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Siyum of Rambam Hilchot Tuma'at Tzorat.

The boundary of Lashon Hara and the relation to Nega'im

(Note: Nega'im נגעים, "Blemishes", describe the various forms of Tzara’at, a leprosy-like disease)

Lesson: Tzara'as is connected to Lashon HaRa, when it is external. 


1. In the beginning of Parshat Nigei Adam (blemishes - Lev. 13:2) it states:

“If a man has a . . on the skin of his flesh” (אדם כי יהי׳ בעור בשרו גו׳)

The verse uses the term “Adam” which is a lofty term for Yidden (and the highest description of the four descriptions – Adam, Ish, Gever and Enosh (אדם איש גבר אנוש).

The question is known:

How is it, that at the time one is at the level of “Adam” that he should have “a se'eith . .on the skin of his flesh”, Nega’im. For Tuma’at Tzara’at is from the most stringent forms of impurity - as the Sages state that a “Metzora is considered dead”?

The Alter Rebbe explains that this is the very reason (היא הנותנת):

For specifically since it is speaking of a person that is at the level of “Adam” – which is a “great level .. the completion of it all “ – therefore he is stricken with Tzara’at.

The aspect of Nega’im in the “skin of his flesh” shows that the evil that caused the Nega (and therefore - it must be similar to it) is not in (the Pnimiyut of) the person.

(The Alshich explains that concerning evildoers, whose “primary source is Tuma’ah” (עיקרן טומאה), the sin does not make a mark, until it is recognizable in the “skin of his flesh” since “Two items of the same type do not constitute a barrier/ Chatzitzah “(מין במינו אינו חוצץ).

It is just that there is “impurity” (״פסולת״) and evil that remain in his exterior –“at the edges of his garment” (בסוף לבושיו). Therefore, because of this, the Nega (only) afflicts the “skin of his flesh” .

With this, the Alter Rebbe also explains why the

“Mitzvah of Nega’im is not accustomed in our time, after the destruction of the Temple, because it is not found at all etc. but they are acts of miracles” (as he cites from Rambam) –

For those that do not have evil in their Pnimiyut “are not found among us”, for “even a Tzaddik and good person still has some evil in his Pnimiyut”.

Therefore the evil does not cause Nega’im.

2. One must understand:

The Sages state that the aspect of Nega’im come as a punishment for the sin of Lashon Hara, which is an exceedingly severe sin, so much so that it is equal to all the three sins which “one must die and not transgress” (יהרג ואל יעבור) and it is if he “denied G-d” (כופר בעיקר)( as Rambam elaborates in Hilchot De’ot). Therefore how can one say that he is a complete man, that his description is “Adam”, and that he is only lacking in the refinement of the externality of evil?

The puzzlement in this is even greater:

The severity of “one who speaks Lashon Hara” is cited in Rambam (also) in the same Halacha which the Alter Rebbe cites as a proof that Nega’im are a miraculous act that is not found in this time, and he elaborates there how, from the speech of Lashon Hara one can come (G-d forbid) to denying G-d.

Yet here, the Alter Rebbe states that it is speaking of a complete man?

3. One can understand this by prefacing an explanation in the continuation of the words of Rambam in the aforementioned Halacha:

After Rambam explains that Nega’im come because of the sin of Lashon Hara (and cites the source for this learning from the episode of Miriam) – he continues with an aspect which seemingly has no relation to Lashon Hara (and certainly not to Hilchot tuma’at Tzara’at).

Rambam states:

“Certainly (from the episode of Miriam), an inference can be made with regard to the wicked and foolish men who speak extensively about great and wondrous matters. . . This is the path followed by the gathering of wicked fools: In the beginning, they speak excessively about empty matters . . As a result of this, they come to speak negatively of the righteous, As a consequence, they will become accustomed to speaking against the prophets and casting aspersions on their words. . And this would lead them to deny G-d's existence entirely . . This is the speech of the wicked that is caused by loitering on the street corners, frequenting the assemblies of commoners, and spending time at the parties of drunkards. In contrast, the speech of proper Jewish people only concerns words of Torah and wisdom. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, assists them and grants them merit because of it”.

