Please Learn in the Merit of:

Please learn for the merit of a complete recovery for the following individuals:

Ya'akov Don ben Esther Ahuvah Sharona
Avraham Yishayahu ben Aviva
Perel Leah bas Sima

Please learn in the merit/memory of Eyal ben Uriel, Gil-Ad Michael ben Ophir, Ya'akov Naftali ben Avraham, and Alter Aryeh Leib Reuven ben Sima

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon כ"ח תשרי - Tishrei 28 - Twenty-Eighth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Chapter 6

[This Chapter includes more Teachings Concerning] This Topic [of the Punishment for Speaking Lashon HaRa]

You should not be astounded by [the previous teaching which states that those who speak Lashon HaRa suffer from afflictions and punishments, even] though we see many who speak Lashon HaRa and [nevertheless, they] do not [suffer] any affliction. [To those who would question the notion of tzara’as afflictions coming upon the speaker of Lashon HaRa], we have found an answer for them from the Midrash of our Sages of Blessed Memory[1]. [Our Sages have] said [in reference to] the pasuk “One who guards his mouth and his tongue guards from troubles of his soul” (Mishlei: 21; 23) – he guards from tzara’as of his soul.[2]

I have seen a bit of the explanation on this matter [of spiritual tzara’as] in sefer Nachal Kedumim. [The author explains] that it is known that all punishments that The Holy One, Blessed is He, inflicts upon the person, are completely for his good. [The goal of the punishment being] so that he will be cleansed from his sins, and, at times, [the punishment comes about in order to encourage] his repentance. Therefore, in the time when the Beis HaMikdash was standing and the Kohen would [be involved in the] purification [process], if a person stumbled in the sin of Lashon HaRa, The Holy One, Blessed is He, would bring the punishment of [tzara’as] afflictions upon [the speaker of Lashon HaRa. HaShem did not immediately bring this affliction on his body, [rather, the affliction was initially brought] only on the walls of his house. [The speaker of Lashon HaRa] would [then] need to go to the Kohen and tell him that something [on the walls of his house] appeared to him to resemble a [tzara’as] affliction. [Whereupon witnessing the tzara’as affliction on his house], the Kohen would tell him [the following] words of reproof: ‘My son, the [tzara’as] affliction [only] comes as a result of [the sin of speaking] Lashon HaRa…’ This [reproof] is given in order to [encourage] the speaker of Lashon HaRa to remove himself from [involvement in] the sin [of Lashon HaRa]. ([The above teaching follows that which] is [taught] in Toras Kohanim[3], [4]). If [the speaker of Lashon HaRa] does not heed this [reproof from the Kohen], The Holy One, Blessed is He, would [then] continue to punish him in this manner. The process of punishment is explained [in more detail] in the RaMBa”M in the end of the laws of “Impurity of Tzara’as[5]. [According to the RaMBa”M], the tzara’as [affliction] of the house does not follow the [natural] order of the world, but rather [served as] a sign and wonder among the Israelites, in order to [encourage them to refrain from the sin of] Lashon HaRa.

[The miraculous nature of the tzara’as punishment is described as follows]: [When] an individual [initially] speaks Lashon HaRa, the walls of his house change [in appearance]. [If he notices the tzara’as afflictions on his house and thereupon ceases his forbidden speech], the house will [then] become pure. If, [however], he [remains steadfast, refusing to cease from] his evil [speech, even to the point that his] house is dismantled, the leather vessels in his house, upon which he sits and dwells, [then] change [in appearance]. If he [thereupon stopped speaking Lashon HaRa, [those leather vessels would become pure, however] if he stood [steadfast, continuing] in his evil [and destructive speech] to the point that [his afflicted property] is [thereupon] burned, [then] his skin changes and he becomes a mitzora. He will then be separated [from society] and [his affliction and impurity will be] publicized, to the point where he will not be involved in the chatter of the evildoers, [their chatter being comprised of] mockery and slander…

A great benefit will [arise] from this punishment [suffered by the speaker of Lashon HaRa]. For when [the speaker of Lashon HaRa] sees his great punishment and shame, [he will become] very contrite from his [having performed this] sin [and he will thereupon] accept upon himself to be more careful [in avoidance of] this bitter sin [of Lashon HaRa] and [will also strive to] appease those concerning whom he spoke. [The shame and punishment that the speaker of Lashon HaRa experiences, which eventually encourages him to repent, is listed as follows]: He continually sits alone outside of the camp [of his habitation], not [even] being permitted to enter the [outermost] Israelite camp[6]. [While in his state of isolation he is required to continually announce his troublesome state of tzara’as] to the masses so that [the passersby] will beseech [HaShem] to have mercy on him, as it says, “and he will call out, ‘impure, impure’.”[7] (Vayikra: 13; 45). [Once the speaker of Lashon HaRa repents], The Holy One, Blessed is He, in His kindness, sends [the individual] healing from his tzara’as. The Kohen will [thereupon] go outside of the camp to see if the affliction has healed, as it says in the pasuk “And the Kohen will go outside of the [Israelite] camp to see [the status of the tzara’as affliction], and behold, the affliction of tzara’as was healed from the tzarua[8] (Vayikra: 14; 3). [The Kohen] will then perform on his behalf [all that which is required of Kohen], in accordance with that which was written in the Torah portion that discusses the sprinkling and the shaving [of the mitzora]. Following [the metzora's process of purification], the Kohen would bring the sacrifices [of the mitzora] on his behalf.

