The Gravity of Slandering

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner
Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about the Tzoraas Affliction.  Tzoraas is usually translated as leprosy, but, in fact, it was not a natural form of leprosy but, was a supernatural form of leprosy which came as a punishment for the sin of “Speaking Loshon Hara” (evil speech).  In Jewish law, “Loshan Hara” is described as one who goes about discrediting another, telling uncomplimentary things about him even if they are true.  The Torah tells us the process of one who contracts Tzoraas.  At first, the Cohen would diagnose the Tzaraas to ascertain if it is truly this form of leprosy by checking certain specific characteristics of the leprosy.  If in fact it was Tzaraas, the person who got Tzaraas must leave the Jewish camp and dwell in isolation until he is healed from leprosy.

There are  many sins in the Torah yet only the sin of slander did G-d create this special form of leprosy to stop the person from continuing to slander.  The reason for this is the sin of slandering undermines the essence of the Torah. The essence of the Torah is love and unity, as the great sage Hillel said to the person who asked him to teach him the whole Torah on one foot,: ‘Do not do to others, what you do not want done for yourself, that is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary.”

However, when a person slanders others, he is acting in a completely opposite manner.  Firstly, he is causing great pain to the person he is slandering by ruining his reputation and in addition, he is causing discord and division, since when a person hears something that is repulsive about someone else it causes him to separate himself from that person to some degree.

This is also the reason that the person who contracted the leprosy must remain isolated until he is healed.  His isolation was part of his rehabilitation from his tendency to slander others, when the leper was isolated, he got to feel how painful it is to be isolated and this will hopefully give him the sensitivity to stop causing isolation to others.  Also, when he is in isolation, he is forced to take a break of his slandering since there is no one to speak to and this will also help him overcome his habit of slandering.

May the study of this week’s Torah portion give us the strength to talk well of other people.


About Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner is the Rabbi of Boulder County Center for Judaism. In addition, he teaches extensively throughout Boulder County and is the author of "Finding the Joy in Everyday Living," a book of short chapters explaining the ways to access happiness through appreciation, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.

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