by Josh Seed, 2010-11 ECRUSY Religion/Education Vice President and 2011 Religion/Education International General Board member
This Shabbat we read Parashat Metzora. Like much of the book of Vayikra, Parshat Meztora deals largely with the laws pertaining to ritual purity. This was an important topic for the time with the Tabernacle in use and the eventual building of the Temple in Jerusalem. The fourth aliyah reads, “The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: When you enter the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I inflict an eruptive plague upon a house in the land you possess, the owner of the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, ‘something like a plague has appeared upon my house.’” (Vayikra 14:33-35)
The previous passage speaks about a skin disease known as Tzara’at, sometimes translated as leprosy. The Talmud and many commentators see Tzara’at as a punishment for the most serious of sins, Lashon Hara or malicious gossip. Just like gossip, the Torah tells us that the plague could spread beyond the individual, to his clothing, home and beyond. Anyone suffering from Tzara’at would be required to separate themselves from the community. This begs the question, why is this part of the treatment process? Why must one reside away from other people in order to be deemed pure once more?
Lashon Hara can spread quickly and affect many people. Perhaps the individual was sent away to prevent their gossip from damaging the community. The disease of Tzara’at does not exist today but that does not mean that we no longer see Lashon Hara. Gossip is just as much of a problem today as it was in biblical times.
Judaism exists within a community and a principle of acceptance can help to make everyone feel welcome. It is this idea that makes our organization so special. USY provides a place for all Jews to come together and express themselves in a fun and safe environment. Everyone has a place and the stereotypes that may exist at school do not carry the same meaning. When we meet for a convention, we put all of our differences aside and become a single community. To quote one Kadimanik, “USY is the place I can always be myself. Everyone accepts me for who I am.”
The mitzvah for this week is appropriately Lashon Hara or the prohibition against telling gossip. Judaism forbids causing any deception or embarrassment through speech, even if the statement is true. According to the majority of Torah scholars Lashon Hara is considered to be a most serious of sins because of the harm that it can cause.