By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi
In this week's parshios we learn about the various types of tzara'as. We are taught that tzara'as can appear on one's body, clothing, or houses. The Gemara [Arachin 16b] teaches that one is punished with tzara'as as a consequence of transgressing certain aveiros, the most well-known example being one who speaks loshon hora (slander).
What begs to be asked is, what happened to tzara'as? Why doesn't one who speaks loshon hora nowadays get tzara'as? The Chofetz Chaim, zt"l, answers based on the Rambam [Hilchos Tumas Tzara'as 16:10] that the affliction of tzara'as is meant to cause the diseased person to repent. The Rambam explains Hashem first sends tzara'as on the walls of a person's house. If he does teshuvah, the tzara'as goes away. If he does not 'get the message,' the tzara'as then inflicts his furniture and clothing, i.e. objects he has more contact with. If he still does not do teshuvah, the tzara'as inflicts his body, and then he must leave his community. He must sit alone, without any communication with the rest of the world, which leaves him with plenty of time to contemplate his actions of speaking slander.
With this understanding, we see that this process is really a gift from Hashem. When a person comes to the realization that what he did was a misdeed, and realizes that everyone knows what he did, he will face tremendous embarrassment and appease the person he harmed. Upon returning home as a changed man he will be indebted to Hashem for the kindness bestowed upon him, and will be motivated never to speak loshon hora again.
The Chofetz Chaim, zt"l explains that this whole process works only in the time of the Bais Hamikdash. If one were to be inflicted with tzara'as nowadays, the blemishes would remain on his body forever, since he can never bring a korban to end his impure metzora state. Therefore, Hashem only inflicts a person's soul. After a person leaves this world, any tzara'as which one did not get rid of through proper teshuvah will be seen by all in the World to Come. Just like a metzorah was required to remain separate in this world from the rest of society, so to in the next world the soul will be required to sit outside of Gan Eden.
We see how relevant tzara'as is even nowadays. May we once again merit as a nation to be on the high spiritual level of meriting physical tzara'as, which as explained, is a gift from Hashem. However, until we reach that state, it is essential to eternalize the idea presented by the Chofetz Chaim, zt"l, of the eternal consequences of loshon hora. For loshon hora that has already been spoken it is important to do proper teshuvah to rectify the past. And for those instances when one is enticed to speak loshon hora may these ideas help serve as a deterrent.