The section of the Torah immediately proceeding the discussion of the spiritual malady of tzaraat, the cause of which was the malevolent sin of slander and gossip, dealt with the complex and intricate laws of kashruth.
The section of the Torah immediately proceeding
the discussion of the spiritual malady of tzaraat, the cause of which
was the malevolent sin of slander and gossip, dealt with the complex and
intricate laws of kashruth. As we know, the Torah is not just a cookbook
of laws and cute stories, but serves a distinct purpose in each verse and
word it uses. So too, each section of the Torah is not haphazardly slapped
together without concern for sequence. On the contrary, juxtaposed sections
in the Torah often assist the attentive reader in understanding particular
nuances and hidden messages within the Torah. If that is the case, then why
are the laws of kashruth placed next to the laws of slander and gossip?
The masters of the mussar (Jewish ethics) movement of the 19th century give a clever answer to this puzzling question: In relating the intricate laws of kashruth, the Torah is directing us as to which food items we are permitted to eat. When discussing the laws regarding one who speaks slander and gossip, the Torah is, in essence, teaching us how careful we should be about the things we say, about what comes out of our mouths. The Torah's message is that just as we are careful of what goes in our mouths, so too must we be cautious regarding what comes out of our mouths.
So many times we think of ourselves as pious and observant individuals because we check food labels for the proper kashruth symbols. But, how often do we catch ourselves so diligently checking what comes out of our mouths. Maybe we should start slapping "CENSORED" labels on anything slanderous that we might say. In Atlanta, we are fortunate to have the Atlanta Kashruth Commission which assists with and regulates the kashruth standards of our city. Perhaps, we should think of starting the Atlanta Speech Commission as well.
Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan, is currently a sophomore at Yeshiva University in New York.
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