With perfect timing, the week before elections in Israel, this week’s Portion deals with our culture of speech. The Tazri’a Portion portrays a reality in which the skin disease Tzara’at appears on the skin of a person who speaks “evil tongue”. Our Sages explain that Tzara’at is supposed to remind us that words create reality. Words do not just fly in the air and disappear; they leave a real, tangible impression on the world, just like Tzara’at does. One who gossips, smears others, lies and causes friction between people – cannot erase one’s words; such a person will receive a tangible reminder of them on one’s skin.
This mechanism does not exist in practicality today, but our Sages call upon us to notice: Not a single word that we blow out to the air is meaningless. It affects everyone who hears it, and it has eternal validity and meaning which lingers long after election day. The faculty of speech is what differentiates man from beast, and it expresses our inner world, our mind. And as Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook wrote: One who thinks little of the words that come out of one’s mouth, thinks little of one’s image of G-d within themselves.