In last weeks parashah, we discussed the penalty of tzaraat that comes for speaking lashon hara. Now in this week's parashah, the Torah discusses the cure of tzaraat. Interestingly, one part of the cure is to take two birds, one to slaughter and the second one to let go free. The reason for using birds for this atonement is because birds chirp and their endless chirping are comparable to humans that speak lashon hara with endless idle chatter. Why do we slaughter one bird and let the other one go free? The slaughtered one represents the symbol of negative speech, and the bird that's set free represents the reward for positive speech. The Torah forbids us to talk negatively about others but doesn't forbid us to talk altogether.
The Hafetz Hayyim who devoted his life to teaching about, and wrote the book on Lashon Hara, who kept far away from talking negatively. The underlying cause for slanderous speech and gossip is haughtiness because it breeds the contempt for others that allows one to talk about others callously. Hashem blessed us with the power of speech, but we must learn to control our speech so that it should be only positive speech and words of Divre Torah. And with that, we will stay far away from speaking lashon hara.
It says in this week's Parasha...
“This shall be the law of the leper.” (14:2)
QUESTION: Why is the leper called a “metzora”?
ANSWER: The Gemara (Arachin 15b) says that one of the ways to become a metzora is through speaking lashon hara. The word “metzora” (מצורע) is a combination of two words: “motzi ra” (מוציא רע) — “one who brings out evil” [about another person]. The punishment for this is nega tzara’at — the plague of leprosy.
The Torah prohibits lashon hara by commanding: “Lo teileich rachil be’amecha” (לא תלך רכיל בעמיך) — “You shall not be a talebearer among your people” (19:16). These words have the numerical value of 883, the same as the numerical value of “nega tzara’at” נגע צרעת)). This shows that the sin and punishment are exactly midah keneged midah — measure for measure.
Very soon we’ll be approaching the holiday of Pesach, and the main Mitzvah of Pesach is 'Magid' which means to tell over. We tell each other about the miracles that Hashem did for us when He freed us from Egypt. The word Pesach comes from the words 'Peh' (mouth), and 'Sah' which means to speak. On the Seder night, we are obligated to speak about our redemption that took place over 3300 years ago, into the late hours of the night. We must tell our children about all of the miracles that Hashem did for B'nai Yisrael then and continues to do for us on a daily basis.
Why did the Torah give such importance to the Mitzvah of telling the story of our Exodus from Egypt? The answer is that we have to remember and ingrain into our being what Hashem did for us. This is how the Torah instructed us to show hakarat hatov (appreciation), to Hashem! We only have these two nights of Passover every year, to thank Hashem for what He does for us every day of our lives. So we are obligated to celebrate these two Pesach Seder nights with Simcha!
We sing the song “Ve heSheamda” with Jewish pride to start the Seder meal, as we sing it in an uplifting tune...
“The Promise made to our forefathers holds true also for us in every generation. For it was not one alone who rose up against, but in every generation, there were those who continue to rise up against us to destroy us; But Hashem, blessed is He, saves us from their hand!”
We hold up our glass of wine and thank Hashem for the one reality in this world and that is to be a Jew, that is who we are! We have no other existence and if we try to be anything else than your G-d given right to be a Jew, then, G-d forbid, Hashem will send us a wake-up call. In the end, no matter what the world throws at us, Hashem will always save us from them! Be sure to relay this message over to your children and grandchildren this year because our only reality is to be a Jew...so embrace it, own it and take responsibility for it. Love it and live it as an example for your children and give it over to them every day until the coming of the Mashiach! Amen!
In the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, there’s an area in the museum that displays the events that took place on the night of “Kristelnacht” which means “Night of Broken Glass”. This was the night of November 9th, 1938 when the Germans destroyed Synagogues and Jewish businesses throughout Germany. In the museum, there were videos of survivors speaking of that terrible event that took place on that night.
One elderly woman stood out as she spoke of the horrors she experienced as a young girl on that frightful night. She said, “We were Germans first, then Jews. We loved the country and the Germans were our friends and they loved us. We danced and played together. We socialized with them and dined with them”. When my mother tried calling her friends to see what was going on, none of them answered the phone, until one did answer and screamed...”Death to the Jews!” “It was at that moment that we realized, we are not Germans, we’re Jews”. Now with Pesach fast approaching, what are we celebrating with our families and our children? What is the underlying theme of the Sedar night? We hold up our glass of wine and sing...”Ve hesheamda lavotenu velanu”. We raise the glass of wine to show that we follow the laws of not drinking or socializing with them because that will only lead to intermingling with them which can lead to other things.
There's a very famous story about the Abulafia Bakery owned by an Arab family in Haifa. Its a world renown bakery that has the best zataar bread and all the best Arab delicacies. Every year on Passover they have lines out the door for that week because unfortunately, all the non-religious Jews buy their bread from there since all the kosher bakeries are closed during Passover.
The Rabbi in Haifa couldn't take it anymore and asked the grandfather and owner of the bakery to close that week and he would raise the money and give him that amount so he would close in order to stop Jews from transgressing and buying bread on Passover. So the grandfather Saiid Abulafia said "Do you know how much money I make on that one week alone....I make enough on that one week to buy an apartment in Jaffa.....I would never close on that week". So the Rabbi said "what if I were to raise that amount of money and give it to you...would you close then?" he said "yes I would close if you did that". So that's what happened, the Abulafia Bakery closed on Passover and so the following year the Rabbi went to him again and said, “Do we have the same deal again?” and he said yes. This went on for 3yrs and on the 4th year Abulafia said "No to the Rabbi, that he doesn't have to pay him the money and he will close anyway". The reason he said, was because the amount of Blessing he was getting in his business and the amount of money he was making now over the course of the year for not opening during Passover which was causing Jews to sin was overshadowing what he would get on the one week of Passover. This story just goes to show how much Hashem loves and blesses us when we follow the path of Hashem and the Torah!
May we all take advantage of these two nights of the Pesach Sedar’s with much pride of our Jewish heritage and show a deep understanding of the chesed that Hashem did for us and appreciate all that He has given us! Amen!
Parasha perspective By Jack E. Rahmey from the teachings and guidance of Rabbi Amram Sananes.