Kinder Torah - Parshat Metzora
For parents to share with
children at the Shabbos Table
Parsha Metzorah deals with tzoras, that terrible skin disease that existed in the times of our ancestors. As we mentioned earlier, tzoras was a spiritual disease, therefore the remedy was a spiritual one. At the end of the purification process, the metzora brought certain offerings to the Kohen in the Beis HaMikdash. "The Kohen shall command, and the person being purified (from the tzoras) shall take two live clean sparrows, cedar wood, crimson thread, and hyssop" (Vayikra 14:4). What is the connection between these offerings and the disease of tzoras? Rashi zt"l explains as follows. One of the causes of tzoras is loshon hora. One who speaks loshon hora often chatters away without thinking about what he is saying. Therefore, he must bring two sparrows, whose constant chirping remind him of his babbling loshon hora. The cedar tree is the tallest of all trees (Sifsei Chachomim). The person tried to elevate himself by speaking loshon hora. The hyssop is a low bush, and the two strings of crimson thread remind us of worms, which are also very low. The speaker of loshon hora needs to be reminded that he is not as tall as the cedar. That is only his imagination. Rather he needs to lower and humble himself like the worm and the hyssop bush.
The sound of sparrows chirping away is beautiful to hear. Hashem gave us a big blessing by giving them pleasant voices. Now we learn about another blessing that we receive from these birds. They remind us to be careful about loshon hora. Sometimes it seems that they can chip away endlessly without stopping. Someone who chatters away like a sparrow will eventually come to speak loshon hora. Are you thinking when you are not talking? Of course! Then you should surely be thinking when you are talking! The next time that we hear the sparrows chirping, let's all think about being careful with our speech.
The Choice is Yours
"Life and death are dependent upon one's speech" Mishle (18:21). The Medrash (Vayikra Rabba 33:1) relates the following story. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said to Tuvi his servant, "Go to the market and buy me a delicacy." Tuvi went to the market and bought tongue. The Rav then sent Tuvi to buy plain food. He came back with tongue. "What is going on here?" asked Rabban Shimon. "I ask you to buy a delicacy and you buy tongue. I ask you to buy plain food and you buy tongue." Tuvi replied, "There are good and bad tongues. When a tongue is good, there is nothing better than it. And when a tongue is bad, there is nothing worse than it." Rabbeinu Bechaye zt"l explains that a good tongue is one that speaks Divrei Torah and encourages others to learn and do mitzvos. A bad tongue is one that speaks loshon hora and rechilus (talebearing). The Medrash continues, telling us about a festive meal that Rebbe Yehuda HaNassi made for his students. He served both soft and hard tongues. The students selected the soft tongues and discarded the hard ones. Rebbe said to them, "Just as you prefer the soft tongues, so too others prefer to hear you speak softly and not harshly."
We can all think of examples of beautiful speech. "I love you Imma." "Thank you so much Abba for helping me with my learning." "That is a beautiful dress you are wearing Chani." These words of appreciation make a person's heart sing. Unfortunately, harsh words of criticism or discouragement can hurt a person very badly. Kinderlach, when Imma comes back to the Shabbos table, let us all tell her how delicious the meal is. What a big mitzvah!
"Please, my friend, come. You look like a stranger in town."
The stranger was very happy to be welcomed by such a friendly individual. He indeed was visiting in town and needed a place to eat and stay. Little did he know that his "friend" was really a trickster.
"Come, please let me show you around town and help you get settled. I will arrange a place for you to sleep tonight. But first, I am sure that you are hungry. Please, come with me for a bite to eat."
The trickster proceeded to take the stranger to a fancy restaurant. They entered and were shown to their seats.
"Please order whatever you like," said the trickster. "I will pay for everything." We will work out the bill some other time.
The items listed on the menu all sounded delicious and were very expensive. "This man is very generous," thought the stranger. "It is my good fortune that I met him."
The two men proceeded to order a sumptuous meal, complete from soup to nuts. The food was served in all of its courses, and they enjoyed themselves tremendously. As they finished eating and drinking, the trickster excused himself for a few minutes. He slipped away out the back door of the restaurant. The waiter then came and presented the guest with a huge bill.
"Yes, just a moment. My host will be returning to pay this."
They waited and waited, but the trickster was nowhere to be found. The owner of the restaurant came to help the waiter.
"But, but, my friend was supposed to pay this bill," the man pleaded.
"Your friend is not here, but you are. You ate this food and must pay for it."
The guest, realizing that he had been tricked, sadly took out his wallet and paid the expensive bill for the meal.
This is a parable from the Chofetz Chaim zt"l. What is the message? While the guest was eating, he thought the trickster was his friend. It was only after the meal that he realized that he was only out to harm him. So too with loshon hora. Someone may want to tell you the deepest secrets that he knows about other people. How honored and flattered you feel to be so close to a person who will share secrets with you. However, after 120 years we will see that your closeness to such a person caused you to hear loshon hora. That "friendship" just like the meal at the restaurant, will cause you a great loss. Be smart, kinderlach, and stay away from "friends" like the trickster in the story.
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