Leilui Nishmat Yosef ben Zakieh Joseph Levy A’h by his wife and children
Last week, in Parasha Shemini, we learned how careful we have to be about what may enter our mouth with regard to the kosher animals that we are permitted to eat. In this week’s Parasha, Tazria, we learn how careful we have to be about what exits our mouths in terms of our speech. Speech, too, needs to be “kosher”.
But before that, the Parasha begins with laws of birth and that which is Tamei, or impure. We learn in Gemara Nidah that there are 3 partners in the creation of a baby: Hashem, the mother and the father. When Chava gave birth to the first baby, she said: ”Kaniti ish et Hashem”. She felt as if she was a direct partner with Hashem in creating her son and so she named him Kayin.
As a woman carries a baby for nine months from conception to the final stages of giving birth, she is in a very high level of Kedusha with Hashem. In essence she becomes almost divine like Hashem because she is a partner in creating that newborn baby! But once she gives birth at the precise moment that the baby leaves the mother’s womb she goes back to becoming an ordinary person again. This is one reason why woman are at a higher level than men.
Now what is Tamei? The Kuzari explains that Tamei is the void that occurs when Kedusha leaves a place, so when a baby is born the Kedusha and the elevated status of the woman leaves and creates a void where automatically the Tamei sets in. The difference of the 7 to 14 days of impurity between a son and a daughter is because when a son is born he is “a creation” but when a girl is born then she becomes a “potential creator” so there’s much more Kedusha when a girl is born and so there’s proportionately more days of Tamei because there was a bigger void after the birth of a girl than a boy.
The Parasha continues by describing rules regarding the birth of a new baby who is brought into this world. Our Sages have pointed out that humans are truly the only beings who are blessed with the power of speech, and with that power comes the responsibility of proper speech. The passage about the disease of Tzaraat has been linked by our Sages to Lashon Hara, or speaking negatively about others. As humans, since we have the responsibility of speech, the Torah teaches us as Jews that the penalty for Lashon Hara is Tzaraat. Hashem sends this disease as a punishment and a warning for us to stop saying bad things about others. The Torah explains that first the Tzaraat will arrive on the walls of your home, then it will spread to your clothing and lastly it will appear on your skin. The Tzaraat comes to those three places because they are all protections: the house protects your family, the clothes protects the person, and the skin protects your body. The disease comes in that order as a warning, to make us more aware and to give us a chance to stop speaking Lashon Hara. If someone has Tzaraat he must remain secluded from others for at least seven days, until the Kohen declares him pure.
Tzaraat is a Negah (plague), which is spelled Nun-Gimel-Ayin. The word ayin signifies the letter Ayin, but also means “eye”. If you move the letter Ayin to the beginning of the word Negah, it would read oneg, which means pleasure, which is the opposite of plague. This is to say, if you look upon others with a beneficent eye (Ayin Tova), it will be good for you and for all involved, and will thus lead to oneg, pleasure. On the other hand, if you speak Lashon Hara about others, then you'll get the Negah, and the plague of Tzaraat that will come to your home, your clothes and ultimately your skin. It is extremely important for us as Jews to always have an Ayin Tova, seeing others in a positive light when we look at them, just as we would want others to look upon us with an Ayin Tova.
We learned in Parasha Beresheet that the first case of Lashon Hara was when the snake told Chava that she can eat from the Etz Hadaat. In doing so, the snake spoke Lashon Hara against Hashem. We saw how Hashem punished the snake by making him crawl on his belly for the rest of his days and how he was condemned to eat the dust of the earth. Our Sages teach us that Hashem also gave the snake dotted skin as a form of leprosy, and a split tongue. The split tongue is significant because the snake used its tongue to speak wickedly and create a rift. In this case, he told Chava that it was okay to eat from the Etz Hadaat (tree of knowledge), which went directly against Hashem's commandment not to eat of the tree, and this caused a rift between Adam and Hashem. If you look at all disputes, either between a husband and wife or with business partners and so on, those disputes all originate in Lashon Hara, where one speaks ill of the other. We're all aware that Lashon Hara is a terrible sin, yet we continue to do it. The question is why are we so compelled to still speak Lashon Hara when we know how bad it is?
