Psst…did you hear?!
This week’s Torah portion talks about Tzaras, a skin disease. Tzaras is often mistranslated as leprosy. Rabbi Shraga Simmons explains that, in fact, Tzaras is “a physical manifestation of a spiritual deficiency”.
Which spiritual deficiency? Surely, people would want to avoid that spiritual deficiency, if it meant getting a disease…
The Talmud says that Tzaras is caused by “Loshon Hara”. Loshon Hara is any form of communication that reflects negatively on another person, often through speech. (Note: if there is a positive and/or constructive purpose to the speech, it may not be Loshon Hara.)
We know that G-d relates to us Mida K’neged Mida (measure for measure). So how would giving someone a skin disease be measure for measure? How would Tzaras be a fitting punishment for speaking negatively?
Think about it.
Have you ever heard a nasty rumour about someone?
It’s not exactly easy to forget…
When a person speaks badly about another, he is creating a distance between that person and their community. Even if the majority of listeners dismiss something as “just a rumor”, it can be very hard to forget what was said, and to not think differently about the subject of the negative speech.
Therefore, speaking badly about a person creates distance between that person and their community.
When a person gets Tzaras, they must go into isolation. They are required to seperate themselves from everyone else.
You may see how this punishment is measure for measure.
The person who spoke badly caused the subject to be distanced from the community (i.e. lowered reputation, lowered trust), and now the speaker – through developing Tzaras – is forced to be literally distanced from the community.
These days, people don’t get Tzaras anymore; however, gossip is still alive and well. And speaking it will undoubtedly cause distance between you and others.
While gossip may be compelling, people rarely trust others known as gossips. (Why would you want to confide in someone that’s known to have “loose lips?”)
We don’t need to see Tzaras today to learn its powerful lesson…
Negative speech creates divisiveness, so when it comes to Lashon Hora…keep your distance.