The following ritual was performed in order to facilitate the Metzora being repatriated into society. Two kosher live birds were purchased. One was slaughtered into an earthenware utensil filled with spring water. The live bird together with cedar wood, red wool and hyssop were dipped into the blood and water, and then sprinkled onto the Metzora seven times. The live bird was then set free. The Metzora was now able to rejoin the community.
The ideal mitzvah is when the two birds are identical, they should have a matching appearance, similar height, and be equally priced. Even the purchase of the two birds should be transacted as one. What is the need for this matching, what message does it tell us?
Many a Metzora was afflicted such because of Loshon Hora – evil speech. For speech to be bad or even wicked it does necessarily contain an evil content. A large part of communication is based on context. Similarly identical words expressed in different tones have diverse overtures, with one being laudatory and the other discriminatory. This is the lesson we are teaching the Metzora, we take two birds of identical content, they look similar, cost the same and for all purposes are identical, yet one dies and the other survives. You the Metzora heed the words of King David who so wisely said “Life and death are controlled by the tougue”.
We give much thought to what we say, but do we think about how we say it?
Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel had a wise and faithful Cananite servant called Tovi. Rabban Shimon once sent Tovi to purchase the best food the market had to offer. Tovi returned with a tongue. Again, Rabbi Shimon sent Tovi to the marketplace, this time to buy the worst food. Tovi returned, again with a tongue.
“How can It be,” questioned Rabbi Shimon “that the worst and best foods are the same?”
Tovi replied “When l bought a tongue that was soft and fresh it was indeed the best fare available. When I bought a tongue that was old and hardened, it was the worst possible food.
Rebbi made a banquet for his students, at which he served tongue. Some were soft and fresh, the others were stale and hard. The students all chose for themselves the soft tongue, and left the other behind.
“Just as you left this hard tongue behind and chose the soft“ exhorted Rabbi Shimon, “so you should leave your harsh tongue and always speak softly.”
One may not close the door of a birdcage with a bird in it, on Shabbos.