This week, I write in celebration of Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) which occur next week.
Our double parashot this week, Tazria-Metzora, goes into great detail discussing the affliction of tzaraas and the treatment of those afflicted. Tzaraas is often mistakenly called leprosy, which is a disease that makes the skin unattractive and damages the nerves. Tzaraas was actually something different, though it did make the skin discolored.
Tzaraas could affect a person, but it could also affect the plaster and stones of a house by turning it red or green or even objects made of leather. Tzaraaswould appear as white patches on a person. Much of the parashot describes how a kohen would inspect the possibly afflicted person or house to determine if it had tzaraas, and how to cleanse it.
The most valuable lesson for us to learn from the parashot is that tzaraas was a punishment for slander and disparaging remarks. Our Sages described this as loshan ha’ra (evil speech) and went to great lengths to describe the many kinds of speech that was wrong. Generally, loshon ha’ra is any statement, though true, that puts another person in a bad light.
Loshon ha’ra potentially violates every point of the Scout Law:
Trustworthy – You betray a trust when you say something harmful. If you couldn’t keep this information to yourself, how can you be trusted with other things?
Loyal – Spreading tales about friends, family or others is not being loyal to them.
Helpful – Loose talk does not help anyone, and often hurts.
Friendly – One doesn’t talk badly about their friends.
Courteous – It’s rude to say things about people that puts them in a bad light.
Kind – Loshon ha’ra hurts a person’s feelings.
Obedient – Eveyone’s parents and teachers have told them “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Cheerful – Speaking badly about someone does not brighten their day.
Thrifty – Saying whatever comes to mind about another person squanders the time and reputations of everyone involved in the discussion.
Brave – If you disagree with something another person has done, you should ask him or her about it directly.
Clean – Disparaging someone leaves a stain on their feelings and your own good name. We no longer have tzaraas on our bodies, but it still appears on ourneshamas (souls).
Reverent – Here in parasha Metzora, and elsewhere in the Torah, God tells us not to be part of lashon ha’ra.
Just because something is true doesn’t mean we have to talk about it. An old cowboy used to advise: “Never pass up a good chance to keep your mouth shut.”
Shabbat shalom and a meaningful Yom Hazikaron and happy Yom Ha’atzmaut,
Nelson (with many suggestions from Jordan Block)