Posted on March 23, 2011
by Alison Silverman
In this week’s Parsha we are delved into the topic of the mysterious tzara’at, an apparent skin disease that was both a sign of ritual impurity as well as a sign that coule be helpful at the same time. The common understanding of tzara’at is any visible skin disease which produces white flaking skin, leporosy, or other eruption. These types of diseases were greatly feared in antiquity. People who were afflicted were removed from the community so as to not infect others and could only return when the symptoms had left.
Not only could an individual come down with tazara’at, but also the text informs us that even a house could be infected. The Rabbis considered these types of diseases to be a punishment for lashon hara, speaking with an evil tounge or gossip. The Rabbis explain that during the time of Moshe, one who spoke lashon hara would suffer by getting the disease and was forced to live outside of the camp. This punishment was appropriate because just as by saying lashon hara about someone separates them from the community, so to shall someone who is inflicted for their speech be separated from the community.
Lashon hara is such an evil transgression that if one says it in a building, then the building itself can be afflicted. Every brick in that house must be removed until there are no bricks left that have the tazara’at on it. However this symbol of an evil impiety could also prove helpful. It is said that when the Canaanites owned their houses they hid their valuables in the walls of the house. Hashem would show the Israelites the location of the treasure by giving the bricks tazara’at on them.
In USY, we have all experienced lashon hara and should all know how dangerous it can be. Rumors are spread like wild fire and eventually end up hurting someone. The effects of lashon hara do not heal as quickly as a skin disease, and can not be fixed as easily as rebuilding bricks.