In this week's portion, we meet a unique form of impurity - tzaraat. (Vayikra, chapter 13, verse 20). Comparatively, this form of defilement is the severest.

The first Mishnayot in Seder Taharot delineate ten levels of tumah (Kelim, chapter1, mishnayot 1-5). According to this list, a person who is a metzorah is at the highest level of defilement that a person can contract, exceeded only by the tumah of a decaying cadaver.

The Mishnah then goes on to delineate ten levels of kedushah in Israel. The holiest, of course, being the Holy of Holies upon the Temple mount, where only the High Priest can enter once a year on the holiest day.

The Talmud (Erchin16a) teaches us that tzaraat is contracted by speaking lashon hara.

The Mishnah then correlates the various defilements of people and lists those who are forbidden to enter the Temple, the Temple Mount, Jerusalem and, finally, any walled city in Israel. As would be expected, the person with the greatest level of defilement, the metzorah, is exiled to the remotest part of Israel, forbidden to live within the confines of any walled city in the country.

The Talmud (Erchin16a) teaches us that tzaraat is contracted by speaking lashon hara. One who speaks lashon hara about a fellow Jew is ostracized from the community, but may still dwell within the confines of Israel. There is, however, one person whose defilement is so great that he is banished totally from the land - one who speaks lashon hara about Israel.

The Torah prescribed a punishment for the spies and their followers of being banished not only from the community, but from all of Israel: "...all who detest me shall not see her (Israel)." (Bamidbar 14:23) "In this wilderness will your cadavers decay." (Bamidbar 14:29) From this, we can see the extreme severity of speaking negatively about Israel. It is tantamount to the epitome of defilement.

May we merit to cherish the land in our hearts, deeds and speech. As The Kuzari concludes, "For Yerushalayim will verily be reconstructed only once the Jews yearn for it with all of their heart."
Rabbi David Samson, author of several books based on the teachings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, appears on the weekly TV feature magazine "Israeli Salad" on Arutz Sheva. He is the dean of Maaleh Erev Institutions, a set of high schools for youth at risk, and the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Lech Lecha, a mobile high school.

The foregoing article was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.