by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
The majority of this Parsha - like the beginning of the next - concerns the
laws of "Tzara'as." Tzara'as is often translated as leprosy, but the two
illnesses could not be further apart. Tzara'as was treated not by doctors,
but by analysis by the Kohen (Priest)... and someone who was so thoroughly
afflicted that his or her entire body turned white, was pure.
Tzara'as, we learn from our Sages, came upon a person as a result of Lashon
Hora, evil gossip. Moshe's hand turned leprous when he claimed that the
Nation of Israel would not believe or follow him, and Miriam caught Tzara'as
when she spoke about Moshe. So too, this evil came upon any Jew who spoke
evil of his or her neighbor.
Tzara'as was an entirely spiritual ailment - just as loshon hora, gossip,
causes intangible harm rather than physical. The spiritual nature of gossip
is actually that which makes it such a great transgression, worthy of a
special and unique punishment.
This was explained by the Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) of "Lakewood in Israel", Rabbi
Yaakov Eliezer Schwartzmann. What advantage do humans have over animals?
The answer is, our intellects. Scientists may have proven that gorillas can
communicate - but not that they discuss philosophy! For us, communication
provides worldly expression of our intellects.
Thus the person who gossips takes the most spiritual element of his or her
physical existence... and uses it for evil. This is the great evil of
gossip, because we use an inherently spiritual trait to cause harm beyond
what mere sticks and stones could ever do.
Text Copyright © 1995 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.