There are conceptions of morality expounded in Torah that are all but unknown to other peoples, defects recognized by Torah and deprecated if not totally ignored by others. This week's Torah portion discusses at length the affliction called tzora'at, commonly translated as "leprosy." The sages describe this affliction as the punishment for loshon hara, an evil tongue.

There are laws of slander and libel in the secular codes. However, so long as one takes care to make only provable statements, no matter how vicious and harmful his words, he is immune to legal punishments. Not even social sanctions are exercised against him. How often people justify malicious gossip that's "just too good to keep" with the acceptable explanation that the slander is true? Disparaging other people, gratuitously discussing their faults simply for the "pleasure" involved -- these are forcefully and constantly denounced in the Torah. (Of course all this does not apply in situations like testimony in a court of law.)

The Torah goes still further. Besides forbidding the Jew to speak evil of another, and even to hint at another's shortcomings, it is actually forbidden to listen to evil talk. The passive listener who doesn't utter a word is committing a sin.

Do Jews have to go to others to learn what morality is? Might not more exploration of other practically unknown aspects of Torah ethics and standards of conduct demonstrate the superiority of Torah living to other ways of life?