By Nosson Chayim Leff
Sfas Emes, Zechuso Tagein Aleinu, Parshas Metzora, 5631
Chazal tell us that tza'ra'as afflicts a person because of his/her
anti-social behavior. Lashon ha'ra is the epitome of anti-social
behavior. Hence, it comes as no surprise that Chazal see the metzora
as a person who is 'motzi shem ra' -- who says bad things about people
or institutions. Likewise, we can readily understand that as part of
his punishment/rehabilitation process, a metzora must dwell outside
the community, excluded from society. Before the metzora may reenter
the community, he must undergo a procedure for kapara (atonement).
This procedure includes bringing two birds to the Beis HaMikdash. The
Sfas Emes quotes Rashi on the reason for bringing one bird. Birds
chatter mindlessly. So, too, the metzora is being warned about the
consequences of speaking mindlessly about people or institutions.
The Sfas Emes is bothered by a basic question. We can understand why
the metzora brings one bird, which the kohein slaughters. Clearly,
that bird is to atone for the person's mindless talk. But what is the
message of the second bird, the one that is not slaughtered, but is
The Sfas Emes answers by quoting a passage from the Zohar. That
passage explains that scourges like tzara'as afflict a person because
of "mila bisha; ve'ahl milin tavim ... ve'lo mileil". That is, one
bird is to deal with the lashon hara that the person spoke. The second
bird is to deal with the good things that he could have said but did
not say. The Sfas Emes quotes a pasuk in Tehilim (39:3): "Hechesheisi
mitov, uke'eivi ne'echar." (R' S. R. Hirsch: "I kept silent as
regarded the good; my pain as all the more grievous because of [my
silence]." What the Torah is teaching us with the second bird is the
importance of saying good words when we encounter something positive.
My mother, a'h', taught English literature. She used to quote the
following lines from a poem: "The word we had not sense to say, Who
knows how grand it might have rung?"
B'H', people have developed a much heightened awareness about the
evils of lashon hara. Now let's also try to do better with lishna
tava, speaking well of others!
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff and Torah.org.