The power over life and death פשרשת תזריע – מצורע

Parsha Tazria-Metzora

The bulk of these two Parshot deal with the affliction called Tzora’as – which can afflict a person in their skin, their head or beard, can afflict the clothes, and can afflict the house.  It is a cause of impurity, and needs a special process to purify from this affliction, and to atone for it.  This begs the question, what did the person do wrong that caused him to be subject to this affliction and need atonement? While various Torah sources list various sins that can cause Tzora’as, one of the main culprits is Lashon Hara – slander.  A clear example of this is where Miriam spoke out about how Moshe Rabbeinu separated from his wife. For this she was punished with Tzora’as and had to sit outside the camp for seven days.  (Bamidbar 12, 1-16)

“The tongue has the power of life and death”.  (Mishle 18, 21)  What distinguishes man from all other living creatures is the ability to speak.  There are animals that have been shown to communicate, and gorillas have even been taught to use sign language.  But man is unique in the ability to use the mouth, the lips, and the tongue to form words, use these words to form sentences, and use these sentences to convey thought.  Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei is telling us how powerful that ability is.  It can bring life, such as when it is used to speak words of Torah, and it can bring death when used to slander others.

We see this from the Parasha.  The person with confirmed Tzora’as must sit alone outside the camp. (Vayikra 13, 46)  Rashi poses the question: Why does the person with Tzora’as have to dwell alone?  This is different from other people that have impurities, who are not required to dwell alone.  Rather the Tzora’as is a punishment for using slander to separate people, to cause strife between a man and his wife, and between neighbors.  As a fitting punishment, the one who causes the strife by the slander was stricken with this Tzora’as and must sit in isolation outside the camp.

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