Parshas Tazria - Metzorah
by Rabbi Dovid Green
This week we read a double parsha. The main topic is that of "Tzoraas,"
mainly a skin condition which G-d sent as an admonishment. The condition
occurred on a person's body, his clothing, or even the walls of his house.
There is a cleansing process which the stricken person underwent, after
which he was pronounced clean, and he would go back to his regular routine.
This cleansing process is not meant to be only physical, because it needs to
be the result of a recognition of one's shortcomings and a resolution to
change in a certain area of life. This area regards one's speech. The Sages
tell us that this condition occurred to people who spoke badly of others.
People in general understand that it is wrong to spread false rumors about
others. The Torah, however, takes this one step further. Even true
statements which cast dispersions upon others are contained in the Torah
prohibition regarding speech.
Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagen (d. 1933), known as the Chofetz Chaim, made
publicizing these prohibitions one of his life's works. He authored several
works on the topic, extremely well researched. Besides the technical aspect
of what is permitted and what is not, he authored works which explain the
many statements made by our sages regarding this topic.
In the work "Shemiras HaLoshon, Shaar HaTevunah" (Guarding the Tongue, Chap.
14) the Chofetz Chaim explains some of the aspects of human nature which
bring about the transgression of speaking ill of others. The Chofetz Chaim
abbreviates the seven causes using the first letter of each of the seven
words. Together the letters spell "Kol Gehinom", which translated means "all
hell". Let's Briefly look at each of them.
- Ka'as - anger. If a person allows anger to control him, every time
someone crosses him he'll say anything about him that occurs to him. The
Chofetz Chaim quotes a verse. "A man of fury - numerous sins.
- Laitzonus - Scorn. This trait is characterized by treating serious things
lightly, and is often something which is common among groups who get
together and scorn others. Aside from the prohibition of scorning, it is a
waste of precious time.
- Ga'avoah - Haughtiness. When a person feels that he is better than others,
there is seemingly nothing wrong with speaking negatively about them. He
will also be filled with jealousy and hatred for anyone else who is held in
high esteem by others. The potential for speaking ill of others is very
great for someone who possesses this trait. There is really no place for
haughtiness, because one never knows who is truly closer to fulfilling his
potential in life.
- Hefker - Abandonment. Many people will respond to exhortations saying
that it is impossible to be sooooo careful about one's speech. We find
ourselves in so many situations where people are speaking ill of others.
Nevertheless, G-d expects us to refrain from speaking negatively of others,
and He commands us as such in the Torah. Our sages tell us that G-d never
puts us in a situation which we cannot succeed in.
- Yai-ush - Despair. If we really want something badly enough, it's amazing
how much we can accomplish. We can be careful about what we say if we choose
to, and we really want to. There is no reason to ever despair of attaining a
- Nirganus - Negativeness. A person who possesses this trait looks at
everything as if it was done against him. Such people read negative meanings
into people's words, they imagine that no one likes them, and everything bad
that someone else did by accident will be interpreted as if it was on
purpose. It is not hard to see how such a person would come to speak
negatively of others.
- Omer mutar - One who believes he is allowed to say what he wants because
of ignorance. The only cure for this is learning. The more one delves into
what G-d wants from us, the more sensitive we can become in regard to G-d's
It is fitting to review these seven shortcomings which so strongly impact
our attitudes toward the things we say. If we will take these words
seriously, we will find that there is great potential in them for personal
growth. Although nowadays we will not find the condition on our skin,
clothing or houses, there is a great lesson for us to learn, and a great
potential for the rewards which result from sensitivity about what we say,
which are all still intact.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.