Parashiyot Tazria and Metzora introduce us to Tzara’at, which is the consequence of speaking Leshon HaRa. Rav Yosef Schwab writes in his Sefer Nifle’ot HaTorah that there are three types of Tzara’at on a person’s skin which correspond to three kinds of Leshon HaRa. First, there is Se’eit, which is a type of Tzara’at that is a growth above the skin. It corresponds to Motzi Sheim Ra, Leshon HaRa that is an absolute lie. Just like the growth of the skin is not really a part of the person, so too a lie about somebody is not about that person. The second type of Tzara’at is Baheret, which is bright and clear on a person’s skin. This corresponds to pure Leshon HaRa that is absolutely true. Just like this Tzara’at is bright and clear, so too the absolute Leshon HaRa is clear and true. The third and final type of Tzara’at is Sapachat, which is an off-white blemish and corresponds to Rechilut. This type of Leshon HaRa is when a person says a comment that he thinks is innocent, but which causes misunderstanding or turns into a negative interpretation. Although people may rationalize that what they said wasn’t intended for bad, if anything bad can be inferred from it, then it is Leshon HaRa. This Tzara’at is an off-white blemish that can be interpreted to be something that it is not, just like Rechilut can be misinterpreted into something negative.
There is a question that we should all be thinking. Why does Tzara’at occur on the legs and arms but not on the face? Wouldn't it make sense that the mouth that speaks Leshon HaRa should be the mouth that receives Tzara’at?
Rav Schwab answers that if a person were to be given Tzara’at on his face, then he would be too ashamed to do a successful Teshuvah. When someone has Tzara’at on his legs and his hands, he can then hide it and not be ashamed. Thus, his main goal will be to do Teshuvah for saying Leshon HaRa and he will be more focused getting rid of his Tzara’at. However, if a person’s face were to be given Tzara’at, his Teshuvah would be to just get rid of the Tzara’at. Out of the embarrassment caused, the person would not actually focus on the Leshon HaRa he committed.
It is clear that Teshuvah for Leshon HaRa must be sincere. While Tzara’at no longer occurs today, we must realize from this week’s Parashiyot that speaking Leshon HaRa is extremely serious. Let us internalize the lessons from Tazria and Metzora and make sure to avoid the sin of Leshon HaRa, lest we some day when Tzara’at returns suffer the uncomfortable consequences.