“Aharon said to Moshe: I beg you, Hashem, do not cast a sin upon us, for we have been foolish and we have sinned.” (Bamidbar 12:11)
Aharon and Miriam were involved in speaking lashon hara about Moshe Rabbeinu, yet when they were punished, Miriam got Tzaraas and Aharon seemed to only get reprimanded. Aharon becomes her advocate, pleading with Moshe to try to lighten her sentence. The Netziv tells us that Aharon and Miriam’s conversation had no ill intent and they were not trying to cause any harm to Moshe Rabbeinu. Therefore, this should have been considered lashon hara li’toeles (constructive intent), which is allowed. The Netziv explains that if someone were to transgress the prohibition of Lashon hara without being moetzei shem ra, it could be that he would get Tzaraas, but need not go through the process of being a Metzora. However, when someone speaks Motzei Shem Rah – meaning that what he said was incorrect – then he is hit with “the full nine yards” and must keep every detail of the halachos of being a Metzora. Therefore, Aharon pleaded to Moshe, saying that this was done by mistake, meaning, the sin from “our” side was lashon hara and Miriam deserves a lighter sentence. Yet, Hashem did not accept this plea and Miriam received the punishment for someone who says motzei shem rah.
The Chofetz Chaim throughout his sefer on lashon hara discusses two themes: 1) the midda of Lashon hara, and 2) the damage that is inflicted on the person about whom Lashon hara was said. It seems to me that Aharon thought that the punishment should be for that which the person intended to do wrong and therefore the punishment should only be for Lashon hara. Hashem’s response is that sometimes the unjust damage done can be so great that there can be no atonement without going through the whole process of tzaraas..
We stand after Shavuos and we look at chumash Bamidbar which we will be laining for the next few weeks. Many of us cannot help but feel despair – if the “dor de’ah” could sin, we ourselves are certainly doomed. However, I would like to show from the beginning of the parsha that there is hope. When Aharon Hakohen lights the Menorah, he is told that his service will outlast and outshine all the other services. Our rabbis teach us Aharon had the merit of “shelo shinah” – he didn’t change the way that he perceived himself. We too have to feel humble and understand that it is only with the help of Hashem that we can overcome the yetzer hara. We constantly ask Hashem “shelo echte ode” – that I should not continue to sin. Certainly, if we pray to Hashem that we should not fall prey to the yetzer hara, it will give us extra Divine Help.
As of now we are forging ahead with uncertainty as to whether Corona is behind us or still in front of us. This is the time to make sure to pray for the future and to give thanks for the past. One of the tests that we have is not to say Lashon hara about those who are not complying with the government-imposed mandates. Someone who would like to know how rebuke should be given, should speak to someone competent. Rather than talk negatively about those whom we think we have the right to speak, we should daven for everyone’s wellbeing.