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Parashat Tazria/Shabbat Hachodesh

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Moshe Ben Sarah by the Liniado Family

Parashat Tazria/Shabbat Hachodesh

A Woman’s Extra Kedusha

The parasha begins with laws of birth and that which is tameh, or impure. We learn in Gemara Nidda that there are three partners in the creation of a baby: Hashem, the mother, and the father. As a woman carries a baby for nine months from conception to the final stages of giving birth, she is on a very high level of kedusha (holiness) with Hashem. In essence she becomes a partner with Hashem in creating that newborn baby! When Chava gave birth to the first baby, she said, “kaniti ish et Hashem.” She felt that she was a direct partner with Hashem in creating her son, and so she named him Kayin. This is one reason why women are at a higher level than men. But once the woman gives birth, at the precise moment that the baby leaves her womb, she goes back to becoming an ordinary person again.

Now what is tuma (impurity)? The Kuzari explains that tuma is the void that occurs when kedusha leaves a place. When a baby is born the woman’s extra kedusha leaves, which creates a void where automatically tuma sets in. According to the Torah a woman is tameh for seven days after giving birth to a son, and fourteen days after giving birth to a girl. The difference in the days of impurity is because a son is “a creation,” but a girl is a “creation that’s also a potential creator.” Because of this there’s much more kedusha when a baby girl is born. When all that kedusha leaves the woman’s body, it creates a bigger void than the birth of a boy (who has less kedusha), so there’s more days of tuma.

Tzara’at

Last week, in parashat Shemini, we learned how careful we have to be about what food enters our mouth. In this week’s parasha, Tazria, we learn how careful we have to be about what words exit our mouths. Speech, too, needs to be “kosher.”

Our Sages have pointed out that humans are the only beings who are blessed with the power of speech, and with that power comes the responsibility of proper speech. Our Sages link the disease of tzara’at to lashon hara, or speaking negatively about others. 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 tzara’at will arrive on the walls of your home, then it will spread to your clothing, and lastly it will appear on your skin. The tzara’at comes to those three places because they are all protections: the house protects your family, clothes protect you, and 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 tzara’at he must remain secluded from others for at least seven days, until the kohen declares him pure.

Tzara’at is a nega (plague), which is spelled nun-gimel-ayin. The word ayin means both the letter ayin, as well as “eye.” If you move the letter ayin to the beginning of the word nega, it would read oneg — pleasure — which is the opposite of plague.

This is to say, that if you look upon others with a good eye (ayin tova), it will be good for you and for all involved, and will lead to oneg. On the other hand, if you speak lashon hara about others, then you’ll get the nega, and the plague of tzara’at 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 , viewing others in a positive light, just as we would want others to look upon us with an ayin tova.

The Snake’s Spit Tongue

We learned in parashat Bereshit that the first case of lashon hara was when the snake told Chava that she could eat from the etz hadaat (Tree of Knowledge). 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, condemned to eat the dust of the earth. Our Sages teach us that Hashem also gave the snake dotted skin as a form of tzara’at, 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 — 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 between business partners and so on, they 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 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 Hafetz Hayyim dedicated his life to the laws of lashon hara, and wrote a book about it which is essential reading for everyone, young and old!

Feathers in the Wind

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.

One such story that I saw in the book “The Other Side of the Story” by Yehudit Samet concerns a photographer who never showed up for a bar mitzva that he was hired to Photograph. At the last minute the parents desperately called another photographer, “David.” At first David declined, because he was already working at another job. But when he heard that the parents were desperate because the original photographer didn’t show up at the last minute, he decided to leave his assistant to finish up his morning job as he was almost done, and leave to help out at the bar mitzva party for the desperate family.

Obviously, David walked in late to the bar mitzvah. When the guests saw this, not knowing the reason he’d come so late, many began to talk negatively about David. “How can he come so late to the bar mitzva...that’s very irresponsible of him...I would never use him for any of my parties!”

Of course the real truth was that he was doing the family a big favor! But the episode had a very negative effect on David’s livelihood, until the truth finally surfaced. We have to learn from this story to watch what we say and try to give people the benefit of the doubt!

There’s a parable about a man who spoke lashon hara all his life. Towards the end of his life, he asked the Rabbi if there was a way for him to do teshuva. The Rabbi told him to take a feather pillow to the top of the Empire State building, rip it open, and let all the feathers fly out into the wind and blow all over the streets. The man did as he was told.

He then reported to the Rabbi and asked, “Is that it?”

The Rabbi said, “Oh, I forgot to mention — now that you’ve scattered the feathers into the wind and all over the streets, you must go and pick them all up!”

The man protested, “That’s impossible!”

The Rabbi answered, “That’s exactly what teshuva is for lashon hara — impossible.”

The scattered feathers — impossible to take back —is an example of the negative speech and damage that are impossible to take back once they have been spread. People who engage in lashon hara have no control over the effects of their words. They do not know where the words will land, they cannot track the progress of those negative words, and they don’t know what damage the words have done, or whose reputation or happiness they have destroyed. Lashon hara spreads out in many directions which the original speaker can never foresee or know. And, most importantly, once you let out the negative speech, it is impossible to take it back or unsay what you have said, and thus you cannot make amends for all the damage you have done!

The Disease of the Mouth...

Several years ago a couple in B’nei Brak were blessed with a new baby girl. After the baby was delivered, she would not stop crying and also would not nurse from her mother or take any bottles. The nonstop crying and not eating would continue and it reached the attention of the head nurse, who looked into the babies mouth and discovered that the babies lip and tongue were attached together. This was a very severe case which was considered a level 3, being the worst that it could be. Having no choice the hospital setup an intravenous so it can give the baby the life needed nutrients to survive.

Right away, the parents said between themselves, that no difficult or tragic occurrence happens from Hashem unless there were sins that were transgressed. They said that since this defect happened in the mouth, it must be that they needed strengthening in the area of Shemirat Halashon and needed to be more careful and refrain from speaking Lashon Hara. They took it upon themselves to learn two Halachot a day of Shemirat Halashon and to make sure not to speak or hear Lashon Hara and this should be a Zechut for the Refuah Shelamah of their newborn baby daughter.

The parents then researched who was the best surgeon to perform this complicated procedure for their daughter. They found the top surgeon in this field and had an appointment set to see the doctor. The parents brought their daughter to the surgeon for the appointment, which was a week after they took upon themselves to refrain from speaking Lashon Hara. Immediately the surgeon looked into the babies’ mouth. The surgeon kept looking and looking without saying a word, which got the parents very worried and nervous. Finally the surgeon began to speak and said, “I really don’t know why you are here, there is absolutely nothing wrong in your daughters mouth. Her tongue and lips are perfect, exactly the normal way they should be.”

A Prayer for Proper Speech

Speech reveals our inner being and reflects who we are. Let us appreciate the gift of speech and use it wisely! The followingberacha 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 rehilut. 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!

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

· Are we careful enough to avoid lashon hara, both in its regular spoken form, and in its viral social media form?

· Are we familiar with the halachot of lashon hara?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah

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Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther

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Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal

Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami

Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

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Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

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