"What's the latest gossip?" Some people always seem interested in the other guy's bad news. But gossip can really hurt. The Torah portion this week teaches us about how it's not right to gossip and the damage it can cause. In the time when the Torah was written, if a person would gossip he would get a skin disease called tzaraat. As a cure, he would have to go into quarantine -- to be all by himself until he thought about how he had hurt someone with his words, and realized that it wasn't right. Only then would he get better. God gave us the power of speech as a precious gift that He wants us to use to help people feel better and not to put them down.
In our story a girl teaches her friend the power of words.
"PASSING THE TEST"
"Okay Joan, spill the beans," said Kathy with a grin.
"What do you mean?" asked her friend.
"You're the teacher's helper this month. That means you helped her grade all the tests, right?"
"Yeah, so what?" Joan replied.
"So you know the grades everybody got. Who passed, and who flunked. So c'mon, let's hear all the gossip."
Joan stepped back. "Wait a minute Kathy," she said. "I'm not supposed to tell, and even if I could, what difference does it make to you and me what grades other people got?"
"I'm sooo curious!" answered her friend. "I want to know if Cindy, that know-it-all really aced the test, and if that new kid is really as dumb as she looks, and..."
"Kathy," Joan cut in. "It's not nice to talk about people like that."
Kathy stood up and declared, "But everything I'm saying is true."
"Listen Kathy," said Joan. "It doesn't matter if it's true or not. The Torah says it's not right to gossip. Would you like it if I went around and told everybody your grade? Or if people were calling you names behind your back?"
Kathy looked down at her feet. "No," she said, "I guess you're right. But if we don't gossip we won't have anything left to talk about."
Joan laughed, and said. "Don't worry Kathy. Friends as good as us will always find something to talk about -- and gossip free."
Q. How did Kathy feel when Joan wouldn't tell her the "news?"
A. She was upset because she was really curious to know. But after Joan explained why, then Kathy understood that it wasn't right to gossip even if you're curious.
Q. How would you feel if somebody was gossiping about you, or calling you names behind your back?
A. I'd feel sad because people's words can really hurt.
Q. Why do people like to gossip?
Q. Why being put in quarantine was a good way to cure someone of tzaraat, the gossip disease?
A. When a person is by himself he can think about why he shouldn't speak that way. Also he can feel how important it is to be with other people and why we shouldn't isolate ourselves from others by speaking badly about them.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. There is an expression, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Based on our story and discussion would you agree or disagree with this? Why?
A. It's not true. Words can hurt a lot. Even though it's not physical pain, the emotional pain can sometimes be even worse.
Q. Do you think there's anything wrong with saying bad things about people if you know it's true? Why?
A. Just because something is true, we don't have to gossip about it. Besides, it's possible that we really didn't get our facts straight, and it's not really true. The world will become a better place if we use our power of speech to build others up and not to put them down.