13 April 2016
Shabbat this week contains the portion Metzora and – as the Shabbat before Pesach – is known as Shabbat Ha-Gadol. The parasha continues the discussion begun last week on an affliction of the skin which required the victims to be quarantined and returned to the community only after being cured.
In an attempt to understand difficult passages of Torah, the rabbis sometimes used a play on words, in this case linking the Hebrew word for leprosy – metzora – to the words motzi shem ra, “to give someone a bad name.” Numerous commentaries have been written on the concept of lashon hora (gossip). Just as the victims of the skin disease needed to be separated lest they infect the entire community, the rabbis teach us to separate ourselves from the malicious nature of gossip that can cause harm to those around us.
The arrival of Pesach gives us the perfect time to commit ourselves to being more cognizant of our words and what we say about others. Next week, we will complete the annual search for chometz and the cleaning of our homes. We seek to eliminate that which is impure for the holiday, and reach a state of institutional and personal cleanliness and purity. So it must be with ourselves. Curtailing and cleansing ourselves of the human tendency to gossip and cause harm through our words should be a daily – not annual – activity. May we be up to the task.