Devotion 23

The Sin of Gossip and Slander

Leviticus 13 focuses on a skin condition called tzara’at, which is roughly translated to white scale disease.  Sadly this condition has been misinterpreted as leprosy.  As we are told in the commentaries to Torah, tzara’at is a disease which derives from unrepented sin, the most common being the sins of gossip and slander.  Well, if that’s the case, why do not we see white scale disease today, since the occurrence of these sins is increasing exponentially.  All you need do is read many of the posts on Face Book to know what I mean.

As we are told in Talmud, the ancient Israelites were given three warnings to acknowledge and repent for their sins of gossip and slander.  The first warning came to their outer layer, the house.  As we have read in Leviticus, there was a procedure for removing the tzara’at from the house, including repenting from the sin which precipitated the disease outbreak.  If that warning was not heeded, the second occurred much closer to the individual, their clothing.  Again, a procedure was in place for repentance of the precipitating sin.  Finally, if no repentance was evident, the third and final warning occurred on the individual’s body, a certain portion or total covering.  With this warning came temporary ostracizing from the community, until repentance was observed.  So what does this mean to us today?

We don’t see a physical manifestation of any consequence for or of the spreading of gossip or slander; if we did, you can be sure Face Book and other social media would have far fewer posts.  However, there are consequences.  These are more spiritual and emotional, than they are physical.  For example, in James 1:26 we read – ‘Anyone who thinks he is religiously observant but does not control his tongue is deceiving himself, and his observance counts for nothing’.  The Apostle Paul, Rav Sha’ul, shares with us, in Romans 1:29,30 – ‘They are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and vice; stuffed with jealousy, murder, quarrelling, dishonesty and ill-will; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God; they are insolent, arrogant and boastful’.  These passages speak to us of those who deliberately spread gossip and deliberately slander others but what of those who only repeat others’ gossip and slander?  Are they tarred with the same brush?  Torah, specifically Exodus 23:1, warns us: ‘You are not to repeat false rumors; do not join hands with the wicked by offering perjured testimony’.  Thus, anyone who shares others’ lies, slanders and gossip is as guilty as those who initiate.  So how are Believers to address those who engage in spreading gossip (remember, gossip is sharing judgment against others, even if it is true) and slander?  Once again, Scripture guides our path: Proverbs 26:20 shares with us – ‘If there’s no wood, the fire goes out; if nobody gossips, contention stop’; then we find in Philippians 4:8 this suggestion from Rav Sha’ul – brothers, ‘focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy’.  I urge all of us reading this Drash to stand up against those who would spread gossip and slander and provide them with a rebuke, in love, and pray for them.  May Yahweh bless you richly.