The White Knight and Kashrus

One of the counterintuitive ordinances of the “metzora” (“leper”) is that one who is afflicted from head to toe, completely white, is considered pure, while on the day that a small amount of normal flesh is found on his body he becomes impure.   Is it possible for us to find any message in this curious חק (ordinance), why is it that a non-white spot renders him impure?

One of the major causes of the spiritual disease of leprosy, צרעת, is speaking ill of others, “lashon hora”.  We know that it is not always prohibited to speak ill of others, but sometimes it is actually mandated.  For example if you are aware that someone is unwittingly about to enter a business partnership with a swindler  and it is clear that it is to his disadvantage, you are mandated to share the minimum amount of information necessary to warn him away from this ill-fated partnership.  The same important rule applies in the area of “shidduchim”, prospective marriages.  If you know material facts which were halachikly mandated to be shared  and they were unethically withheld by the prospective marriage partner your are obligated to share the minimum amount of information necessary.  It is necessary to retain proper guidance if an actual case arises as issues of client/patient confidentiality may arise.

If someone is completely “white” he is pure, but as soon as a bit of “normal” skin becomes visible he is declared a leper, מצורע.  Perhaps the Torah is teaching that the “White Knight” who rises up for the “sake of Heaven” sharing derogatory information about his fellow is pure of sin only as long as he is completely white.  As soon as personal enmity, exaggeration, inaccuracy or personal motives stain the speaker’s noble intentions he changes from pure to impure.

The Navee (Prophet) Hoshea announced that HaShem’s vengeance would befall King Yehu for wiping out the family of King Achav.  But why!  Didn’t HaShem enjoin Yehu to wipe out the wicked family of Acahv!?  The reason that King Yehu and his family were punished is that they had also been ensnared in idol worship.  Even though their sins were not of the same magnitude as that of the family of King Achav, a White Knight must not have stained armor.  Rising up to mete out punishments is a risky business.  While King Yehu was commanded and even anointed by the prophet of HaShem to clean the nation of the scourge of the family of King Achav, he was required to remain untainted.  When his family also stumbled in the sin of idolatry he was transformed from a pure warrior of HaShem to an impure murderer.

Perhaps this is one of the messages which we should take away from the ordinance we are discussing.  Perhaps the “pink” spot in the white flesh represents the impure action or motive.   When a person shares mandated information he must not get “derailed”.  As soon as he gets “off track” with inaccuracies, exaggeration, or mal-intent his words cease to be a mitzva, but are transformed into being “lashon hara (gossip), and ho’tza’as shem ra (slander).

This is very important in the field of kashrus.  We all take the laws of kashrus very seriously and are rightfully appalled by any transgression relating to these important halachos.  However, we must always be mindful not to fall into the “White Knight” syndrome.  When righteous indignation leads to untruths, exaggeration, unnecessary gossip, or ill-will what would have been a pure mitzva transforms into an impure aveira (sin) of the first degree.  May we always be careful to use our mouths, pens and keyboards for the good.