דרשני:(Tazria- All By Myself (Binyomin Freilich

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In San Francisco, during the spring of 1906 an earthquake struck the coast of Northern California with an estimated magnitude of 7.9 on the richter scale. The damage that this catastrophe caused was infinite, devastating and life changing. Earthquakes generally occur from a crack at a point where tectonic plates meet.  These cracks form what is called a “fault”, which is fracture of crushed rock within the earth crust. When one side of the fault moves in a different (horizontal or vertical) direction, the earth shifts and splits. This will often create a seismic wave of havoc and destruction travelling at a phenomenal speed of 8KM per second.

In this week’s parsha we are told that a person with Tzaraas has to leave the town and live alone.

מחוץ למחנה מושבו בדד יושב. He is even forbidden to be together with other Tamei people unless that are Tamei like he, from Tzaraas. (Rashi). The purpose of this lonely life is twofold.

One interpretation quoted by Rashi is that this is punishment מדה כנגד מדה. Just as he separated husband from wife and caused friends to become distant, he too is put in a situation of the same essence to help him know what it feels like to be lonely and separated from society. Sitting on his own, in the quiet, he is able to think about the effects of his speech.

There is another explanation to this isolated living. But to fully realize it’s purpose we first need to understand what makes a person say Loshon Horah. And there is definitely is a certain ‘pleasure’ involved, otherwise why would it be such a rampant Aveiro about which Chazal say וכולם באבק לשון הרע ?

R’ Chaim Freidlander (שפתי חיים על הפרשה) explains the root of this sin like this. Little children like to tittle tale to their parents or teacher about some naughty thing their younger brother did, or another girl in the kindergarten. This proves that already from a very young age, this sickness has crept into our very essence.  If we understand what pushes a child to report another childs bad behavious to his parent, then we will also gain understanding in what pushes adults too.

R’ Chaim writes that the Yetzer Harah of a child and an adult is identical. The only difference is that the adult is more professional in covering this weakness, but the urge is still there.

Sibling rivalry happens because we need to feel good about ourselves. We want to have a good image in the eyes of others. To this end we will constantly ensure that our looks, dress and hair is pleasing to our family, friends and colleagues. The cosmetics industry invests billions into creams, shampoos, make up and perfumes. Just the Global Footwear Market alone was valued in 2018 at $222 Billion USD. Similarly, we want to give over the picture that our words are intelligent and our actions are thought out. Nothing could be worse for a person than to know that in reality, his associates consider him an idiot or incapable. Such a feeling would lead to a low self esteem and a drop in his energy to work and live.

Since this nature is innate within our inborn genes, a human may wrongly believe that the only way he can achieve the status of being wonderful, special and unique is by belittling others in the eyes of his acquaintances so that his friends look up to him instead. Subconsciously they are giving over a message that “I don’t do that. I am better.” This is the pleasure of לשון הרע. The gossip spreader believes that he doesn’t need friends. He looks at them as a nuisance and a competition to his ego.

Of course, this is incorrect thinking, because Hashem judges how good people are, based on their own efforts and not in comparison with others.

With an attitude of “I am better” which is built up on the ‘cheshbon’ of others, he needs to be taught that he can’t manage on his own. לא טוב היות לבדו. Man is not an island.

The Zohar writes that a Metzorah is called a מוסגר- locked up, because even his Tefillos are trapped down in this world and cannot ascend to Hashem. He can’t even daven for himself. As such, the Metzorah needs to come on to others. He needs the assistance and help of his friends. He is desperate for their Tefillos.

In fact, the Gemara (Shabbos 67a) learns that if a farmer has a sick tree whose fruit is falling off before ripening, he is permitted to paint it red, in order to attract the attention of passersby.

It’s a silent notice that reads “Help! My tree isn’t feeling well ! Please can you Daven for it!”.

To prove that this is not consideredאמורי  דרכי but a permitted healing procedure, the Gemara compares this to the Metzora who cries out “I’m Tamei !”. He is not just warning people to avoid touching him and become contaminated, he is begging others to Daven for him. Gone are the days when he can manage on his own. Gone are the days when he feels aloof and above others. It’s fine to be just as good as others. We don’t need a better house, car or wedding than others.

Friends are not against you. They compliment you. The Ramban writes that ואהבת לרעך כמוך means that you wish the very best for your neighbor. Only the best.

Interestingly, we often find that when people speak Loshon Horah, it will normally be about someone similar and holding at an equal stage in life to them. Be it a teenager vying for attention or a middle age businessman in competition with his rivals, or a senior person fighting for his own honor. We don’t often find an older person saying Loshon Horah about a child in kindergarten. Pushing them down won’t build him up. But when an individual selling a product spreads gossip about a weakness in his competitors’ product, he hopes to bring attract more customers and money to himself.

This theory is backed up by a frightening thought I read in the sefer פרדס יוסף, regarding the Gemara (Bava Kama 41b) that Shimon Hamsoni did not know what the word את in the possuk את ה' אלוקיך תירא is coming to include. Along came R’ Akiva and explained – לרבות תלמידי חכמים

Is it coincidence that it was specifically R’ Akiva who said this Drasha? And why is Talmidei Chachamim in the plural. It should say  - לרבות תלמיד חכם.

The answer is that sadly we often see rivalry even amongst great people. They too are human beings and can suffer from the same illness of lowering others to boost themselves. R’ Akiva saw this when thousands of his students perished because – לא נהגו כבוד זה לזה. Had they respected, loved and cared for each other, they would have survived. Hence תלמידי חכמים is specifically not in the singular. The teaching here is that two Talmidei Chachim need to respect each other.

There is a great little booklet called “Think before you speak” which is a wonderful guide on this topic and very worthwhile reading. The anonymous author has kindly granted me permission to disseminate this work, so I encourage you to contact me for the pdf, or click HERE to download it.

The Chofetz Chaim lists the many Aveiros (both לוין and עשין) that a person transgresses when speaking Loshon Horah. One of them is וחי אחיך עמך. This means that Hashem wants us to help and assist our fellow man to live. Living means success, satisfaction and sustenance. When evil gossip gets spread around town, either orally or digitally causing a person to lose his job, we are in essence ‘killing’ that person’ and have thus transgressed this Mitzva.

The damage that can occur from Loshon Horah is worse than earthquakes. Its ripple effects are infinite. The results are devasting. Sadly, spreading gossip about our fellow man can be incredibly life changing. And it all begins with someone trying to find ‘faults’ and ‘cracks’ in another human being, causing fast travelling seismic waves that have damaging effects for years.

Let’s keep away from this earth shattering illness and bring life to others, not disaster.