Par'shat Metzorah tells us of the priestly ritual of purification from biblical leprosy. We continue our association with the deadly sin of slander and gossip.
וידבר יהוה אל־משׁה לאמר׃
... זאת תהיה תורת המצרע ביום טהרתו והובא אל־הכהן׃
Adonai said to Moshe, "This is to be the law concerning the person afflicted with tzara`at on the day of his purification. He is to be brought to the cohen, ...
(Lev 14:1-2 CJB)
Here are some anecdotal perspectives on the sin of gossip.
Zissel Ziv of Kelm Rabbi Simcha wrote that studying the portion of Metzora is analogous to visiting a doctor prior to an operation. If the patient sees that the doctor requires a large amount of surgical instruments for the operation, It will frighten him. ... The Torah continues for an entire section with a description of the instruments and operations that are necessary to cure the Metzora spiritually. From here we can learn the gravity of slander and gossip (Chochmah Umussar).
Sforno explains why the Metzora was required to bring a guilt offering. When someone gossips and slanders, they usually do it secretly. This implies a lack of awareness of God's omnipresence. Just as a person must bring a guilt offering for the sin of misusing sacred property (me'elah), so to the Metzora must bring a guilt offering for his trespass against God.
The Yeraim also expresses this concept in his explanation of the Talmudic statement that slander and gossip is tantamount to atheism (Ershin 15b). Although the slanderer/gossiper usually makes sure that the subject is not listening, he forgets that God hears every word.
Slander and gossip these days are often related to politics and religion. While we know we shouldn't do it, we seem to have no qualms speaking badly of somebody on the opposite spectrum of our political or religious views. Doing so, we not only forget where we come from, but we also forget that we are speaking of someone else's servant.
We live in a time when tempers easily flare up eon these subjects, but I would personally advance that the maturity of a congregation can be measured in their ability to be able to discuss opposite opinions, especially on these two subjects, while keeping them in their proper place of importance: last. There is more in the text of the Torah to unite us than there is to divide us.
Social media, especially FB has become a cesspool of ignorant vindictive and accusative talk. We must remember that all humans are made in the image of God and that if, according to the words of the Master, "He makes his sun shine on good and bad people alike, and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. " (Mat 5:45), who are we to treat people otherwise?
This evil practice of slander/gossip also happens in the realm of Bible prophecy. Throughout the decades, many people or groups have been qualified as the Antichrist. I have heard many different ones since the 70's and so far, all have been wrong. When we do these things; when we practice slander and gossip, we sully the image of God and thus, misuse sacred things.
Forgetting the presence of HaShem, we also commit the sin of atheism. We also commit the sin of manslaughter through the murder of someone's reputation. School kids these days are having to learn about the ugliness of verbal bullying, but are we modeling a better sample for them?
There is a Jewish teaching that says that the sound waves of our words may diminish, but they actually never die. I do not know if that is true, but one thing I do know is that:
"The way you judge others is how you will be judged -- The measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you." Mat 7:2
"By your own words you will be acquitted, By your own words you will be condemned."
Here is a little article I wrote on my Fire Chaplain blog on the subject:
A LESSON FROM TOOTHPASTE