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Tazia 5783

April 16, 2023

Rabbi Geier


BS"D || Rabbi Geier

Tazria 5783

For anyone who has ever heard or read this parasha, the theme is clear. Parashat Tazria speaks to us about gossip, slander, and backbiting. It warns us about those attitudes that lead us to divide ourselves, to "impurify" the environment where we are, and to tarnish the names and lives of those affected.

We have often heard or read about the power of words. The healing power that a just word can give, at the right time and with the right tone, and the destructive power and harm that someone can inflict with a just word, at the right time and with the right tone.

In the case of the story in our parasha, the Motzi Shem Ra (an expression taken from the name of the Parasha, Metzora), the one who with gossip and slander tarnishes the name of his neighbor, we read a display of strange consequences such as stains on the clothes and even on the walls of the slanderer's house, the one who spoke ill of the other. It is strange that the world of the spiritual, triggered by a bad intention in speech, perhaps loaded with anger or even malicious hatred, can influence the physical and tangible world to such an extent as a wall.

But it seems that this is how it works. With your bad intentions, you can destroy a person, of course. But your environment is also affected. That "negative energy" that leads you to invent some story about a neighbor or to spread a rumor that may be "almost true" about someone, puts you in a place and with an intention that lowers you and affects even those who live around you.

The interesting thing is that the prescription for the cure of this evil, according to the story, is isolation. The slanderer had to stay in a separate place so as not to infect others with his own evil. We can see it as a moment of introspection, in which we can review not only our own stains, but also the stains inflicted on others and how our bad attitude may have influenced the environment as an example of life.

Slander, gossip, and backbiting are commonplace in societies. Whether they are small or enormous, whether they are a village, a community, or a large family, they are all susceptible to falling into this corroding vice. The only cure is reflection on the harm it can cause and trying to correct it, even when the harm has already been done. The only prevention is to avoid speaking improperly.

It is striking how, prior to the specific story of tzaraat, wrongly translated as "leprosy," the parasha speaks to us about the moment of birth and the covenant of circumcision, the Brit Mila. It would seem that it wants to show us our first commitment to life, our first bond with purity in contrast to our greatest capacity for impurity and destruction, which is precisely, as we said, the word.

At the moment of birth, according to Parashat Tazria, the woman becomes impure and must purify herself. The question that underlies is why such a sublime act as giving birth could leave nothing less than the mother who makes it possible impure?

One of the answers again has to do with contrasts. Giving birth marks an irreversible change in the newborn's development. It leaves behind, in a kind of death and rebirth, a stage to which it can no longer return, even if it wanted to. And that is why that "little piece of death" is considered impurifying. It died from its intrauterine life and was born into extrauterine life.

However, in the same act of impurity, there is room for re-purification in a new life that begins.

May each of us find the ability to amend our mistakes towards our fellow human beings, correcting the harm to others.

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