אדם כי־יהיה בעור־בשׂרו שׂאת או־ספחת או בהרת והיה בעור־בשׂרו לנגע צרעת והובא אל־אהרן הכהן או אל־אחד מבניו הכהנים׃
וראה הכהן את־הנגע בעור־הבשׂר ושׂער בנגע הפך לבן ומראה הנגע עמק מעור בשׂרו נגע צרעת הוא וראהו הכהן וטמא אתו׃
"When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a case of leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests, and the priest shall examine the diseased area on the skin of his body. And if the hair in the diseased area has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a case of leprous disease. When the priest has examined him, he shall pronounce him unclean.
The condition referred to in our Bibles as leprosy is much different than the skin disease we usually refer to by that name. Due to Miriam verbally disrespecting Moses resulting in the tazria condition, that condition has evolved into an association with לשון הרע / lashon harah, literally meaning, “The Wicked Tongue” Tazria has therefore become known to be a condition of ritual uncleanliness caused by the sin of unhealthy speech, the sin of the tongue. We will go into the details of the story of Miriam as we go into the Book of Bamidbar, Numbers, But for now, may we remember that the plague of Taziah comes as a result of the wrong use of our gift of speech.
A BLASPHEMOUS TONGUE.
For this parasha, I would like to talk about a certain type of lashon hara, one very common in religious circles. We all know that lashon hara is bad. We all agree with the idea that verbally dissing people and gossiping is wrong. The Torah warns us about the evils of an uncontrolled tongue more than about anything else (Lev 19:16; James 3: 1-12). Why is it then such a problem?
We see congregations, families, associations, and well-meaning groups broken by the evil of unruly gossiping tongues. Even the political conversation today is paralysed by the politics of slander and mud-throwing. The proverbial “fly in the ointment!” Why do we do it then?
We allow ourselves this evil practice, as well as practically every sin in the Book when we rationalise it. How do we then rationalise destructive, evil gossipy speech? There are many ways but here are a couple of them.
“I AM KNOWN FOR TELLING THE TRUTH!” One of the most deceitful forms of lashon hara is when we deceive ourselves in thinking we are “Truth-bearers.” This amounts to nothing else but covering our evil inclination with a cloak of so-called “righteousness”.
“I HAVE THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT!” Next is when we claim that it is the Spirit of God that is moving us into saying what we are saying. As we do that, we may even push the hypocrisy in playing the victim, “Oh, I wish I didn’t have to but the Spirit makes me say it. I have to obey and say it, right?” Very often, this “gift of discernment” so-called, is actually a “critical spirit.” As such, the person is letting their own spirit vent while saying that the Spirit of God is moving them. That might be the utmost in blasphemy. Another one is,
“I MUST STAND UP FOR THE TRUTH!” which is often nothing more than giving way to our desire to elevate ourselves against others, to show that because we stand higher than others we can see the truth and the whole picture, while hiding under a cloak of self-righteousness.
IN THE DAYS OF NOAH
We are used to tell the post-flood story of Noah getting drunk and discovered by his son Ham referring to probable sexual improprieties. It is not told that way in Jewish teachings.
The Talmud teaches this story as a form of lashon hara. The text tells us that when Ham discovered his father in a compromising situation, he Went out and told his two brothers. (Gen 9:22)
Shem and Japhet acted very differently. They,
Took a cloak, put it over both their shoulders, and, walking backward, went in and covered their naked father. Their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father lying there shamefully exposed. (Gen 9:23)
Instead of publicising their father’s fault, they hid it from themselves and others. As a result, they were blessed and Ham’s descendants through Canaan were cursed. They fulfilled the very important Torah principle proposed by King Solomon, "He who conceals an offense promotes love, but he who harps on it can separate even close friends." (Pro 17:9)
Even when we feel that we are right about another’s transgression, to reveal it is divisive, and therefore an abomination to HaShem (Prov 6:19). The Talmud is full of stories of rabbis who brought peace to their congregants by deciding to “cover” a transgression. It is actually exactly what Yeshua does for us. He “covers” our transgressions from HaShem. Not that they were never there, but He hides them under His favor, so that all the Father sees is the light and glory of His Son in us. Moshe did the same thing for the Children of Israel concerning the issue of the Golden Calf. The Hebrew word for atonement is “כפר / capar” which means, “to cover!” That is also why Yeshua strongly advised for people to resolve their issues with each other in private, not through “YouTwitFace” (YouTube/Twitter/FaceBook) which have today become obscene international platforms for lashon hara.
PRIESTS: THE PEACEMAKERS!
