"These are the regulations for any diseased person at the time of their ceremonial cleansing, when they are brought to the priest . . . " - Leviticus 14:2
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Tazria-Metzora, from Leviticus 12:1-15:33. Tazria means "conceived," and Metzora means "diseased." The Haftorah is from 2 Kings 7:3-20.
This week we read a double Torah portion, both of which deal with laws regarding a person who contracts the "skin-defiling disease," often referred to in English as leprosy. The second of the two readings begins: "These are the regulations for any diseased person . . ." The Hebrew word for "diseased person" in the verse is metzorah. The Jewish sages dissect this word into two Hebrew words: motzi rah, which is translated as "He who spreads evil reports about others." According to the sages, the root cause of the skin-defiling disease that the Bible devotes a considerable amount of time and space discussing is gossip.
In order to underscore the gravity of using our speech for evil purposes, the sages quote from the book of Amos: "He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind . . ." (4:13). On the latter part of this verse the sages explain that in each person's hour of judgment, God will reveal even the casual words between people if they were inappropriate ones. Nothing is overlooked or forgotten.
However, what is the connection between the message about the importance of our words and the first part of the verse which recalls that God created the mountains and the wind?
A person, when he speaks badly, might think that his words are harmless. They will brush over and disappear like the wind. Our words are merely breath passing through; no harm done. However, in the verse from Hosea God pointed out that while He created the mighty mountains, He also created the deceptively powerful wind.
Wind can seem innocuous. You can't see it or touch it. At times, it hardly seems to exist at all. Yet, when a strong wind blows, it can erode even the greatest mountain. In the same way, though our words may appear to have little power at all, in truth, they are as powerful as a blustery wind. Our words can topple the mighty and cause huge amounts of destruction.
Yet, let's also remember that winds can lift a bird to soar. It is the force that supports an airplane allowing for the miracle of human flight. A gentle wind caresses our face on a warm spring day and brings cooling relief on a hot summer afternoon. It is also the means by which God parted the Red Sea.
Similarly, our words can lift people up. They can comfort others and provide a loving touch. Our words, when used properly, can even bring about miracles. Let's contemplate the power of our words today. We can't see them or touch them, but they are the force that can shape our world so choose them wisely.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President