Parshat Metzora: The Sacrifice of Speech

April 8, 2022
BBYO Weekly Parsha


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In this Parasha we learn the rules of a Biblical disease known as Tzara’at. This disease has been translated as leprosy, but in fact is and is not really all that similar to the contemporary skin disorder.

G-d tells us what we shall do if one of us catches this “leprosy.” We may not enter our home, and instead we must isolate ourselves and can only return after seven days of cleansing.

It is quite a coincidence that this Parsha is read just 2 weeks before Passover, which also revolves around impurities and seven-day periods.  For Pesach one cleans their house of every single bit of Chametz to ensure that for the seven days of Passover, our house is Chametz free.  

We learned in this parsha that in order for one to return home after having Tzara’at, they must sacrifice a bird and then dip another bird into a mixture of a hyssop and scarlet. Another place where hyssop was used was back in biblical Egypt. Moshe told the Jewish people to paint their houses red with hyssop so the plague of the firstborns would not affect their families. The symbolism of a bird sacrifice for Tzara'at is because the Midrash says that one is afflicted with this particular disease when speaking Lashon Hara and birds are symbolic of the power of speech. That would explain why the logo for Twitter is a bird.

Perhaps, the message of the sacrifice is for us to realize the inherent dangers of speech. Certainly, speech can be great as when we use it to compliment someone, stand up for what we believe in, or say words of Torah and Tefillah. However, speech can also be dangerous, when we insult someone, say Lashon Hara, or provoke harm with it. Speech is a double-edged sword. It can kill but it can bring happiness just as quickly. When we use it daily it is crucial that it brings kindness into the world. The Gaon of Vilna even said that if you are going to talk badly, gossip, or speak Lashon Hara with your friends in synagogue, it is better to pray at home and not even go. Although this might be an extreme position, his point is that Lashon Hara is so bad that one should even sacrifice public prayer to ensure that they do not speak badly about another.

Perhaps this is the message of the sacrifice. We bring two birds, but we only slaughter one. We don’t want to inhibit all speech; we just want to stop using it for destructive purposes. One bird lives to remind ourselves that good, positive, speech must live on for its purpose is incredibly valuable. It is the painful, harmful, and damaging speech that must cease to exist.

As we approach the festival of Passover and we clean our homes of Chametz, let us also clean our behavior and our speech. Let us ensure that our speech is always positive and constructive and never hurtful or painful.

Shabbat Shalom

Gal Rubel, BBYO Argentina

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All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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