Shemot, Perek 4, posuk 6 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah, with Rashi’s Commentary,” page 31)

“Why did you not fear to speak about My servant, about Moshe? The wrath of Hashem flared up…, and He left. The cloud had departed from atop the Tent, and behold! Miriam was afflicted with Tzara’at like snow….” (Sefer Bamidbar Perek 12, posukim 8-9 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah, with Rashi’s Commentary”)

R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l provides commentary in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman) on the posukim at the beginning of our Parsha regarding Negi’yim — spots, Tzara’at (Sefer Vayikra, Parsha Tazria, pages 420-422):

…Every spot of tzaraas that strikes a member of the Jewish nation is to remind him of the experience of Miriam. This will lead him to careful observance of relevant halachot. Every spot of tzara’as, is to be regarded as punishment for social wrongdoing; and the confinement outside the camp — the national area around the Sanctuary of the Torah — has no other purpose or reason than…. to instill in man the awareness of his unworthiness.

And so, we learn that one afflicted with tzaraas has the status of a metzora.

Rabbi Goldin adds rwo additional points regarding the status of the Metzora (“Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, page 103):

The laws of tzara’at do not apply to non-Jews. A lesion contracted by a convert before his conversion to Judaism is of no consequence. (Rabbi Goldin citing Torat Kohanim, Perek 13, posukim 1-2, Midrash Hagadol Vayikra, Perek 13, posuk 2)

…If lesions cover an individual’s entire body he is not considered contaminated [tamei]. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 13, posukim 12-13)

Sefer Shem Mishmuel (by R’ Shmuel Bornstein, as translated by R’ Zvi Belovski, page 248) writes regarding a safeguard against Loshen Hora:

Find a spiritual guide who will be able to point out areas in which… [one] can improve…, ask him for advice on what to pray for and ask him to pray for you. Those who follow this procedure will gain much from their suffering.

Undoubtedly, this formula works for the Kol Klal Yisrael, as well as for the individual.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chodesh Tov and Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.