The Torah tells us: זֹאת תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת הַמְּצֹרָע, “This shall be the law of the Metzora…”.(Lev.14,2) The word מְּצֹרָע is rendered in most English translations as “leper”. This we know is not the correct meaning. The root of the word is צרע which means to strike and hence it implies some form of infection.
The Midrash tells us the word stands for: המוציא שם רע, as if it is an abbreviated form and stands for: מוציא רע, speak out evil or gossip. (Med. Rabba Lev. Metzora 16) The accepted teaching of Chazal is that one is afflicted with this disease as a punishment for לשון הרע, evil gossip.
Rabbi Moshe Alshech was one of the great Biblical scholars of the 16th century, and a member of the Rabbinic court of Rabbi Yosef Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch.
This great Rabbi asks why we don’t have people today (in his time) stricken with this disease. Does this indicate that there are no more Jews guilty of evil gossip? He concludes, on the contrary. There are so many people guilty of this wrong that if this punishment would be carried out almost everyone would be walking around distressed with this horrible infection.
This, of course, does not pardon us of this transgression. We are still warned against it and may, Heaven forbid, be dealt with by a different punishment.