The Torah states, “Zot Tehiyeh Torat HaMetzora BeYom Taharato VeHuva El HaKohen,” “This shall be the law of the Metzora, on the day of his purification: He shall be brought to the Kohen” (VaYikra 14:2).
My Rebbe, Rav Nisan Alpert zt”l, quotes the Gemara (Arachin 15b) which asks “Amar Reish Lakish: Mai Dichtiv ‘Zot Tehiyeh Torah HaMetzora?’ Zot Tehiyeh Torato Shel Motzi Sheim Ra.” “ Reish Lakish said: What is the meaning of that which is written, “This shall be the law of the Metzora”? It means this shall be the law of the speaker of Motzi Sheim Ra.”
Rav Nisan said the most frequently quoted verse in Tanach regarding this idea is, “Mavet VeChayim BeYad Lashon,” “Death and life are in the hand of the tongue” (Mishlei 18:21). After inquiring why the word BeYad, in the hand, is used in the Pasuk, he concludes, that it is not only words that can damage reputation of your associates, but rather, the same effect can be accomplished through a mere physical gesture, such as waving your hand in contempt. Even though not a single word was spoken, the public humiliation is no less effective. This is why the verse says, “Death and life are in the hand of the tongue.” Sometimes it is the tongue that does the damage, and sometimes it is a well timed gesture of contempt, such as the flick of the hand.
The core message of all these lessons is identical. We must conquer our foolish pride; we cannot imagine that it is our right or responsibility to judge others or speak and act as we deem appropriate.
Rav Alpert asks why the Torah uses the word Adam, which generally denotes a person of greater stature than the word Ish. It seems strange that when discussing a person who speaks evil of others, the Torah would use language that denotes a person of distinction.
He explains that a person’s stature is determined by whether or not he speaks evil of others. Unfortunately, the Gemara states that everyone falls into the trap of at least Avak Lashon Hara, being involved with caliber of Lashon Hara comparable to dust. Therefore, the manner in which the status of an individual is measured is by evaluating how that person deals with the inevitable Lashon Hara. A person of distinction who wants to improve himself must do his utmost to prevent any recurrence of the Lashon Hara. He must demonstrate a desire and an effort to improve. It is now clear why the Torah refers to this person by the noteworthy title of Adam; he realizes his sin of speaking evil of others and works on humbling himself to the point that it will hopefully never happen again.
Rav Yissachar Frand relates that Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt”l in which he would write the verse “Einecha LeNochach Yabitu VeAfapecha Yayshiru Negdecha,” “Let your eyes look straight ahead and your eyelids will straighten your path” (Mishlei 4:25), and would keep it visible for the many people that would come to visit him during Chol HaMoed. His student, Rav David Finkel, asked him why he displayed this Pasuk? He responded that he had once heard the following interpretation of the verse: When your eyes look at someone else, turn them inward. In other words, when you see someone else, don’t focus on their flaws, but rather your own, and you will see you are far from perfect. This helped him keep calm with some of his more infuriating visitors.
This Shabbat, when many Rabbanim will be delivering their Shabbat Hagadol Derashot in order to prepare us for Pesach, we should keep this message of Parashat Metzora in mind. We should take a more positive outlook of the world, and rather than find faults, we should focus on the virtues, and BeEzrat Hashem with this merit, and that of speaking properly, we can make this the Nissan of redemption, as mentioned in the Gemara, “BeNisan NiGalu, BeNisan Atidin LeGaeil” “In Nisan we were redeemed, and in the future, we will be redeemed in Nissan.”