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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Metzora

Parashat Tazria-Metzora

Speaking Lashon Hara

Dedicated to the memory of
Asher Ben Haim
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The main topic of these Torah portions is tzara'at. The word 'tzara'at' is usually translated as 'leprosy'; but the Rabbis viewed tzara'at as a supernatural external sign of an internal, spiritual condition. While it can signify various different spiritual pathologies, tzara'at is most closely associated with the sin of lashon hara - speaking evil of others. An example of this association is found at the end of parashat Beha'alotekha. Miriam speaks against her brother Moshe and is immediately punished with tzara'at.

The Rabbis applied the concept of lashon hara not only to speaking evil of other people, but also to speaking evil about the Land of Israel - in particular to the spies who tried to dissuade the Israelites from entering the Land by saying that it was 'a land that devours its inhabitants.' The Rabbis explain that the reason that the story of the spies follows immediately upon the story of Miriam and her tzara'at is that just as Miriam spoke lashon hara about her brother, so the spies spoke lashon hara about the Land of Israel. We see then that we should not say bad things about the Land of Israel, especially if such talk will dissuade people from coming to the Land.

It is easy to fall into the habit of complaining about Israel. We must make all efforts to refrain from voicing negative comments. We should do what the rabbis of the Talmud did (see end of massekhet Ketubot) - try to improve conditions in Israel so as not to give people any reason to complain.

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