Our Sages (Arachin 15), say that the affliction of צרעת is punishment for speaking slander, lashon hara
The Kli Yakar finds an allusion to this, in our Parasha:(13:38)’If a man or a woman has בהרת: spots in the skin of their flesh, white spots’, it is a sign of tsaraat (a bibilical disease similar to leprosy), צרעת.
Expounds the sage:’This is a measure for measure punishment, for causing another person’s face’ to blanch, out of embarrassment’, at the evil gossip, lashon hara spoken about him’.
Rav Chaim Friedlander asks:’Why does a person speak slanderously, lashon hara, about others?’
He answers:’He does so, believing that, by ‘lessening’ others, by speaking badly about them, he, in turn, is ‘elevated’.
‘He is, in effect, saying:’I wouldn’t do such an improper thing’, as he accuses the other of doing; and, therefore ‘I am better than him’.
‘This is based on the premise that, a person’s ‘worth’ is totally dependent on how others judge him.
‘This, however, is a terrible error! One’s true ‘value’ is totally unrelated to the opinions of others. Demeaning another cannot ‘elevate’ him.
‘Each person is in the nature of:’For me the World was created’. His true value is solely dependent on how he fulfills his role, according to the abilities with which he has been endowed by the Creator’.
‘Indeed, the punishment for speaking slanderously, lashon hara, removal from the company of people, and bring afflicted with tsaraat צרעת, teaches him the error of his premise: instead of being elevated, his lashon hara, has led to he being humiliated’.
Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl derives another ‘lesson’ as to the severity of speaking evil gossip, lashon hara, unrelated, as it were, to anyone else.
‘Why’, he asks, ‘was Moshe Rabenu punished with tsaraat צרעת, when he spoke badly, lashon hara, of Bnei israel, in saying:(Shemot 4:1-6)’But they will not believe me’ (at the burning bush)
‘No-one but Hashem heard these words, and clearly this did not affect their standing in the eyes of Hashem.
‘Indeed, had this not been written in the Torah, no-one would have known of Moshe’s words! Yet he was punished for them.
‘We must therefore assume, that by relating this to us, the Torah came to teach that speaking slanderously, lashon hara, is not only lowering another in the ears of those who hear, but is first and foremost, lowering the worth of the person against whom the slander lashon hara is spoken, in the eyes of the one who is speaking the slander lashon hara!
‘Speaking slanderously, lashon hara. causes the speaker to think ‘less’ of another, and is an affront to the צלם אלקים:’the image of Hashem in which EVERY Jew (and human) is created- both of the one who is spoken against, AND the speaker himself’.
‘This, too, is why our Sages say that speaking slanderously. lashon hara. ‘kills’ three people: the one who is spoken about, the one who hears the slander, lashon hara, AND the speaker himself’.
Rav Yitzchak Goldwasser adds:’The gift of speech is what defines, and separates man, from other living creatures.
‘It is the ‘breath of the Divine’ in the creation of man, the ‘share of G-d’ in each person.
‘To ‘abuse’ it, by speaking lashon hara against another person, who is similarly infused with this ‘Divine portion’, is to totally disrespect the Divine in the person spoken against’.
The Netivot Shalom brings the following insight, as to the severity, in the eyes of Hashem, of speaking slanderously, of lashon hara, against another Jew:’Our Sages teach that (Avot 3:14)’’Beloved are Israel, because they are called בנים לה׳: ‘Children to Hashem’.
‘Just as any father cannot bear it when people speak badly against his son, so too, Hashem cannot ‘bear’ when lashon hara is spoken against one of His children.
‘To speak lashon hara against another Jew is as if the speaker כפר בעיקר: ‘denied a main tenet of belief’, because it is a principle if our faith that every Jew is a child of Hashem- and to speak lashon hara against another, is more grievous in Hashem’s eyes, than other transgressions against Hashem’s Will.
‘This, say our Sages, is why Hashem says:’I and those who speak slander, lashon hara, cannot dwell in the same world’.
A parting thought: Let us show our gratitude for the singular gift of speech, by abstaining from speaking slanderously,, lashon hara, and thereby give nachat, joy, to our Heavenly Father.
Ed. Note: the Hebrew lashon hara has been translated here as slander or eveil gossip. To know more about the definition, click here.
לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.