Metzora / Shabbos HaGadol
Not Afflicted, Still Affected
The Parsha of Metzora deals with the plague of tzoraat - according to the
Rabbis of the Talmud, a product of the sin of slander and abusive speech.
"Life and death are in the hands of speech and the tongue." In a society
where everyone demands the right to know everything about everyone anytime,
it is difficult to promote the ideas of privacy, correct speech and
avoidance of gossip and unnecessary curiosity about others. Though the
exact plague of tzoraat is no longer apparent in our lives, the damages of
loose talk are apparent all around us. Tzoraat is not only a plague that
affects the individual affected by it but it is a plague that damages the
general society as well. A society that approves gossip, that condones
verbal abuse, insults, obscenities and shameful statements, itself is
already plagued. The level of public debate, as well as that of private
conversation, requires elevation and care. A drive to arrest loshan hara
(evil speech) has been prominent in the Jewish world over the past decades.
It is difficult to assess its true success but the mere fact that such a
drive was initiated and maintained is itself a positive thing. In a world
of free speech, which is certainly a basic right of humans, self-discipline
in exercising that right is necessary. Otherwise, free speech becomes
destructive speech. And destructive speech should be avoided at all costs.
In our world, tzoraat is no longer an identifiable disease, but the damage
of bad speech is easily recognizable in our society. Bad speech stems from
bad societal attitudes. Hatred of others, "justified" denigration of those
who are different than our own narrow group, an intolerance of spirit and a
narrowness of vision all combine to create evil speech and eventually bad
behavior. In the haftorah of Shabbat Hagadol, the prophet Malachi calls for
charity of spirit and behavior in order to bring about the physical and
spiritual redemption of Israel. The task of the Prophet Elijah at the end
of days will be one of reconciliation and harmony and not one of revenge
and exclusion. Good and optimistic attitudes father good speech and a
cheerful countenance. In that attitude and view of life lies the secret
potion that wards off any attack of tzoraat in our midst. We are all aware
that preventive medicine and warding off disease before it strikes is the
best type of health maintenance and well-being. Proper attitudes towards
others and the absence of evil speech is the outstanding medical advice
that the Torah provides for us in this week's Parsha.
Pesach is in the wings and I wish to extend to all of you my best wishes
for happy and kosher Pesach and a wonderful holiday week. May the blessings
and miracles of this great festival fill our hearts and souls and allow us
to rededicate ourselves to the service of God and His Torah, people and
land. And may we see the continuing redemption of Israel and a peaceful and
orderly world of goodness and cooperation.
Rabbi Berel Wein
Text Copyright © 2002 Rabbi Berel Wein and
Project Genesis, Inc.