In this week’s double Torah portion of Tazria and Metzora, the laws regarding Lashon Hara and its severe consequences are taught. One might ask why are the consequences so severe?
The Torah relates in Parshat Bereishit, where it talks about the creation of man, that “God blew into his nostrils the soul of life; and man became a living being." Onkelos translates the words "a living being" as a "speaking spirit". Accordingly, it is this G-dly soul which gives man the ability to speak. Thus it is understood why telling Lashon Hara is punished so harshly, to speak Lashon Hara is to take the greatest gift and reduce it to something so low.
Additionally, there is a story in the Gemara where Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel once sent his student to go and buy “good food”. He brought back a cow’s tongue. Afterwards, Rabbi Gamliel asked him to go out and buy “bad food”. He then came back with cow’s tongue again. Rabbi Gamliel asked his student how tongue could be both good and bad. He responded that a tongue can be both extremely good and extremely bad depending on how one speaks.
In Mishlei it says, “death and life are in the hands of the tongue." A sword can only kill someone nearby, whereas words spoken on one continent can "hit the heart" of someone on another continent. The tongue is also the most agile part of the body, which mirrors Lashon Hara’s frequency.
From these parshiyot we learn the power of our words and how we must make sure to always be kind. Being hurtful with your words can have extreme consequences to both you and the person spoken about.
Ninth Grade Student