The Seriousness of Gossip and its Purification
The Sages affirm that whoever speaks ill of others is struck with leprosy (Arachin 16a), and that the word metzora suggests, phonetically, the words motzi ra (“bringing forth evil” – Arachin 15a; Vayikra Rabba 15a).
What does this consist of? When a man speaks ill of others, he resembles someone who sows seeds in the earth. After a certain time, the earth brings forth several dozen times more than what was sowed in it. The same goes for the person who speaks ill of others when recounting his stories, as well as for the one who thinks about what he has heard. And when the latter, on his part, begins to recount what he has heard, he adds a little to it. This is the reason why the Sages have said that gossip kills three people: The one who utters it, the one who hears it, and the one who is being spoken of (Arachin 15b). Each person who hears it amplifies the story when recounting it, until we arrive at “the tongue that speaks boastfully” (Psalms 12:4).
This is perhaps the connection between Parsha Tazria and Parsha Metzora. We know that women have a propensity for verbal expression, as the Sages mention several times. For example, they have said, “ten measures of speech came down into the world, and women took nine of them” (Berachot 48b). Consequently, in the same way that a woman conceives (“sows”) and later gives birth, the one who speaks ill of others first tazria (“sows”) and then brings great sins into the world, for as we just stated, lies eventually add themselves to malicious words. The one who does this deserves so great a punishment that he is struck with wounds and leprosy (metzora). One can therefore perfectly understand the connection between Parsha Tazria and Parsha Metzora.
And if we are correct, we may note that it is written, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and tell them…” (Leviticus 21:1). The words “speak” and “tell” are translations of the same basic Hebrew word, which give rise to the observation that this was stated in order to put the great on guard concerning the lesser (Yebamot 114a). This signifies that great men and Tzaddikim should put their generation on guard against the temptation to speak ill of others. Even when one recounts minor things – unimportant stories – that from the outside do not give the impression of being mean spirited, they should be avoided at all costs. Even if a matter consists of words that have the taint of gossip (technically called the “dust of evil speech”), it too is to be avoided at all costs, for the Gemara affirms that everyone falls into this trap (Bava Batra 165a). This “dust” risks developing into “the tongue that speaks boastfully,” for the act of sowing implies birth and development.
What should someone do, therefore, who sincerely seeks to rectify this sin, like the leper on the day that he purifies himself? It is written, “Zot [This] shall be the torah [law] of the leper on the day of his purification” (Leviticus 14:2), meaning that he will be purified by means of zot (the Torah, which is called zot – Menachot 53b), and by the Shechinah (which is also called zot – Zohar III:56b, 62a). If he dedicates himself to the Torah, comes closer to G-d, and believes in Him, he will then be purified of all his wounds and leprosy both in this world and the world to come.