One must understand:

1. It is speaking here of the prohibition of speaking Lashon Hara, which causes tuma’at Tzara’at. Therefore, what relevance, is there to insert here (and with much elaboration) regarding the speech of the evildoers, in general, and those that begin with speaking of “empty matters” (not Lashon Hara) and end with denying G-d, G-d forbid?

(even if one were to say that since Lashon Hara is a part of “speech of the evildoers”, therefore since it is discussing Lashon Hara and the severity of it, that Rambam must (due to the severity of the matter) explain here, regarding the denigration of the speech of the evildoers, in general – nevertheless this has no place in the laws of tuma’at Tzara’at (which is the punishment, just for the sin of Lashon Hara)

The elaboration belongs specifically only in Hilchot De’ot which discusses the particulars of the laws concerning how one can protect oneself from prohibited speech).

2. If Rambam wants to emphasize the severity of the prohibition of Lashon Hara, he should have used the severe language that he writes concerning one who speaks Lashon Hara in Hilchot De’ot?


In Hilchot De’ot, Rambam cites the statement of the Sages that “anyone who speaks Lashon Hara is as if he denies G-d”. Namely, that the sin of Lashon Hara is so severe, of its own accord, that “it is as if he denies G-d”.

However, here he states that through speaking Lashon Hara, denying G-d comes about later – (as he states) “and as a result of this etc. and as a result of this leads them to deny G-d's existence entirely” (but not that that the sin of Lashon Hara is so severe, of its own accord, that “it is as if he denies G-d”).

4. One could say the explanation of this is:

With the lengthy wording regarding the speech of the evildoers, Rambam is coming to explain this boundary of “Lashon Hara” which allows us to understand why the outcome of Lashon Hara is Tzara’at.

In Lashon Hara there are two aspects:

1. The speaking of Lashon Hara (which comes from the bad Middot of the speaker in that he is jealous or hateful , and so forth) causes damage etc. to the person he is speaking about. This means that the main detriment is that which the Lashon Hara brings (out his bad Middot) and harms the other person.

And Rambam writes concerning this aspect of Lashon Hara, in Hilchot De’ot, as we see there in the subject of the entire chapter that he entirely discusses speech and unfavorable conduct between man and his fellow.

2. Lashon Hara – from the perspective of the speech itself:

For one who speaks Lashon Hara, even without intent etc. - the speech itself drags him into evil.

For even though the power of speech is seemingly, only an external power (a mere garment, and an external garment of the soul), nevertheless it is connected with the essence of the person (so much so that the description of a man is “medaber” (speaker).

And because of this reason, when one speaks Lashon Hara, the unfavorable speech drags (of its own accord) the person even more so into evil.

5. This is also why Rambam brings out, through his elaboration, in the end of Hilchot tuma’at Tzara’at concerning the “speech of the evildoers”.

He begins by stating that one must protect oneself from the conduct of the

·         “The wicked and foolish men who speak extensively about great and wondrous matters”

(In which there is not yet any unfavorable subject matter)

·         and then explains the “path followed by the gathering of wicked fools” that “In the beginning, they speak excessively about empty matters

(where, in this speech, there is not a bad Middah, and so forth).

·         Yet these very words drag the speaker so much so that he descends to the epitome of evil (as Rambam continues).

And this is also the boundary of Lashon Hara – the “speech of the evildoers”. The speech is in a manner that of how evildoers speak. The emphasis is on that which - one is not careful, and he defiles (פוגם) etc. with his speech.

And as Rambam emphasizes immediately in the beginning of the topic – when he speaks of how Nega’im come to warn one from Lashon Hara – that when “his skin changes and it becomes leprous” the person remains “isolated and for it to be made known that he must remain alone so that he will not be involved in the talk of the wicked which is folly and Lashon Hara”.

For seemingly, who is speaking of (מאן דכר שמייה) “talk of the wicked” and “folly”?

