Rashi in Devarim 24:9 quotes Sifrei:

זכור את אשר עשה ה' אלהיך למרים. אִם בָּאתָ לְהִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא תִלְקֶה בְּצָרַעַת אַל תְּסַפֵּר לְשׁוֹן הָרָע, זָכוֹר הֶעָשׂוּי לְמִרְיָם שֶׁדִּבְּרָה בְאָחִיהָ וְלָקְתָה בִנְגָעִים (עי' ספרי)׃

זכור את אשר עשה ה' אלהיך למרים REMEMBER WHAT THE LORD THY GOD DID UNTO MIRIAM — if you wish to guard yourself against being stricken with leprosy, do not speak slander! Remember what was done unto Miriam who spoke slander against her brother and was stricken with a leprous plague! (cf. Sifrei Devarim 275:1).

The Sifrei (followed by many others, Rambam, Ramban, Chinuch, Rabenu Bachyeh, all the way through the chafetz Chaim), uses this passuk as a prohibition against speaking Lashon Harah.

The text of the Passuk itself only warns us to remember WHAT Hashem did to Miriam. This would be the tzara'as, the leprosy, which Hashem punished her with. The pasuk does not say that we must remember WHY she was punished with leprosy. So how then, would this be a source to forbid speaking lashon hora?

  • 1
    Why should you put a strand of Techeiles on your Tzitzis? To look at it. Just that? Just to look at it? No, to contemplate it - Techeiles reminds you of the sea, which reminds you of the sky, etc. Judaism expects you to think about things. Contemplating what should automatically lead to why.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 3:07
  • @DonielF <<*Contemplating what should automatically lead to why*>> Sure it should. But if someone remembers the what and not the why, has he transgressed the mitzvah? Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 16:16
  • Part of remembering this also is to know the details of the why. Because it also needs to be understood that G-d’s judgement is just. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 1:55
  • Miriam spoke against her brother for not having relations with his first wife. It was true. All the details connected to the prohibition against lashon hara can be learned out from the why. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 2:02

1 Answer 1


Firstly, as noted above, thinking of the "what" will motivate people to think of the "why".

But here are a couple of points in the Mefarshim that soften this question, if not answer it entirely:

Shadal notes that Tzara'as is a spiritual and nature-defying illness. Therefore, when one thinks of it, it is closely linked with the spiritual issue that caused it, since it is not something naturally occurring.

Ibn Ezra quotes a Derush in Arachin 15b that Metzorah is made up of the words Motzi Ra - therefore, remembering that she was a Metzorah requires us to remember that she spoke Lashon Hara, and can serve as a prohibition for it.

That being said, many other Mefarshim interpret it as a warning to keep the laws of Tzara'as properly, or as a Mitzvah to remember/mention this event regularly.

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