Ayin Tovah and Lashon Hara: Two Opposites

Zos tihyeh toras hametzora (TazriaMetzora 14:2)

The Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 60:2) quotes the Sefer Hakavanos, the teachings of the Arizal recorded by his closest disciple, Harav Chaim Vital, zt”l, who writes that four of the mitzvos that involve remembering an event or idea are alluded to in the brachah of Ahavah Rabbah, which we say each morning just before reciting Shema. The phrase “u’vanu bacharta” — You chose us — refers to remembering the giving of the Torah. The word “v’keravtanu” —You drew us near — corresponds to the mitzvah (Devarim 4:9-10) to remember Maamad Har Sinai. The expression “l’Shimcha Hagadol” —to Your great Name — hints to the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us (Devarim 25:17-19), as Rashi writes (Shemos 17:16) that Hashem’s Name will not be complete until Amalek is eradicated.

The words “l’hodos lecha” — to give thanks to You — allude to the mitzvah (Devarim 24:9) to remember Miriam’s sin of speaking lashon hara about Moshe Rabbeinu, as our mouths were created to praise and speak positively, not to denigrate others, which is one of the primary causes of tzaraas (Arachin 16a).

However, Harav Elimelech Reznik of Yeshivas Mir in Yerushalayim points out that this connection is difficult to understand, as there are many mitzvos a person can perform with his mouth, such as davening, reciting brachos and eating matzah on Pesach, and there are also countless sins that can be done with the mouth. Why were giving thanks and speaking lashon hara specifically chosen as the diametric opposites of the mouth’s capacities?

Rav Reznik explains that in order for a person to express gratitude, he must possess an ayin tovah, while a person who speaks lashon hara focuses only on the negative. The most prominent example of lashon hara in the Torah is the episode of the meraglim. Harav Chatzkel Levenstein, zt”l, explains that the primary sin of the spies was their character trait of nirganus, a term that refers to the trait of constantly being full of complaints and never having anything positive to say. As a result, the meraglim interpreted everything they saw on their journey to Eretz Yisrael through negative lenses and returned with a report distorted by their biases. As we say the brachah of Ahavah Rabbah each morning, we should use it as an opportunity to commit ourselves to being more positive, to seeking out the good in every life situation, and to utilizing it to thank and praise Hashem and those around us.

Q: May a Kohen who is a metzorah assist in purifying another metzorah?

A: The Toras Kohanim and Rambam rule that although a Kohen who is spiritually impure due to a different type of impurity may participate in the purification process of another metzora, a Kohen who is himself a metzora may not do so. Although a Kohen who is a metzora is not supposed to be involved in the process, if he transgressed and participated, the Minchas Chinuch maintains that his actions are completely invalid, while the Afikei Yam argues that post-facto they do take effect. The Minchas Chinuch is unsure whether this restriction is limited to purifying afflictions on people’s bodies, or whether it also applies to afflictions on homes and garments.

Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt”l, questions whether such a Kohen is only excluded from the purification process, or whether he is also ineligible to rule on afflictions and render them impure, but he does not give a definitive opinion.

Q: Rashi writes (14:35) that even if a Torah scholar knows with certainty that an affliction in his house is a case of tzaraas, in relating this information to the Kohen he may not say that a nega — an affliction, has appeared in the house, but rather k’nega — something like an affliction has appeared in the house. If he knows for sure that the affliction is a case of tzaraas, why must he speak in this imprecise manner?

A: The Tosfos Yom Tov offers a number of explanations. It would be disrespectful to tell the Kohen how to rule on the affliction before he has had the opportunity to examine it. Additionally, telling him that it is certainly an affliction may predispose him to rule accordingly. It is also dishonest to refer to the affliction as a nega, since until the Kohen rules on it, it is still considered pure.

Finally, Chazal teach (Brachos 19a) that one should not speak in a manner that invites suffering. Since the affliction could be healed before the Kohen’s examination, one should not refer to it as a nega. The Tosfos Yom Tov adds that according to all of the explanations, this law should apply to all three types of tzaraas (house, clothing and body), although he notes that the Rambam writes (Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 14:4) that it only applies to a house.

Rav Shteinman suggests a practical difference between the different explanations. The Mishnah in Nega’im (3:1) teaches that if an uneducated Kohen doesn’t know how to evaluate and rule upon an affliction, a scholarly non-Kohen may examine it and tell the Kohen how to rule. According to several of the reasons given for this rule, in this case it would be permissible for the owner to tell the Kohen that he has a nega.

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.