Metzora is the Biblical name associated with a variety of skin aberrations or growths in the walls of homes that seemed to quickly spread. This week’s parasha deals with these conditions and offers rituals to help get rid of them. (Lev. 14-15) The ancient rabbis drew a lesson from the focus on metzora beyond the plain meaning. They noted that, if we dissect the word metzora, it comes out as motzi ra, “one who brings out the bad.” Linking Metzora to a story about Miriam, who contracted a skin ailment after speaking ill of her brother’s choice of a Cushite (black) woman for his wife(Ex. 12), they thought of metzora as punishment for “ lashon hara,” gossip. (Literally, “evil tongue.”) In his commentary on Metzora in the book Text Messages, Rabbi Norman M. Cohen sees evil speech on social media as the metzora of our day. (p. 131) It is a disease that grows in the dark space of the internet, where one can easily defame a person without confronting him/her personally and even spread “lashon hara” in anonymity. If we do not work curb this phenomenon by condemning it when we see it, we are contributing to its infectious growth in our society.
Rabbi D. Feingold