The gemorrah in mesechta Eiruchin lists seven causes for getting tzora’as. On the top of the list is loshon hora – evil talk.
Certainly if one were to choose the one aveiroh that is the most common of them all and the easiest to violate, it would probably be loshon hora. Most people find it extremely difficult to be careful not to talk any loshon hora orrechilus. In fact, modern technology such as the telephone has probably increased its use one hundred-fold.
Can you imagine what would happen if there were such a thing as Tzara’as nowadays? I think many cities and towns would be empty.
The Torah, in fact, tells us that even the great tzidkonis Miriam HaNeviah, fell prey to this most common sin. The Torah tells us this fact in order to teach us how careful we all must be. No one, no matter how holy and smart, is immune.
One must think again and again before making a statement about someone else. If in doubt as to its permissibility, just stop and think – would you want someone else to say that same thing about you?
In fact, the gemorrah says that one must even be careful before saying something good about others. An enemy may be standing around and it may soon lead to some evil talk.
When a metzora purifies himself, he brings two birds – one he schechts and the other he sets free. The birds are taken as a symbol of their constant chirping. It is our constant chatter that usually get us into trouble.
Yet this presents a most difficult problem. What’s the purpose of taking two birds if one of them is going to be set free again? Why not just take only one bird?
Perhaps this teaches us that in order to violate this aveiroh one always needs a partner. A person all by himself can’t cause any damage. So when you encounter someone with a bad mouth, you’d better fly away as quickly as possible, otherwise the same fate that happens to the first bird will befall you as well. “l was only listening” is no excuse. The listener is just as guilty as the one who spoke the loshon hora. Because if you don’t give him an attentive ear then he’ll have no one with whom to talk. This makes the listener an accomplice to the crime.
One should think of loshon hora as a deadly poison. Even just a bit of it can kill you, not only in this world, but in the world-to-come as well.
Only if we are on the alert at every moment and realize the great damage it causes can we hope to stay free from it. Only if we’re as quick to run away as a bird suddenly set free can we hope not to be entrapped in its net.
Yet remaining silent will not always stop us from transgressing this most serious aveiroh. Unfortunately we easily fall into the trap of listening to Loshon Horah. We easily believe things about other people that we shouldn’t believe. We have an insatiable love of gossip. We seem unable to fill our curiosity. We always want to know everything that’s happening. It’s this attitude that’s most responsible for the vast amount of loshon hora that reaches our ears.
The only preventive medicine for this horrendous sin is to continuously learn the Halachos of loshon hora. Only by learning the sefer of Chofetz Chaim (or a similar one) will we be able to break this terrible habit. We must learn about the enormity of the sin and must know every detail of every halacha. Just trying not to speak loshon hora without knowing the details of the halachos involved is just not enough. Knowing the halachos and the enormity of the sin must become our first priority.