The spiritual malady that manifest itself as a stain or boil struck at a
Jews home and if repentance was not made onto his or her clothing. If the
sin that caused it was still left uncorrected then it showed on the
victim’s skin. The name the Torah gives this “disease’’ is sa-ra-aht. The
Talmud discusses several causes for this malady, conceit and haughtiness,
stinginess and Lashon ha-ra - misuse of the gift of speech.
In his classic work on the subject, Shemirat HaLashon, the Hafetz Hayim explains with a parable the lowliness of the character of one who speaks
negatively and harmfully about others. Imagine a person who woke up one
morning and was unable to speak. His active mind full of ideas and
emotions incapable of expressing the myriad of thoughts that raced through
his mind. Suddenly a prisoner within himself unable to relate to those
that he knows and loves. What a horrible sentence for a person to bear!
He begins a procession of doctors and tests. Baffled specialists nod their
heads to and fro with serious expressions that show their frustration with
his case. What is a mute to do?
Then one day a specialist arrives in his town and hears of his dilemma.
After a thorough examination the doctor says, “I think I know of a remedy
for your disease. In a short time you will be as normal as you were before
the onset of these terrible symptoms. Take 2 of these pills a day for
seven days and then come to see me again.” On his note pad the mute
inquired as to the charge for this encouraging diagnosis and for the
miraculous pills. “Oh no – you don’t have to pay me”, said the doctor. I
pray that it will work for you and you will be happy again, that will be
The mute went home and started the pill-taking regimen. On the sixth day
he began to speak. That Friday night – Shabbat – his wife invited over
family and close friends for a festive Shabbat meal. When they began to
eat the mute started belittling the doctor. He made fun of him and spoke
negatively about him. He imitated his speech and mannerisms in an attempt
to get his guests to laugh at his benefactor. If he had a bad leg or other
medical problem and acted so – how disgusting would his behavior be? But
considering that it was the power of speech that was given to him by the
victim of his insults how much worse is his unacceptable behavior?
The power of speech was a gift given to man to pray, praise and thank our
Maker. It was intended for positive use like Torah learning, consoling and
advising others. What do people do? They use this present for forbidden
speech. Lies, deceit, foul language are the extremes. Worse, however, is
the use of the tongue to hurt other humans, to divide the unity of people,
and to belittle the status of friends and colleagues. By right, when the
soul goes up to Heaven nightly, our Creator should take back his gift of
speech. Instead He waits patiently for each of us to make amends.
Shouldn’t we accommodate our benefactor?