What’s the Good Word?

Categories: Parsha, Tazria

Art by Sefira Lightstone


This week’s Parsha (Tazria) tells us about various pure and impure situations, most notably, “tzaraat,” a biblical era malady that we typically liken to leprosy. But one things stands out as a theme in the portion overall—the impact our words can have on reality. We sometimes think of words as here today, gone tomorrow; they are somewhat fleeting and don’t necessarily have a lasting impact. Yes, they can be more immortalized through social media and video these days, but generally one is free to say something, and then simply walk it back if and when necessary. And yet we learn about this leprosy that comes as a result of one speaking negatively about someone else. “Lashon hara” we call it, meaning evil speech, or even simply gossip about another without a positive outcome. This malady was a result of someone speaking “lashon harah.” And then, to the positive, we are told that in order for someone to be declared “impure,” which required an in-depth purification process, the Kohein, or priest, needed to be the one to declare it. Even if an instance would happen that the local Kohein does not know the laws and must rely on a non-Kohein scholar, the Kohein still needs to declare. Why? Because the classical trait belonging to the entire dynasty of “Kohanim” is that they are “lovers of peace and pursuers of peace.” Therefore, if someone is going to give bad news to his fellow—realistic news, necessary news, harsh news—we need to recognize that it must come from a good place, from a kind place and from a peaceful place. Regardless of of how necessary rebuke might be, if done without the necessary dose of kindness, there’s no chance for it to have a positive impact. So here we see how our words can have a lasting negative impact and also can bring out the positive or something good. Our words matter and we need to use them wisely to benefit everyone around us! Good Shabbos!

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