But with this Rambam wishes to explain , that Lashon Hara ( which causes Nega’im) is a part, and comes about through “speech of the evildoers” in general ( a deficit in the (external) speech of the person), because the aspect of Nega’im is ( as aforementioned) that “the skin of his flesh” – the externality of the person – is not as it should be (כדבעי).

7. According to this, it is sweet (יומתק), why Rambam elaborates how this aspect (namely, that Nega’im come about through Lashon Hara) is learned from the episode of Miriam, as he states:

“On this aspect the Torah is warning . .contemplate what happened to the Miriam etc.”

The punishment of Nega’im for Lashon Hara is (not due to the aforementioned (first) aspect in Lashon Hara – namely that his bad Middot harm the other person, but only) front the perspective of the speech itself:

For regarding Miriam, it was the opposite:

“She raised him on her knees and she endangered herself to save him from the sea”. Her speech was completely devoid of intent to slight him. Moreover (Rambam states that) “She did not speak pejoratively of him; she merely erred etc.” and even from Moshe’s side – “he did not object to any of this” –

Thus in her speech, there was not any evil or harm etc. (not from Miriam’s side and not from Moshe’s side). It was a completely external aspect. Yet nevertheless, “she was immediately punished with Tzara’at”.

7. According to what was discussed above, one can also understand why Rambam cites (in the beginning of the aforementioned Halacha) the order of how Nega’im come to ”warn us regarding Lashon Hara”.

Rambam writes:

“The walls of his house change color” (Nega’im of houses), afterward if “however, he persists in his wickedness . . the leather implements in his house upon which he sits and lies change color . . If persists in his wickedness .the clothes he wears change color”. Only then “If he persists in his wickedness . .his skin undergoes changes and he develops Tzara’at.”

This fits with the aforementioned topic of Lashon Hara and its order:

When one begins to speak Lashon Hara, the speech is a completely external aspect, which “does not affect him (רירט אים ניט אן)”. Therefore (only) the house is afflicted which is completely separate from him.

However, the more he persists in speaking, the speech itself drags him more down. The evil becomes more internalized, and therefore the Nega’im afflict those things that are closer to him - the implements that he uses, his clothes .. until . .it afflicts his skin.

(When however, the evil becomes really internalized (גייט אדיין בפנימיות ממש) – then the entire aspect of Nega’im is missing, as aforementioned Par. 1)

According to the aforementioned, the aforementioned explanation of the Alter Rebbe, that Nega’im come specifically to a complete person who has rectified all the things except for the “edges of his garments”– is understood.

And this is not a contradiction to the words of Rambam, but on the contrary, both explanations stem from the same root.

For the carefulness of Lashon Hara which is cited in Rambam, is the carefulness in the speech, of its own accord, which is an external thing.

8. According to all the aforementioned, one can also understand why the enactment (the purification) for Nega’im is specifically through a Kohen.

For seemingly it is not understood:

Since it speaks, as aforementioned, of a complete person - who has the power to refine all of his internal aspects and has actually done so – how then is it possible that he cannot, of his own accord, refine the external aspects of evil in him?

And the explanation in this is:

The reason that a complete person can stumble in speaking Lashon Hara, even though he has already refined all the internal aspects within himself – is because there can be a hidden evil (רע הנעלם) (the depths of evil - עומק הרע) which is deeply rooted in the person, and it does not visibly reveal itself in him.

And this hidden evil manifests itself in one’s speech,

(As aforementioned - that speech is commented with the essence of the person),

 and in such a type of speech that is , seemingly , merely an external thing (ענין חיצוני בעלמא), without any actual matter of evil.

(For is not applicable to a complete person, who has refined his internal evil, to speak the types of speech that have an evil context.)

Therefore the rectification of Lashon Hara is through fixing the hidden evil in his soul.

Therefore, this is through a Kohen, who is “supernal kindness” (חסד עילאה), and therefore he has the power to purify the hidden evil.

Therefore one must have the speech of the Kohen – he must say “you are Tahor” (טהור אתה) – for through his speech, he draws down an extremely lofty light (אור עליון ביותר), so much so that it rectifies the hidden evil, so much so that the Metzora becomes completely pure.

mSichas Shabbat Parshat Tazria 5741

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