Parshat Tazria describes a skin disease called "Tzara'at." The Talmud says this is a spiritual malady that comes when someone speaks Loshon Hara - speaks negatively about others.

In addition to the skin disease, the person afflicted with Tzara'at has to spend one week in isolation - living on the outskirts of the community, and warning others to keep their distance from him.

The commentators explain that this punishment is "measure for measure." The speaker, having "put down" another person in the eyes of others, effectively distanced and separated that person from the community. So now the speaker, by spending a week in isolation, will experience for himself what it's like to be separated from others.

In the book of Genesis, the Torah says "it is not good for man to be alone." Being alone is painful for a human soul that craves connection. So remember - if you want be with other people, you'll have to bear their idiosyncrasies, and always try to see their positive side.

We hear so much today about "Jewish unity." The Talmud says it was Loshon Hara, negative speech, that caused the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. The Temple was a key unifying force for the Jewish people. But when dissention and strife took hold, the foundation of the Temple was "conceptually" destroyed. From there, it was only a formality for the Roman army to burn the Temple's wood and stones.

The world today is at a crucial time in history. Now more than ever, let's try to keep our speech on the up-side.