Parshat Tazria-Metzora

Parashat Tazria-Metzora, discusses the symptoms and restrictions of a Metzora, leper, and how this person can rid himself of the affliction and become pure. The details of the process of his purification are fascinating. The Torah explains that first, the Metzora must take “shtei tziporim chayot tehorot ve’etz erez ve’shtei tolaat ve’ezov,” “Two live pure birds, cedar wood, two scarlet worms, and a hyssop branch.” Each of these objects can be analyzed and expanded upon; however, I would like to focus specifically on the meaning behind the birds.

Rashi explains that the birds that fit the description of chayot and tahorot were those known to be constantly chirping . The Metzora takes these birds after returning from a period of excommunication due to slander. These birds come to symbolize his prior sin.

Rav Hirsch, quoting the Torat Kohanim, states that this specific type of bird is known as a dror. Mesechet Shabbat 106b explains that this bird “cannot be tamed” and “behaves [in] the same [wild manner] in the house as it does in the field.” Rav Hirsch explains that this is especially appropriate for the returning Metzora because, unlike this wild bird, he wishes to tame his bad behavior and be accepted back into society. Part of his purification process involves killing one of the birds. This, according to Rav Hirsch, symbolizes the elimination of his previous ways and desire to “conform to the moral demands of society.”

Why is slander the archetype for wild behavior in the Torah? Nehama Lebovitz points out many pesukim that compare slander to acts of violence. Particularly, there are several examples in Yirmiyahu and in Tehillim that compare it to an arrow. “Chitzei ibor shnunum…” “Sharp arrows of the mighty…” (Tehillim 120:4); “Chetz shachut leshonam…” “Their tongue is a sharpened arrow…” (Yirmiyahu 9:7).

The Midrash Socher Tov answers this question as follows. In battle, when one draws a sword to kill his fellow, there is still time to show mercy and pull back the weapon. However, once an arrow is shot, it cannot be called back no matter what the wishes of the marksman. Once let loose, the damage is unavoidable and uncontrollable.

May we all be successful in guarding our tongues. May we learn from this parasha the seriousness of Lashon Hara and understand the central role that our relationship with others takes in our Judaism.

Girl Studying in Nishmat