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Past Weekly Shabbat Message
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Jewish Heritage
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Rabbi Dovid Saks
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(Torah Portion Tazria/Metzora) World Peace!

King Solomon states in the Book of Proverbs, “Life and death lay in the power of speech.”

Today, more so than anytime in history we see the power of the spoken or typed word. We clearly see that one can either be catapulted into instantaneous fame, or more often, one’s esteem, accomplishments and entire reputation can be devastated in the course of mere seconds. We see on a daily basis that one’s life literally hinges on the communicated word.

We, the Jewish people are unique in having laws concerning what we are and aren’t permitted to convey about others.

Aside from the negative effects that Lashon Harah – gossip – has upon the person that is spoken about, there is a global contamination that happens as well.

We are all aware of the concept that a human corpse gives off ritual impurities. The Medrash tells us that speaking Loshon Harah also gives off an impurity like death.

Reb Gedalia Schorr o.b.m. explains:

The difference between a living person and one who is dead is that there is unity in a live person’s body; the head, heart, liver, extremities, and soul work together. This symmetry completes the person, and his body functions at a level of Achdus – oneness.

 If it were not for Adam’s original sin, man would have lived forever and this Achdus – oneness – within one’s body would have never ceased. Only after Adam sinned was there a penalty of death to the human being.

When death occurs, there is a disconnection of the soul from the body and it causes a dysfunction of all the bodily organs. This disconnection or malfunction causes Tumah – impurity to the lifeless corpse.

Man is higher than the animal kingdom through his ability to speak and communicate with others. This ability of man is referred to by the Torah as Nefesh Chayah – a living being.

Our ability to talk and communicate connects and formulates our thoughts to words that are conveyed to another person. This ability to communicate is a most fundamental part of life.

Thus, the power of speech is the vehicle through which man exercises his – living being. When speech is utilized to speak ill - Lashon Harah about others, it causes a separation between people, and the disunity that it causes brings a spirit of death to the world. This is because the definition of death is the disconnection between the parts of man’s body, and similarly Lashon Harah disconnects one person from another.

Thus, the Medrash equates the sin of Lashon Harah and its deathlike results with Tumah – impurities – which comes to a lifeless body.

In this week’s Parshs the Torah speaks of specific blemishes that developed upon a person who had been lax in the area of Lashan Harah. He was excommunicated and was forbidden to converse with others. Essentially, he was stripped of his most vital tool, the power to communicate, and he is placed in seclusion - a position akin to a living dead.

Only after he sincerely repented did his blemish disappear and then after going through a ritual process was he was permitted to return and intermingle within society.

King David in the Psalms tells us the eternal nature of G-d’s words, “The words of G-d are pure words.” The words of G-d as related through the Torah are pure and everlasting, and as we say in our morning prayers, “His words are living and enduring, faithful and delightful forever.”

Our prayers along with the Torah we study and convey to others including the Mitzvos we perform and our peaceful communication with others is our way of touching, feeling, connecting and living with that which is pure and eternal!

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!

Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family