In Shemini, the Torah enumerates the various species of birds, animals and fish that are permissible to eat and also lists the forbidden foods as well. This week’s Torah portion sets forth the laws of physical abnormalities upon people, which has the appearance of plagues. These skin afflictions are the result of punishment for socially unacceptable behavior and for bad statements such as slander, gossip and talking about others.
It’s unfortunate that many, but not all people are more scrupulous not to eat a treif animal, such as a pig or a camel, than to devour, consume and destroy someone by spreading lashon hara (evil tongue — gossip). The proximity of these two Torah portions teaches us that devouring a person by means of sinful talk is no less sinful than eating a non-kosher animal.
Judaism in its entirety stands for the notion that both what is consumed inside your mouth and that which leaves your mouth are both important and both must be kosher.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)