Once again we encounter the מצרע, the person stricken with a supernatural skin disease. The Gemara and Medrash highlight two sins that are the catalyst for this affliction. One is speaking לשון הרע, and the other is צרות עין, miserliness. The commentators write that the word מצרע is an acrostic for the words מוציא רע, one who produces, i.e. speaks bad, i.e. slander. It is noteworthy that the word מצרע forms an acrostic for the words מוציא רע, צר עין, one who slanders, and one who is miserly. Furthermore, in the prayer at the end of Shemone Esrei we recite the words אלהי נצור לשוני מרע, my G-d, guard my tongue from evil. The first letters and the last letters of the words נצור לשוני מרע equal in gematria the word מצרע. Although we do not have tzaraas today, we still must guard our speech. What is the connection between guarding our speech and Shabbos HaGadol? We commemorate the “Great Shabbos” when the Jews tied their sheep to the bedposts and the Egyptians gnashed their teeth in helplessness as the Jews prepared to slaughter their idols. How does this incident apply to us today?
The Medrash states that Moshe was disturbed when Dasan and Aviram reminded him of his killing the Egyptian, and Moshe said, “now I know why the Jews have been in exile so long! It is because of slander.” Let’s examine this complaint of Moshe. When Moshe killed the Egyptian he hid him in the sand, and the Medrash )Shemos Rabbah 1:29) states that “the sand” is a reference to the Jewish People, who are likened to the sand. This means that Moshe hid his secret pretty well and the only ones who were talking about it were Dasan and Aviram. Is that justification to condemn the entire nation? Furthermore, the Medrash (Tanchumah Bamidbar 16) states that one of the merits that the Jewish People had to be redeemed from Egypt was that they did not reveal secrets. Why, then, was Moshe so concerned about Dasan and Aviram’s behavior?
I believe that the answer to this question is that slander is so harmful that even if only one Jew slanders another Jew, the entire nation is culpable. Moshe told HaShem that the Jewish People would not believe him that HaShem had sent him to redeem them. We see that HaShem did not spare Moshe for speaking ill of the Jews, and he was punished with momentary tzaraas. Similarly, when Miriam spoke negatively of her brother Moshe, she was punished with tzaraas and the entire Jewish People had to wait until she became pure again. Even when there is no tzaraas, the detrimental effects of Lashon Hara are obvious to all. One accusation, one derogatory online post, and the entire Jewish People are affected.
The Jews bound the Egyptian idols to the bedposts on Shabbos, a day when one is supposed to minimize his speech. Perhaps for this reason the Egyptians were literally speechless as they watched the Jews prepare to slaughter their idols. Furthermore, the Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states that even if one worshiped idols as in the days of Enosh, if he observes Shabbos properly, he will be granted atonement for his sins. The Jews had also worshiped idols in Egypt, and by preparing the Egyptian idols for slaughter on Shabbos, they gained atonement for their sins.
Have a PURE and GREAT Shabbos!
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