Be Careful About What Comes Out Of Your Mouth – Parshat Tazria 5776 2016

The Portion of Tazria deals mainly with a skin affliction wrongly translated in the English Bible as leprosy. It is actually a form of skin disease which appears on the body as a rash.  Our Talmudic Rabbis attribute this disease as a punishment for “Lashon Hara”, slander or tale bearing. The preceding Portion of Shmini ends with the laws of forbidden foods. Many Biblical commentaries deal with the juxtaposition of these two portions.

Rabbi Israel Salanter, the 19th century scholar and founder of the Musar movement, poses a very interesting answer. He says that many people are meticulously careful when it comes to Halachic observance of consuming kosher food. They are not as careful when talking about other people. They are free with gossip and slander. Hence the Torah put them together to emphasize that both are equally important.

This is an extremely serious message which is relevant to this day. We are careful about what we eat but we must be just as painstakingly meticulous when talking about other people. “Lashon Hara” is never permitted.



Dvar Torah Tazria-Metzora 5775 2015

The Portion of Metzora relates to a person who is afflicted with a particular rash the Torah calls a Nega. In our time we are not aware of what this affliction is. Chazal, however, tell us that it comes as a punishment for speaking לשון הרע, slander.

The story is told about Rabban Gamliel that he once sent his Shamash to the market to bring him that which is the best thing. He brought him a tongue. He sent him again to bring the worst thing. Again he brought a tongue. He asked him is it possible that the tongue is both the best and the worst thing? “Yes”, he answered, “there is nothing better than a tongue that speaks honestly and nothing worse than a tongue that speaks slander and gossip”.

Today we do not have the disease of Metzora but the wrong of speaking לשון הרע, slander, is still with us. The Chafetz Chaim, the author of the “Mishna Brurah” wrote an entire book on the subject to direct us on how we must act in speaking about others and in treating them in order to avoid slander. לשון הרע slander is considered one of the most serious wrongdoings of which we can be guilty and one of the most difficult transgressions to avoid.

Dvar Torah Parshat Tazria – Metzora 5773 2013

A Metzora is one who has developed a rash on his body. Chazal tell us this was mainly a divine punishment for speaking לשון הרע, evil talk against his fellow man. He was sent out of the camp of the Israelites and had to remain there until the illness disappeared. It is only a Kohen who can examine him and declare that he has been healed.

The Torah tells us that on the day the infection disappears וְהוּבָא אֶל הַכֹּהֵן, “…he shall be brought to the Kohen.” (Lev 14,2) The very next verse states: וְיָצָא הַכֹּהֵן אֶל מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה, “The Kohen shall go to the outside of the camp…”. He is to go to the Metzora who is outside of the Israelite camp to check him and declare his recovery. This seems to be contradictory. First we are told the Metzora is to be brought to the Kohen and then we are told the Kohen comes to him.

The obvious explanation is that the Metzora goes to the edge of the camp and the Kohen comes there to meet him. However, The Midrash Torat Kohanim extracts an additional teaching from this seeming contradiction. It tells us that the Metzora must make contact with the Kohan to receive all the instructions about the ritual he must follow on the day of his purification as a thanks to the Almighty for curing him. Then the Kohen can declare him cured.

Today when a person has suffered an illness and recovered he must be ever grateful to Hashem and must surely express his appreciation in a meaningful fashion. If the sickness was a very serious one there is a special Beracha of thanks known as הגומל which is recited in the presence of a Minyan of ten men.

Dvar Torah Parshat Tazria-Metzora 5772 2012

The Torah tells us that a house can have a נֶגַע, an affliction, and the wall upon which it is found has to be destroyed. Chazal give us many reasons why a house can have a נֶגַע. All the reasons are based on the one belief that the owner has committed Lashon Harah, slander, or some similar transgression.

The one who has to declare it a נֶגַע can only be a Kohen who is an expert in this field. The procedure prescribed in the Torah is that the individual who has a נֶגַע on the wall in his house must go to the Kohen and say: כְּנֶגַע נִרְאָה לִי בַּבָּיִת, “…Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house.” (Lev. 14,35)

Why doesn’t the owner of the house simply say, “נֶגַע נִרְאָה לִי בַּבָּיִת, I see a נֶגַע in my house; come and check it out”?

There is an Halachic rule that a person may not admit that he is a Rasha, or an evil person. Hence, if he came and said he has a נֶגַע in his house he would be admitting that he has transgressed by speaking slander. He thus says that it appears to be like a נֶגַע and the Kohen should check it out. The Kohen determines if it is indeed a נֶגַע and only then the home owner must atone for his wrongdoing.

Dvar Torah Parshat Tazria 5771 2011

The Torah describes the symptoms of a malady which it calls צרעת, Tzara’at. Modern medicine cannot accurately identify this sickness. According to the Torah the Kohen has to examine the signs and determine if it is truly this affliction. Since the Kohen is not a doctor our sages recognize this is not a normal infection but rather an outward manifestation of a spiritual deficiency.

The Rabbis of the Talmud state that a Kohen is eligible to diagnose everyone’s symptoms except his own. This is a strange restriction since even a doctor may recognize his own symptoms. The Rabbis’ meaning, however, has a broader implication. They recognize that people can readily see faults in others but they cannot see their own faults.

This is why they maintain that the Kohen can diagnose the Tzara’at of others but not his own. Since this ailment is not a usual type of sickness but an indication of a spiritual deficiency, they are not able to judge their own status.

Dvar Torah Parshat Tazria – Metzora 2009 5769 דבר תורה פרשת תזריע מצורע

One of the duties of the Kohanim, we read in today’s Sidra, is to examine what appears as a NEGA or an affliction on the skin of an individual. This is obviously a menial task. Moshe realized this and according to the Midrash said to Hashem, “Is this an honorable task for my brother Aharon, to inspect the NEGA of people?” (Lev. Rab. 15;8)

The response he received from Hashem was that as a Kohen he also receives all the gifts from the people. In effect what Moshe was being told is that there is good and bad in everything. All benefits carry with them drawbacks.

When a person is appointed or elected to a high position it is indeed an honor. He must realize, however, that with this honor come responsibilities. Often we seek a job or position that seems to be a most desirable and attractive status only to find that with it comes many unwanted and boring and monotonous tasks.

The point is that there is good and not so good in everything and it is up to us to make the best of every situation.

Dvar Torah Tazria 2008 – 5768 דבר תורה תזריע

In the beginning of Sefer VaYikra the Torah says that if a man, MIKEM, of you,.brings a Korban. In this week’s Portion when the Torah talks about a person having a disease in his skin, which according to Chazal is a punishment, it does not say a man MIKEM but merely a man. There is a definite lesson in the difference in the language the Torah uses.

When speaking to a person and trying to explain some misfortune that can befall one, we should never use the person as an example. If you want to warn against crossing the street against a traffic light you should not say, “You might be killed”. You should rather say, “One might be killed”.

The Talmud (MK 18a) emphasizes this thought by bringing a verse from Kohelet which reads, “Like an error which proceeds from a ruler”. (Eccl. 10,5) This is interpreted to mean that when a ruler states that an act should be performed, even if he erred and did not mean it the way it was said, it is nevertheless, carried out. So too when people say things to others it sounds like they wish it upon them.

All this expresses the caution that when speaking one must be mindful of what he says so that it may not be misinterpreted to sound like it is meant against the person addressed.