The Metzora and Stumbling Blocks

The Metzora and Stumbling Blocks

By Family Lesson a Day | Based on The SH Yomi Calendar No Comments
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  • January 16, 2019

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
Preface: Negative Commandments

When a person speaks lashon hara, he transgresses the pasuk, “Beware of a tzara’s affliction, to be very careful and to act…”

Tzara’as is not leprosy. Though it is a skin disease, it is a disease unlike any other. It is not caused by contact with a germ or other form of impurity. The Gemara teaches that tzara’as is a punishment for any one of seven sins; at the top of the list is lashon hara.

We can learn how terrible lashon hara is from the very severe tumah of a metzora (one who is afflicted with tzara’as). A metzora is the only living person who can transmit his tumah to another human being simply by standing under the same roof with that person, though there is no actual contact between them.

A metzora must live in solitude; he must let his hair grow and tear his clothing like a mourner. He must call out to those who pass by, “I am tamei (impure)! I am tamei!”

No other tamei in the Torah has to make such an announcement. What is its purpose? The Gemara states that the metzora makes this announcement so that others will pray that he should be healed of his tzara’as. The question, though, remains. Why doesn’t the Torah state that those who are afflicted with other forms of tumah should ask that others pray for them?

The Chofetz Chaim explains: Normally, a person’s Torah learning and prayers have awesome power in Heaven. But this is not the case with a ba’al lashon hara, one who often speaks lashon hara. Zohar teaches that when a person contaminates his mouth with lashon hara, the ruach hatumah (spirit of impurity) created by his words affects his gift of speech in a very powerful way. His Torah and tefillah are wrapped in a spirit of impurity and carry little weight in Heaven.

Therefore, the metzora cannot count on his own prayers to rid himself of his tzara’as. For this, he must call out to others, “I am tamei! I am tamei!” and hope that they will pray on his behalf.

In Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, the Chofetz Chaim asks: If tzara’as is a punishment for lashon hara, why don’t ba’alei lashon hara become afflicted with it nowadays? He cites the explanation of Chidah:

When Hashem punishes someone, He does so for the person’s benefit, so that he will do teshuvah. It was only while the Beis HaMikdash stood that a metzora could become purified from the tumah of his tzara’as. Today, when to our misfortune there is no Beis HaMikdash and no korbanos, there would be no way for a metzora to become tahor; he would remain with this severe form of tumah for the rest of his life. Therefore, today, the tumah of tzara’as clings only to the neshamah, but not to the body.

Both one who speaks lashon hara and one who listens to it are guilty of the sin of, “And before a blind person do not place a stumbling block.” With these words the Torah forbids a Jew to cause another Jew to sin. When someone speaks lashon hara to a willing listener, each one is causing the other to sin. Although the speaker is the one who initiates the conversation, the listener is required to either tell the speaker to stop or simply walk away.

The Chofetz Chaim concludes this segment by quoting the ethical will of the Tanna R’ Eliezer HaGadol to his son Hyrkanos:

My son, do not sit among groups who speak disparagingly of others. For when their words ascend to Heaven, they are recorded in a book, and those who are present are inscribed as a “Wicked Group.”

In Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, the Chofetz Chaim asks: If tzara’as is a punishment for lashon hara, why don’t ba’alei lashon hara become afflicted with it nowadays? He cites the explanation of Chidah:

When Hashem punishes someone, He does so for the person’s benefit, so that he will do teshuvah. It was only while the Beis HaMikdash stood that a metzora could become purified from the tumah of his tzara’as. Today, when to our misfortune there is no Beis HaMikdash and no korbanos, there would be no way for a metzora to become tahor; he would remain with this severe form of tumah for the rest of his life. Therefore, today, the tumah of tzara’as clings only to the neshamah, but not to the body.

IN A NUTSHELL
· From the metzora and his tzaraas we learn the severity of lashon hara.
· By speaking or listening to lashon hara, we are causing someone else to sin.

 -A project of  Mesorah Publications –

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