In Parashat Metzora, the Torah devotes much attention to detailing the intricate laws of Tzara’at, specifically the processes for examining and purifying it. However, the actual cause of this strange malady remains conspicuously absent from the Pesukim. The Gemara (Arachin 16b) lists seven sins which can cause Tzara’at. Perhaps the most well-known of these sins is Lashon HaRa, loosely translated as improper speech. While Halachah devotes significant space to the complexities of Lashon HaRa, seldom do we see Halachot about proper speech. Such speech can have powerful effects if used correctly.
Rav Shlomo Carlebach epitomized the use of speech for good. Mendel Strenhull, a frequent companion of Rav Shlomo, relates the following incident. He and Rav Shlomo had gone out to a diner presided over by a sour, repulsive landlady. Yet, when she brought Rav Shlomo his muffin, he sang praises one would expect to go to the winner of a world-wide baking contest. The result was stunning. The landlady’s demeanor changed so dramatically that Mendel could describe her only as “beautiful.” Too often we forget that positive speech can be used to accomplish mounds of good. We spend so much time focusing on the causes of Tzara’at that we forget that each of us contains the power of positive speech, the “anti” Tzara’at. Consider smiling at someone today, or delivering a compliment without prompting, and witness for yourself the power of positive speech. (For a full account of the story related above, see Holy Brother (Halberstam 138-139).