The Metzora must meet the Kohen, who then appraises his situation, and passes judgement if he is tahor or tamei. The words “tahor” or “tamei” uttered by the Kohen is what actually confers on the Metzora the tahor or tuma status. The Tiferes Shlomo explains that a person who uses his words to learn Torah and to daven earnestly and diligently gains the verbal ability to create tuma or tahara
Many of us are familiar with the “mi shebeirach” composed by the Tosafos Yom Tov in response to the gezeres Tach v’Tat (the terrible Chmielnicki massacres in Southern Poland and the Ukraine in 1648-1649) during which much Jewish blood was spilled. Tosafos Yom Tov attributed this destruction to lack of proper decorum in the shul during davening. In general, people do not associate sins of one’s tongue with their ability to cause destruction. The Tiferes Shlomo explains that when Moshe Rabbeinu saw the Jews enslaved in Egypt, and he saw the way they spoke one to each other, Moshe said “achain noda hadavar”. While this literally means “now the matter is known to me”, Moshe also meant that he understood that the Jews were in exile due to the improper way that they spoke with one another.
It took almost 80 years from the time Moshe Rabbeinu fled until the prayers of the Jews were accepted in order to orchestrate the redemption. This too was done via Moshe Rabbeinu’s davening – meaning, Moshe tefillos took Bnei Yisrael’s tefillos up to shamayim. Now we see the understanding of why the Metzora must meet the Kohen and he must pronounce him “tahor”.
The sefarim Hakedoshim tell us that throughout the Pesach night there are two ideas which we must keep in mind: Pesach (which is a contraction of “peh” and “sach” – a mouth that talks) and Paro (which is a contraction of “peh” and “rah” – a bad mouth). The service on Seder Night is accomplished through using our mouths properly in order to complete the mitzvah of “hagada” – speaking words of kedusha with another Jew and transmitting positive ideas. This is how we go from a “peh-rah” to a “peh-sach”.
The story is told of the Vilna Gaon, that when he was in self-imposed exile he prayed in a certain synagogue and he commented “it is very stuffy here.” The people didn’t know who this unidentified traveler was, and they asked him “our shul seems to be pleasant and even has nice ventilation. Why is it that you found it stuffy?” The Gaon answered “that there has been some sin that has transpired here that causes all of the prayers to not ascend to Hashem, alas the stuffiness. You must fix the problem in order for the prayers to ascend.” I would like to add an analogy: Sometimes you can have a small piece of plastic covering the drain in the tub, and it keeps ALL the water in. A slight movement – which is not difficult to accomplish – can cause the tub to drain properly. Physically it is easier to be quiet than to talk. Sometimes to fix a problem we just have to make sure at certain times to say nothing.
When we think about the mitzvahs of the Seder night, we are saddened by the pain that the Jews had to endure thousands of years ago. Yet, when we think of our brethren today who may not be on the same “page” as us, we find people whose words are less than complimentary. As we clean our homes in this last week to get ready for the “peh-sach”, it is a good time to also get rid of the “peh-rah” within and we should merit to have our prayers heard.