One answer is that Lashon Hara stems from our own insecurity, because by speaking Lashon Hara we think we're elevating ourselves. The remedy for not speaking Lashon Hara is to focus only on the good in people, and then we will have no need to make negative comments about others! The Chafetz Chaim dedicated his life to the laws of Lashon Hara and wrote a book about it called "Guard Your Tongue" which is essential reading for everyone, young and old!
Lashon Hara has been known to destroy lives, and there are many stories that portray this concept. The way to avoid Lashon Hara is to look upon everyone with Ayin Tova and give others the benefit of the doubt, because you never know what's behind another person’s actions. There’s a story of a Rabbi from a local Yeshivah in Boro Park that was seen in the butcher shop buying a rack of lamb for $132. The lady standing in line behind him overhears what the Rabbi is buying and texts her friend: ”My son’s Rebbe is buying a rack of lamb for $132, no wonder my son’s tuition is so high!” That person tells her friend the same thing and says and we only eat chicken to save money! Another person then complains through text, “the Rabbi is spending way above his pay grade!” Another person said “I know their son from camp and he is a little weird!” Someone else says, “they tried to make a shiduch with his son, but B’h it didn’t work out!” Then someone else texts that her sister who lives next door says, “This makes sense because they just LOVE food!” Then someone else responds, ”I don’t think this Rabbi is a good role model for our children!” Now they want to report the Rabbi to the principal of the school because they feel he has serious issues! Another person agrees and says,”We’d better nip this problem now before it gets out of hand!”
Now the wife of the Rabbi gets a call from her friend in Lakewood that she’s hearing all kinds of problems about her husband’s spending habits! Finally the Rabbi gets home and his wife tells him: ”People are saying bad things about you and telling everyone that you spent $132 at the Butcher shop today?!” The Rabbi replied, “Of course, Mr. Schwartz asked me to do him a favor and pick up his order of rack of lamb at the butcher for his son’s Sheva Berachot tomorrow night!”
At 2:29 this afternoon this Rabbi was a beloved Rabbi in the community and by 2:55 his reputation was destroyed. From the time it took the Rabbi to walk home from after doing a good deed, over 100 people from BORO Park Brooklyn to Flatbush to Monsey to Williamsburg and all the way to Lakewood NJ all had heard about the extravagant and fictitious spending habits of this Rabbi. But None of it was true! This is a made up story but it can easily happen. IF LASHON HARAH IS LIKE A GUN AND CAN DESTROY A PERSON...LASHON HARAH ON THE INTERNET IS LIKE A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION! How many people have been harmed like this? How many times have we destroyed the Bet Hamikdash today? Next time you’re about to send an email or text...Think before you click SEND!
Speech reveals our inner being and reflects who we are. Let us appreciate the gift of speech and use it wisely! The following Beracha will help protect us from speaking or hearing Lashon Hara.
"Master of the World, may it be Your will, compassionate and gracious G-d, that You grant me the merit today and every day to guard my mouth and tongue from speaking Lashon Hara and Rechilut. May I be zealous not to speak ill of an individual, and certainly not of the Jewish people or a portion of it; and even more so, may I be zealous not to complain about the ways of the Holy One, Blessed be He. May I be zealous not to speak words of falsehood, flattery, strife, anger, arrogance, hurt, humiliation, mockery and all other forbidden forms of speech. Grant me the merit to speak only that which is necessary for my physical and spiritual well-being, and may all my deeds and words be for the sake of Heaven.”
May we all be as careful with the words that come out of our mouths as we are with the foods that go into our mouths. Words can be very dangerous, they can break up families and cause irrevocable harm! May we all strive to cast a good eye on others and to avoid speaking Lashon Hara, and thus protect all of Klal Yisrael from the severe penalties that come from speaking ill of one another! Amen!
Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of
Rabbi Amram Sananes
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Malka Bat Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Shulamit Bat Helaina Esther Bat Sarah
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Rav Haim Ben Rivka Rafael Ben Miriam
Yitzchak Ben Adele Moshe Ben Mazal
Chanah Bat Esther Avraham Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Garaz Ovadia Ben Esther
Avraham Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal
Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Mazal
Meir Ben Latifa Avraham Ben Kami
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