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וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן אֶת הַכֶּבֶשׂ הָאֶחָד וְהִקְרִיב אֹתוֹ לְאָשָׁם
And the Kohen shall take the one lamb and bring it close for a guilt-offering (14:12)
The process of purchasing libations to be poured in conjunction with his offering in the Beis Hamikdash was as follows: A person would take his money to one chamber and purchase a token. With this token, he would go to another chamber, hand over the token and receive the libations he had paid for.  There were four tokens in the Beis Hamikdash: calf, male, goat, and sinner.  The token which said “sinner” would be given to the metsora who had spoken lashon hara. 
This is very surprising, because the Gemora relates the tremendous sensitivity in which the sacrifices were made; most notably, a sin-offering was sacrificed in the same place as the elevation-offering (which could be offered as a donation and not related to any sin.) This way, no-one would know for sure that this person was bringing a sin-offering.  Therefore it is surprising to imagine someone being handed a token saying “sinner” and having to carry it around and then use that to receive his libation. Surely this would cause unnecessary embarrassment to someone who has sinned, something which the Torah goes out of its way to prevent?

The answer seems to be that this is all part of the rectification process of the metsora who continuously refused to stop speaking lashon hara even after seeing clear miraculous signs on his house, clothing, and skin over a number of weeks. This refusal, and in fact, the sin of lashon hara itself stems from the trait of arrogance. The desire to put someone down or relay their negative qualities to others is a result of thinking that one’s own actions and behavior are better and more worthy. And even if it is true that one does behave in a better manner, the desire to share others’ failures with others, acts to demonstrate to others that he does not share these qualities.

Therefore, as a final message to the metsora, he receives a token saying “sinner” and walks around the holiest place in the world carrying that token. Surely, this would be enough to humble anyone, and thus leave an everlasting message with someone who was so arrogant with his behavior, providing a fitting end to the metsora’s rectification.

The Gemora explains that everyone is guilty of taking part in the sin of lashon hara; therefore this message affects us all.  It also shows the difficulty in guarding our tongues. Yet if we remember that the root cause of speaking lashon hara is arrogance, then this alone will help us combat the desire to degrade others.

  1) Mishnayos Shekalim (5:4).
  2) Mishnayos Shekalim (5:3).
  3) Shmiras Haloshon, chelek 2, chapter 17.
  4) Sota 32b.
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Moishe Kormornick
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