If we appreciated the potential consequences of offering a kind word of encouragement to others, we would never miss the opportunity to perform this incredibly powerful good deed.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33), in which we read about a unique skin disease, known as “tzaraat,” that befell people who committed certain sins. A person stricken with tzara’at was called a “metzora” – hence the name of this week’s Torah portion.
The most prominent transgression that caused a person to become a metzora was the sin of forbidden speech. Forbidden speech, known as “lashon hara” in Hebrew, refers to slander, gossip, tale-bearing, and other types of malicious talk that one should never say.
One who required atonement in Temple times for having spoken lashon hara was required to bring two birds as a sacrifice.
Why two birds?
One of the reasons given is that one bird was to atone for the sin of forbidden speech while one bird was “to atone for the sin of good speech.”
Huh? A bird sacrifice was needed to atone for “the sin of good speech?” A sin? What’s wrong with good speech? What’s going on over here?
It is explained that “the sin of good speech” refers to nice things you could have said to someone, but didn’t. You could have said “good morning,” “hello,” “how are you,” “can I help you?” but you didn’t. This is the “sin” of good speech: missing the opportunity to say something nice to someone. Missing the opportunity to help someone feel good and to have a better day.
We are told that one of the things that got Joseph out of jail back in Egypt was that he always had a nice thing to say to others. He was always offering a helping hand and an encouraging word. Because of this, he was always remembered favorably by all, which caused him to be summoned to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and ultimately led him to be freed.
This is probably the most important message from this week’s Torah portion. Never miss an opportunity to say a nice thing to another person. Remember Joseph. You never know what saying a nice word to someone else might lead to.
For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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