In Praise of Privacy
Parashat Metzora

Dena Weiss

Although the Torah itself never specifies the reason why a person or their property would be afflicted by tzara’at, the Rabbis supply a number of theories, seven in Massekhet Arakhin alone!  The dominant rationale in Rabbinic sources and that which has proven to be most compelling is that tzara’at comes on account of forbidden, evil, or libelous speech—lashon hara.  In fact, VaYikra Rabbah suggests that the word for one who has been afflicted with tzara’at, a metzora, can also be read as a contraction of  the term for libel—motzi shem ra.  Even beyond this creative etymology, there is a deep connection between the laws of tzara’at and negative speech.  Surprisingly, one of the clearest ways to understand this relationship is through the laws of privacy.  Privacy is about respecting the right of another person to control what is or is not seen, heard, or known about them.  Lashon hara is designed to do just the opposite.  

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In Praise of Privacy
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