While we began the discussion of tzara’as in last week’s parsha, this week’s parsha, Parshas Metzora, is where the main discussion takes place. Tzara’as is a type of lesion, typically translated as leprosy, which comes as a result of speaking lashon hara. It can appear on a person’s skin, clothing, or house.
The medrash tells a story of a peddler who was going through the streets shouting, “Who wants to buy the elixir of life!” Rav Yanai, an amora, asked him for the secret. The peddler replied, “מי האיש החפץ חיים … נצר לשונך מרע ” “Who is the man who desires life...stop your tongue from speaking evil” (Tehillim 34:13-14). Rav Yanai replied that he never understood the simple explanation of the pasuk until the peddler explained it to him. There’s a second gemarah where Rav Alexandri went around asking the public, “Who wants life?” He then said over the same pasuk and added the end of the next pasuk as well, “סור מרע ועשה טוב” “Stay away from evil and do good” (34:15), in order to clarify that simply not speaking lashon hara is not enough to merit long life.
The Kli Yakar asks several questions about these two stories. Among them are why do we need to know specifically that it was a peddler who was spreading the secret of life, and how come the peddler was selling an elixir while Rav Alexandri was giving for free and was not offering an ‘elixir’?
He explains that there was a question if you can fix the effects of speaking lashon hara. According to Rav Alexandri, you cannot; therefore, he was going around as a preventative measure to teach people not to speak lashon hara. He didn’t offer an elixir because he wasn’t curing anything. He couldn’t ask for money because he was only teaching, not curing. The peddler, on the other hand, held that you could fix the aftereffects of speaking lashon hara. He knew this because he himself had used to be someone who spoke lashon hara! (The word for peddler, “רוכל” is the same root as the word for someone who speaks lashon hara.) After he did teshuvah, he used to travel the world helping people with this same problem.
Lashon Hara is a topic that Chazal stress a lot throughout the Oral Torah. One of the reasons Bnei Yisrael merited leaving Mitzrayim was in fact because they did not speak lashon hara! The period before Pesach can be stressful for many people. Let us use this time to work on ourselves and discover this elixir of life!
Reviews for "Reality Check" are pouring in! Submit your own at hashkafahandbook.com and click on the "Testimonials" tab.
For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email is at AIMeMtorah@gmail.com.
Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!