"...He shall dwell in isolation; his dwelling shall be outside the camp"
The Torah teaches us that the Metzorah must remain
in isolation, away from human contact.The Talmud explains that a Metzora is
guilty of anti-social behavior and therefore he is separated from
society.1 Nevertheless, Rashi tells us that a Kohain should not
proclaim a newlywed a Metzora during his seven days of
festivities.2 Why would we allow a newlywed to begin a
relationship with his wife before he is cured from a behavior that will
surely hamper this relationship?
Anti-social behavior is exhibited by a person who is unhappy with himself.
When a person's unhappiness stems from the feeling that he is unappreciated
by society, he becomes depressed, and this can often lead to anti-social
behavior. During the seven days of celebration following a wedding the groom
is given the elevated status of a king. The joy he experiences from this
special attention serves to suppress any anti-social behavior which he may,
under normal circumstances have exhibited. There is even the chance that the
jubilance he feels could alter his behavior and transform his personality.
Therefore, the Torah instructs the Kohain not to render a groom unclean
during his seven days of celebration, for his predisposition to anti-social
behavior poses no threat to the relationship with his wife; on the contrary,
he may even be cured at the culmination of the seven days.
1.Arachin 16b 2.13:14
Can Truth Distort Reality?
"...and the Kohain shall declare him contaminated; it is Tzoraas"(13:8)
Rashi quotes the Chazal that states that Tzoraas is the
punishment for Lashon Harah - evil speech1. As with all of
Hashem's punishments, there has to be a concept of quid pro quo, the
punishment reflects the sin involved. How is the sin of Lashon Harah
reflected in Tzoraas? Furthermore, one of the characteristics of Lashon
Harah is that the information is true. Why does the Torah consider Lashon
Harah so heinous a crime if all it involves is revealing the truth? Why
would the Torah suppress the dissemination of truth?
Anyone familiar with today's media can bear witness to the fact that that
truth does not always reflect reality. A fifteen second clip of TV footage
may record an incident that actually occurred. However, if the clip is a
person's only connection to the incident, he may in fact have a distorted
view of the reality of the situation.
Lashon Harah focuses on the negative traits or behavior of an individual.
Although these traits may merely be a small part of the person's make-up,
the Ba'al Lashon Harah - one who speaks evil creates the perception that
this is the individual's entire reality, which is a perversion of the truth.
Anyone having heard the Lashon Harah immediately associates the person about
whom it was said with the negative information and ignores the person's
other, possibly positive traits.
This phenomena is evident in Tzoraas. Although a person finds a small spot
on his body, it is sufficient to spiritually defile his entire body. The
crime of the Ba'al Lashon Harah therefore is reflected in his punishment. He
distorted the truth by creating a false reality which amplified a small
defect to the point where it represented the entire person.
1. 13:46; 14:31, The English translation of Tzoraas as leprosy is not
correct, see R. Hirsch at the end of Parsha Tazria in his commentary of the
Torah where he has a lengthy discourse to prove this point.
I Need To Be Heard
The Talmud teaches that each of the Kohain's garments atoned
for a particular transgression. Concerning the "me'il" - the robe with bells
attached to its hem, the Torah states, "It must be on Aharon when he
ministers so that its sound be heard when he enters the Sanctuary." The
Talmud records that the me'il atoned for "Lashon Harah" - evil speech; "Let
the garment of sound atone for the sin of sound."1 In a similar
vein, Rashi cites the Talmud which explains the use of birds in the
Metzorah's purification process in the following manner: "Let the one who
violates the transgression of sound bring as an atonement the animal that
makes sound i.e. the bird."2 Why is Lashon Harah being described
as a sin of sound? Should the focus of the transgression be on its decibel
level rather than on its contents?
The Rambam records that the person who listens to Lashon Harah is more
accountable than the person who speaks it.3 Why?
In order to answer the aforementioned questions, we must gain some insight
into the motivation of the Ba'al Lashon Harah. Every person has a deep need
to validate his existence. The two ways in which people attempt to meet this
need are either internally, by fulfilling their potential, or by putting
down others, which gives them a false sense of superiority. The Ba'al Lashon
Harah does not measure himself by his own potential, rather in relation to
others. Therefore, in order to assert himself in the public eye, he needs to
put others down. Lashon Harah is not as much a personal attack on an
individual as it is the Ba'al Lashon Harah's need to assert himself. He
needs to be heard. Therefore, the Talmud describes Lashon Harah as a sin of
sound. It is important for a victim of Lashon Harah to realize the driving
force behind Lashon Harah; this allows for a greater chance of
reconciliation. He needs to understand that he just happened to be the
vehicle through which the Ba'al Lashon Harah was asserting himself.
When a person measures himself in relation to others, he needs a forum in
which his words will be accepted, for if no one will listen to him, he
cannot attain the feeling of superiority which he seeks. Therefore, the
person who listens is violating an even greater transgression than the
speaker, for he is providing the forum in which the Ba'al Lashon Harah can
This disease of measuring ourselves vis-a-vis others has spread throughout
contemporary society. Competition has become the only way by which we
measure ourselves. This is an extremely destructive tool, for it suppresses
the ability to measure ourselves by who we really are. There is no emphasis
on fulfilling our potential, for reward is meted out based upon success
measured by our victory over one another, rather than the extent to which we
have fulfilled our potential.