Behold, when [the former metzora] arrives at his home after [being cleansed of the tzara’as affliction[9]], when he sees the great kindness that HaShem Yisbarach has performed for him, by healing him from his tzara’as, he [can then be assured that during his first week in the Israelite camp], he did everything that he accepted upon himself while outside of the [Israelite] camp. [Once completely purified from his tzara’as, the individual can also be confident] that he appeased everyone concerning whom he had spoken Lashon HaRa. Through this [Teshuvah, the one who had been afflicted with tzara'as] is completely purified from this affliction, as well as from the sin [of Lashon HaRa]. [He is cleansed of his tzara’as affliction], for his punishment and shame atones for the past, while he is untainted from the sin of Lashon HaRa as he is] careful [to direct] all of his power toward [refraining] from ever coming to [involve himself] in this sin in the future.

[1] This teachings is found in Yalkut Shimoni on Parshas Metzora, at the conclusion of Remez 556.

The Midrash states: “There was an incident involving a traveling businessman who was going around the towns by Tzippori, announcing and proclaiming, ‘Who wants to buy the potion of life?’ [The people in the vicinity of this traveling businessman] pressed him to sell [this ‘potion of life’. At the same time], Rabbi Yannai, [who] was sitting and learning Torah in his room, [said to the salesman], ‘come up and sell it to me’. [The salesman] said to him, you and those who are like you are not in need of this [‘potion of life’]. He pressed [the salesman] to sell [‘the potion of life’] to him and [the salesman] went up [to Rabbi Yannai]. [The salesman] took out a bound book of Tehillim and showed him this pasuk: “Who is the man who desires life…? Guard your tongue from evil.” Rabbi Yannai said, ‘[King] Solomon even announces and says, “One who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards from troubles – “mi’tzaras” – of his soul - he guards from tzara'as afflictions of his soul.” Rabbi Yannai said, all of my days I have read this verse and have not known how simple [is its’ meaning] until this salesman came and informed me. Therefore, Moshe warns the Jewish People, “This will be the law of the mitzora” – the law of the Motzi Shem Ra.”

[2] There is a similarity between the Hebrew of “from troubles” – “מצרות” and “from leprosy” “מצרעת”, the only difference being the ע and the ו. We can therefore learn the relationship between “leprosy of the soul” and “troubles of the soul” from the similar spelling of the words – “One who guards his mouth and his tongue guards from troubles (or tzara’as) of the soul”.
Therefore, we can learn from here, that though the affliction may not be visible on the physical level, it would rather be an affliction of tzara’as on the soul. Thus, we learn that all those who speak Lashon HaRa can still suffer afflictions, whether physical, spiritual, or both.

[3] Toras Kohanim literally means “the laws of Kohanim” and refers to a Midrash on the book of Vayikra. This Midrash is called “Toras Kohanim” as much of it deals with sacrifices and the laws of Kohanim.

[4] See Parshas Mitzora, chapter 5, (Vayikra: 14; 35).

[5] This teaching can be found in the laws of “Impurity of Tzara’as", chapter 16, halacha 10.

[6] There were three Jewish camps, initially set up in the Sinai desert before the Jewish People entered Eretz Yisrael, which continued to exist during the period of the two Jewish Temples. The outermost of the three camps was the “Israelite camp”. The “Israelite camp” surrounds the “Levite camp”, which, in turn, surrounds the “camp of The Shechinah (G-d’s Divine Presence)”. Only those with the greatest levels of impurity are forbidden from entering all three camps. An individual with tzara’as is not permitted to enter even the Israelite camp, his impurity being greater than a keri (one who experiences a seminal discharge or a woman who is menstruating or has recently given birth) who is not permitted into the “Levite camp” and the “camp of The Shechinah”, and one impure from coming into physical contact with the dead is not permitted to enter the “camp of G-d’s Presence”. Hence, the impurity of one who speaks Lashon HaRa is the greatest type of impurity, for one who has tzara’as is not permitted to
even enter the “Israelite camp”. (Bamidbar: 5; 1 – 4)

[7] The mitzora is required to proclaim that he is impure, impure” (Vayikra: 13; 45), in order to warn the passerby’s to keep their distance so that they too do not become impure. Through the above action, the mitzora further brings shame to himself by publicly announcing his shameful situation which he brought upon himself due to his slander. By publicly announcing his sorry state, the mitzora will remember of the anguish he had to experience as a result of his slander, and will hopefully decide to distance himself from this terrible sin in the future.

[8] “Tzarua” refers to the individual suffering from tzara’as, that person is more commonly referred to as the “mitzora”.

[9] The purification process from the tzara’as affliction lasts eight days. For seven days after beginning the purification process, the person who had tzara’as may live in the Israelite camp, though may not dwell in his house. Only on the eighth day he is permitted to enter his house. (See Vayikra, chapter 14) Since he has seven days in the Israelite camp before he may enter his house, he has ample time to go around and ask forgiveness from those whom he wronged through his sin of Lashon HaRa.

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