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By Michael Chessen
Whereas the world in general is well aware that Jews live according to
certain restrictive dietary laws, we ourselves are not always aware of the
extent to which the Torah concerns itself with that which comes out of our
mouths as well. The account of Creation states that man became a "living
creature". The Aramaic translation here would be rendered into English as
"speaking creature". The facts that only human beings have the capacities
to speak and to sin are very strongly related.
Our sages link our Torah portion of Metzora, the "leper", with "motzie
shem rah", a slanderer. If King Solomon stated that "a good name is better
than fine (anointing) oil", then one who damages his fellow's good name
deserves to be "anointed" with the infliction of Biblical leprosy. While
this non-contagious infliction has no relation to the disease of the same
name which in modern times has spurned colonies for the sake of its
quarantine, the "metzora" nevertheless needs to undergo a period of
separation from his or her community as a condition for his or her
Although this leprosy is not transmitted from person to person, it
does take root in the walls of one's home, symbolically representing the
family. Interestingly enough, the Metzora reading always comes within two
weeks of Passover (either before or after), the preeminent family holiday.
Passover, or Pesach, can be seen as the holiday in which one brings one's
mouth, "peh" to "sach", or speak as one recounts the wonders of the Exodus
from Egyptian bondage with one's family and guests. May our observance of a
kosher Passover extend itself to help ensure a more genuinely "kosher"
lifestyle throughout the entire year.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!
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