Editors’ Note: Tobey Lee writes about Metzora, this week’s parasha, and the impact of lashon harah or gossip.
This week’s parasha, Metzora, builds off of last week’s parasha, Tazria. In Tazria, the signs of tzaraat, which literally translates to scale disease, are explained. Tzaraat is an illness that puts a person in a stage of spiritual contaminant, and is expressed by green or red bumps on one’s face. It is not just a skin disease, as it can also be expressed in one’s clothing or house. In Metzora, the laws of clearing tzaraat by a Kohen are explained, in a sacrifice involving water, two birds, and a piece of wood. Additionally, in terms of a house getting tzaraat, a Kohen has nineteen days to see if it needs to be demolished or if it can be purified.
You might ask: How does one attain tzaraat? Tzaraat is obtained by speaking lashon harah. If a person talked lashon harah once, they would getting a warning by having the disease on their walls. If they talked badly again, then it would move to their clothes, and if they kept on participating in lashon harah, it would be transferred to their body. The Kohen would then see if this disease was actually tzaraat, and if it was, the person would stay isolated from the community to reflect on their lashon harah. The Kohen would check on the ill person weekly to see if the tzaraat was gone.
Even though tzaraat doesn’t afflict our bodies in this day and age, the disease teaches us that we must not speak badly of others. Lashon Harah can’t be measured physically; however, it hurts and destroys relationships. We must look to speak good rather than bad. In a day and age that has lots of destruction and hate, we need to be able to look at others in a positive light and exude peace and love. Tzaraat is not going to suddenly appear on your clothes or your skin if you talk badly about others, but you need to be able to understand the power of words, and think before you speak.
This parasha ultimately teaches us that we must be responsible for not just our actions, but for our words.
Tobey Lee is Far West USY’s Religion/Education Vice President. He lives in Beverly Hills, California and is a member of Temple Beth Ahm Los Angeles (aka TBALA).