Torah Portion Tazria (She Conceives) and Metzora( Leper) Leviticus (Vayikra) 12-15
Haftorah Reading II Kings 4:42-5:19 and II Kings 7:3-20
This week we read two portions of scripture that have mainly to do with the disease of leprosy. In our world today medical science has eradicated this disease so the question is why bother with a subject that is no longer relevant in our world? The Torah is less concerned about the actual disease than the spiritual lessons behind it.
In both the Messianic scripture and Tanach this disease comes up often so apparently there is much to be learned from it. In Jewish writing the disease of leprosy is always tied to slander or gossip. This connection is based on the cases of Miriam contracting the disease in B’Midbar/Numbers chapter 12 and also Moshe in Shemot/Exodus 4:1-7. Both were punished by G-d with the illness after speaking badly about someone. Miriam gossiped with Aaron about their brother and Moshe spoke ill about the people of Israel.
Tonight I want us to talk about gossip and slander. Do you think it is a problem in our life today? I would think we would all agree it is but maybe it has been relegated as one of those things that isn’t so bad. We may even see it as a necessary part of life, to make sure we know what is going on so we can stay clear of certain people who might be different than us or people who don’t fit in or might cause us problems. We sometimes see it as a way to know who to trust and who not to trust. Sometimes what comes out of our mouth is what can begin the disease. Yeshua says this in Matthew 15:11,18, 19.
In scripture the leper is dealt with how? He is isolated and put out of the camp. Think about this along the lines of slander or gossip. If you are outside the camp there is no one to talk to and no one to listen. The person has time to search out his heart and get to the root of his sickness. As believers we usually do not put someone outside the “camp” for gossiping but I do think we are required to refuse to participate in gossiping. We are required to not become part of the chain of spreading the disease to others.
My point is that our speech is extremely powerful and must be free from slander and gossip. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. We all probably heard that phrase as a child. Words do hurt and sometimes it takes a lifetime to get over the effects of what was said about us or by us about someone else.
So what do we do? Resolving to not do it again may solve the problem but it is doubtful. I think we have to retrain our minds. I read an article this week that had a good example of what it takes to change a problem or habit.
The issue is we become comfortable in a certain way of speaking and thinking. Gossiping gives us a feeling of belonging, being “in” when we share gossip. We are in the know. We are part of the inside group. That feeling is our hook into the sin ofgossiping.
Maybe this is a way to change our lives and our speech. In a family where one child has a problem like stuttering as time goes on the family adjusts to the stuttering child. Everyone gets used to it and makes allowances for him. They may help him finish sentences so he won’t have to struggle and it won’t take so long to get something said. It is hard for the child to change because there is no help in changing. Everyone has become a part of the problem by enabling him. This is an actual true story. A speech therapist in England, Lena Rustin, had a successful way of helping children with a stuttering problem. She saw it as a family problem that was manifested in the child’s stuttering. She treated the problem by asking each person in the family to commit to everyday, without fail, to find something to compliment each person in the family. It didn’t have to be something huge but it had to be honest and genuine. It had to be specific and positive. Her findings were that this changed the family dynamics and helped the stuttering child to overcome his speech problem. It lowered the stress level in the family and gave each member a feeling of worth. This struck me as something we all could benefit from.
In Hebrew it is called, “Lashon HaTov.” In English this is a good tongue. Consider doing this in your own life. Each day, sometime before you put your head on the pillow at night, make a point of thanking someone, complimenting someone for something they did or what you like about them. We might find there is no time for gossip or slander as we change our habit of how we speak and spend our time looking for good traits in others.