Parshas Tazria
Leviticus 12:1 - 13:59


You Stabbed and Slashed Me With Your Tongue! ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Paul Sakash, may he rest in peace.

"And he shall dwell alone.." Leviticus 13:46

...and you shall take his CELL PHONE... and you shall remove HIS COMPUTER... and you shall take his 66" STEREO TELEVISION WITH SURROUND SOUND, VCR, DIGITAL STEREO DISC PLAYER AND ENTERTAINMENT CENTER... you shall take his TELEPHONE / FAX AND VOICE MESSAGING... Stop the newspaper and hold all mail...etc.

Thousands of years ago B'nei Yisroel, consisting of over three million Jews, dwelled in the BaMidbar, the wilderness, in close proximity, in walking distance from each other. Then in unison we traveled together, learned, worshiped and fought battles together, drew water from the same wells and rivers, and gathered manna together. We shared just about every experience together... This was a lively nomadic city with no suburbs. We shared the local benefit of light and warmth through the fire provided by Hashem along with the cloud covering that made for a cool, relaxing daytime climate.

Yet just outside the city was a barren wilderness. There was no light or warmth, no cloud covering and no protection. There was no wife, there were no children, no mother or father, there were no relatives close or distant. There were no friends. There was NO ONE! Even other Jews suffering from the same condition of tzora'as were not permitted to commune together. Given this understanding, if one was removed from the camp it was truly isolation. Let's connect with how alone, how utterly alone it would be just a short distance outside of the camp. This is not like some wilderness survival package to a desert place for several days or weeks. This was deliberate, separated, segregated detached, isolated, solitary seclusion.

It was permanent until the tzora'as left. It was not for one month or one year. The length was unknown. There was no exit date to look forward to. There was no homecoming just around the corner. There was no parole board, there were no reviews. There was only isolation.

In fact anyone found by a Kohen to have metzora is required to tear their garment as one who is in mourning, to stop shaving and cutting their hair, to stop laundering their garments, to cover their head and face down to the upper lip, and to avoid any contact with people by shouting to anyone who would approach, "Unclean! Unclean!"

Dear reader, a person's community status would not prevent them from this mitzvah. Wealth or poverty would not stand in the path of this mitzvah. Not even influence with powerful brothers like Moshe or Aharon the Kohen Godal could prevent one from this mitzvah. This mitzvah reached across all boundaries. No one was excluded from the performance of this mitzvah, not even the Kohen Godal if he was to be found with tzora'as, G-d forbid!

As a result, it would be good for us to mentally connect with this Torah mitzvah and to imagine how it would be living under such difficult restrictions. We MUST comprehend what caused this isolation. What could a Jew do to require such isolation? Then we must do our best to prevent our participation in it!

Our sages say this mitzvah was required for Jews who have spoken "LOSHON HORA". They uttered derogatory or damaging statements about another Jew. {Truthful statements can be just as damaging as lies.} They spoke with a slanderous tongue. They used their slanderous tongue to separate a husband from his wife or a Jew from his fellow Jew. As a result they must be separated. This penalty for loshon hora may seem a bit too severe. It may feel unnecessary. However when a person speaks loshon hora they are violating thirty-one Torah commands either directly or indirectly.

Listen, it is not pleasant to be cheated, mistreated, deceived or hurt in any way by another Jew. It is NOT EASY to just let the matter go. Yet this is what G-d wants us to do as compared to broadcasting it. I think this is the most difficult group of mitzvahs to observe in the entire Torah. Anyone can slander. The tool is on standby ready for immediate action always. That being the situation it is not difficult to understand why Jews often struggle with the command to "Guard Their Tongue." Yet struggling is not a sin, thank G-d! Many Jews successfully observe this group of mitzvahs , thank G-d!

Now we return to the congestion of a tightly concentrated nomadic city of Jews several thousand years ago. Every neighbor is Jewish. Those across the path are Jewish. Those to the right and left are also Jewish. The neighbor immediately behind us is Jewish. Every neighbor is Jewish. So under such situations we have the potential for "CONCENTRATED LOSHON HORA." Yet that does not provide an out for Jews living in the uncongested, wide open spaces to speak loshon hora.

Jews whose positions often receive much attention such as leaders and public figures in the center of the beehive, so to speak, still have the same mitzvahs to fulfill even though they are in constant stress and always dealing with the public. While their position may not be easy it is NOT an excuse to speak loshon hora!

A Story Of The Destruction Of A Young Man By Loshon Hora
There are many stories that one could tell regarding the tragedies of loshon hora. This particular story is about a non Jew who was an extremely successful minister of his faith. In his early twenties just after he graduated from Bible college he went to a large city in America where he conducted several special services for local churches. His services were very productive so he opened a coffeehouse which the community youth just flocked to. Soon he went on the radio once a week with a thirty minute class which grew to an hour and eventually a daily program. After awhile, his following increased to such an extent he rented an old boarded up theater building in a rough area. Again this was an overwhelming success. People from all over would flock to this theater. Shortly after opening his ministry the funds were provided to purchase the building and do an upscale remodel which they did. Soon they purchased several touring busses for outreach in other areas. Then they went on television in several major markets. This young man was the talk of the country in certain religious circles. What he had accomplished in just a few years attracted much attention. I knew this young man. I met him. Listened to him. Watched him on television several times. He seemed quite average to me. He wasn't very knowledgeable in theology. He was quite basic. Actually I found him quite boring. Yet crowds were drawn to him like a magnet. To comprehend his incredible popularity would be impossible.

He was a very kind person. He showed great compassion for his fellow man. People really loved him. His organization helped many people. Then one day everything completely crashed without any warning. Everything came to an emergency stop.

The young religious leader had a serious problem. No one knew of his lifelong problem. It was a deep secret that he harbored. For twenty-eight years he had managed to control this problem. It was such a struggle for him. Everyday he fought off improper desires. He needed help even though he had not succumbed to passionate desires. Being a well known figure he could not just go to anyone with his problem. He could not risk the publicity. He could not chance the potential damage that it may cause him or his ministry. After careful contemplation he decided to discuss his problem with his immediate religious supervisor in accordance with the tenets of his particular religion. He needed advice. He needed assistance.

He revealed the nature of the problem to his religious superior in the utmost confidence who in turn gossiped to one person, breaking his sacred responsibility. Shortly a scandal developed. Rumors spread like a grass fire on the plain. All this young man wanted was someone to turn to. He need someone to lean on. He needed help with this problem. He hadn't caved in. He was successfully withstanding. Even though that is true, once he placed his trust in the wrong person it was like dropping a match in a haystack. It was if he said, "You Stabbed and Slashed Me With Your Tongue!"

Dear reader, even though the loshon may be 100% true it has the potential to hurt, to destroy and to end life. We must do our absolute best to ward off desires to speak loshon hora.

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk


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