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Your Mouth Is A Revolving Door
Parshas Tazria and Metzora are usually read together. The word meteor is a combination of two words, mother and ra, meaning, to speak evil of others. The juxtaposition of these parshiyos to Parshas Shmini is very instructive, for in the previous parasha we studied not only the dangers of speaking lashon hara, but about forbidden, non-kosher foods as well. By placing the two parshiyos - forbidden food and lashon hara - next to each other, the Torah reminds us that not only must we be careful about that which enters our mouths (that which we eat), but we must be equally careful about that which comes forth from our lips (that which we say). We must be ever on guard not to cause pain to anyone with our words. Since this is no small achievement, we pray for Hashem’s help and guidance. Therefore, we conclude every Amidah service with those awesome words, “May Hashem, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully.”
Lashon hara is the equivalent of all three cardinal sins, a concept that might be difficult for us to absorb. In the 21st century, gossip has become a profession. Newspapers employ gossip columnists. Gossip columnists have social cachet and are very much sought after by hostess and the media, and some of the biggest bestsellers are based on gossip. Our Torah laws are like a beacon of light that illuminates our path and reminds us of our higher calling. Speech is a Divine gift, given only to man. To abuse that gift is to betray that trust.
To what extent we must go to avoid lashon Nara can be learned from Miriam, the prophetess, who in good faith criticized her younger brother Moshe, and those seemingly innocent words, was afflicted with tzaraas. The Torah commands us to remember what happened to Mirima and be cautious with our words even when we believe that we are speaking for the benefit of another.