The main bulk of the parsha discusses the issue of tzaras, a spiritual malady with leprosy-like symptoms. One of the main causes of the illness was on account of someone’s improper speech especially in the realm of evil slander known as lashon harah. Rabbeinu Bechaya enumerates ten types of tzaras that one can be inflicted with, 6 on one’s body and 4 on one’s property baesd on ten sections of the parsha. He then states that there are ten types of tzaras corresponding to the Ten Commandments. This is very odd? What does this mean?
Firstly, we must clarify that Rabbeinu Bechaya’s words here are based upon an explicit Midrash (Midrash Tadsheh 15). The Midrash adds words of explanation. “Ten topics of tzaras are discussed in the verses corresponding to the Ten Commandments. This is to teach that if the Jews keep the commandments then they will be saved from them but if not, they will be inflicted.” This is our starting point.
The Talmud enumerates the causes of tzaras. Exploring this will shed light upon the above quoted statement as we will learn that lashon harah was not the only sin punished with this spiritual malady. The Talmud (Erachim 16a) states that tzaras comes for seven reason: evil slander, murder, false swearing, adultery, haughtiness, stealing and negativity perspective. When one examines this list it becomes clear that it indeed includes many of the Ten Commandments. Thus, on a simple level, this is why when one transgressed one the Ten Commandments he was punished with tzaras.
Lashon harah, evil slander, distances people in a most powerful way. It undermines society and can destroy relationships and lives. The Torah wants us to understand the power that our mouths have in building or destroying others. Just as one would be horrified to think about transgressing any of the Ten Commandments, the Torah puts Lashon Harah in that same category. In fact, the Yerushalmi (Peah) states that just as learning Torah is the most significant positive commandment, “Talmud Torah kneged kulam,” so too, in the realm of sins, lashon harah is the most evil. It is now understood why the Torah dedicates so much time to discuss the sin of lashon harah and the punishment of tzaras. We must take great care about how we speak of others and how we treat them. Indeed, parshas Tazaria and Metzorah are the middle two parshios of the entire Torah. There are 54 parshios and number 27 and 28 are Tazria and Metzorah. The entire Torah revolves around the lesson of tzaras and how we treat others.