(Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)
friendly conversation


Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

If you cannot bring yourself to compliment others and make them feel good about themselves, instead of focusing on the negative, this is a grave sin.

This week’s Torah portion is Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33), and in it we read about the spiritual leprosy, known as tzara’at, that would befall people in Biblical times if they spoke Lashon Hara – evil speech, such as gossip and slander.

As part of the purification process (once the tzara’at is healed), the individual would have to make an offering in the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. As the verse says: “The priest shall take for the person being purified two live, pure, birds…” [Lev 14:4]. The Zohar (mystical source) teaches that one bird atones for the sin of evil speech, while the other atones for…good speech!

A Punishment for Good Speech?

It is explained that there are two possible reasons why a person would be afflicted with tzara’at. One reason is for actually speaking evil, and the other is for not properly using the gift of speech in general or, in other words, not speaking positively.

Correct your perceptions

Try to perceive others in a positive light. (Shutterstock)

Not properly using speech means not using your ability to say good things when you had the opportunity to do so. Just as evil speech can destroy friendships, positive speech, such as words of encouragement and compliments can build friendships. Sometimes all it takes is a cheery “good morning!” to make someone feel happy and make their day. It goes without saying that we should be kind and courteous, always saying “please” and “thank you” when appropriate. Withholding such niceties and gestures (“good speech”) can sometimes be just as destructive as evil speech. That’s why there was a second bird…to atone for all the good speech that the individual could have said, but didn’t.

We learn here that speaking evil and failing to speak good are essentially the same sin! Two sides of the same coin! When people speak lashon hara, they have negative perceptions. As such, lashon hara is not so much a sin of the mouth – that comes later. It is initially a sin of the eyes, a sin of perception. Your can look at a neighbor and see a pleasant guy with talents, or you can see his flaws. As the verse says, “the foolish person points out the evil, but the straight person sees the positive” [Proverbs 14:9].

So, too, when we see someone do something positive, we should say something to make them feel good! And if you don’t, well…. it’s sin offering time for you, buddy! This is a sign that you don’t see what there is to appreciate in others. Speech equals perception! Fix your perception of other people. Don’t sin with the gift of speech!

For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.






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