These ideas appear in Leviticus because the role of priests was that of “peacemakers.” How? They were to be the buffer zone between us and HaShem. Their service provided the “כפר/covering/atonement” that we may be able to approach HaShem. Aaron himself was known as a man who, when he found two people who didn’t like each other, he would go to one and say,
“Hey Avi, do you know Ari?”
“Yes, but I think he is a …….”
“Come on!” Aaron would say. You must admit that Ari is an excellent carpenter.”
“Well, I may have my problems with Ari, but he is the best carpenter I ever met in my life.
Aaron would then take that precious information to Ari saying,
“Hey Ari, do you know what Avi said about you?”
“Well ..., I can imagine!”
“He said that you were the best carpenter he ever met in his life!”
“Really! I would have never thought that! I thought all tent-makers were but he is certainly the best tent-maker I ever met. He doesn’t know it, but my tent comes from his shop, and it’s the best I’ve ever had.”
Then Aaron would go take that precious information to Avi. The next time Avi and Ari met, they knew that each other had said good things about each other, which helped repair their relationship.
Aaron was known in this manner, to try to do anything he could in order to try to make peace between people. Aaron was even known to sometimes put his thumb on the scale and exaggerate the truth a bit in order to help. This is the true role of a priest: the Peacemaker. That is why psalm 133 was written about Aaron.
Oh, how good, how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in harmony. It is like fragrant oil on the head that runs down over the beard, over the beard of Aharon, and flows down on the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon that settles on the mountains of Tziyon. For it was there that Adonai ordained the blessing of everlasting life. (Psalm 133:1-3)
A REVERSED PHILOSOPHY
Sad to say, in our world today, while some may be so concerned to publicize others issues and might even put their thumb on the scale of negative judgement, they often totally omit acknowledging the good, or even lift their thumb off the scale when it comes to positive judgment.
The whole thing is very sad. It is all done when we give in to a sense of personal inadequacy. This negativity about ourselves pushes us to want to dim the light of others by either publicizing their sins, or somewhat negating their virtues, all because we think that our light shines brighter when we put down others.
“WHEN YOU POINT THE FINGER AT SOMEONE ELSE …” Leviticus 13:45: says,
"Everyone who has tzara`at sores is to wear torn clothes and unbound hair, cover his upper lip and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!' (Lev 13:45)
The Shaloh (Shnai Luchot HaBrit) says that it can be read as, “Unclean,” what an unclean person says about others. That is, a person who finds fault with others is really projecting his own faults and imperfections on others. The sages in Kidushin 70a have said, “Those who try to invalidate others do so with their own blemishes.”
Rabbi and psychologist Zelig Pliskin adds to this, “One means of finding out your own faults and blemishes is to see what faults and blemishes you notice in others. If you focus on certain negative aspects of others, it is possible that you have these same tendencies yourself.” (Growth Through Torah, Zelig Pliskin on Tazria.)
So as the old adage goes, “When you point the finger at others, remember that you have 3 pointing at you, and one pointing at HaShem, the Creator of every human being!”
A NATION OF PRIESTS:
HaShem blessed the Jewish people by telling them,
And you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart. These are the words you are to speak to the people of Isra'el." (Exo 19:6 CJB)
At Passover, Yeshua gave the disciples a form of priestly initiation,
So he rose from the table, removed his outer garments and wrapped a towel around his waist. Then he poured some water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the talmidim and wipe them off with the towel wrapped around him. He came to Shim`on Kefa, who said to him, "Lord! You are washing my feet?" Yeshua answered him, "You don't understand yet what I am doing, but in time you will understand." "No!" said Kefa, "You will never wash my feet!" Yeshua answered him, "If I don't wash you, you have no share with me." "Lord," Shim`on Kefa replied, "not only my feet, but my hands and head too!" Yeshua said to him, "A man who has had a bath doesn't need to wash, except his feet -- his body is already clean. And you people are clean, but not all of you." (Joh 13:4-10 CJB)
Peter exhorted the Roman congregation of Jewish and Gentile disciples saying,
But you are a chosen people, the King's cohanim, a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1Pe 2:9 CJB)
MAY WE REMEMBER THE WORDS OF KING DAVID AS HE LOOKED AT HIS OWN SELF WITH THE EYES OF THE TORAH.
The fear of Adonai is clean, enduring forever.
The rulings of Adonai are true, they are righteous altogether, more desirable than gold, than much fine gold, also sweeter than honey or drippings from the honeycomb. Through them your servant is warned; in obeying them, there is great reward.
Who can discern unintentional sins?
Cleanse me from hidden faults.
Also keep your servant from presumptuous sins, so that they won't control me.
Then I will be blameless and free of great offense.
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in your presence, Adonai, my Rock and Redeemer.. (Psa 19:9-14)
R' Gavriel Lumbroso