A while back, Google introduced “mail goggles” (which were eventually discontinued). Its purpose was to prevent users, especially those who might be intoxicated, from having email regret.

This setting would require users to solve a few easy math problems before hitting "send" on an email. The assumption was if you were sober enough to solve the math, you were sober enough not to write something (--about your boss, coworker or neighbor!) that you would later regret.

But it’s not only alcohol that compromises our decisions. And it’s often not only in emails, but in our day-to-day conversations, that we say things that we shouldn’t.

We can become intoxicated with anger or hurt, jealousy or envy, and divulge something malicious. Our perspective can become blurred by boredom, or impaired by an intense desire to fit into a crowd. Or, we may just have gotten into the habit of saying whatever comes to mind, unfiltered.

In each of these situations, our unguarded speech can have huge negative repercussions.

Tazriah, discusses the punishment of tzaraat, a spiritual and physical ailment for speaking lashon hara, negative talk.

The Psalmist compares slanderous talk to “sharp arrows of the warrior, coals of broom” (Psalms 120:4).

Midrash Rabbah explains: “Other weapons strike at close quarters, while the arrow strikes from a distance. So is it with slander: it is spoken in Rome and kills in Syria. All other coals, when extinguished, are extinguished without and within; but coals of broom are still burning within when they are extinguished without. So it is with words of slander: even after it seems that their effects have been put out, they continue to smolder within those who heard them.”

The person afflicted with tzaraat, unlike other ritually impure individuals, was removed from all three camps of Israel. He was quarantined even from those having the same ailment and needed to dwell alone until he became pure.

The Talmud (Erachin 16b) explains why: “With his gossip and slander, he separated a husband from his wife, a man from his neighbor; therefore the Torah said: ‘He shall dwell alone.’”

In order to become spiritually rehabilitated, the metzorah must understand the repercussions of his speech. He isolated people from each other through his slander, so he, too, must experience how isolation feels. He remains alone to reflect on his experience and to learn to feel empathy towards those whom he has hurt.

We all experience times when we’ve been spoken about. Irrespective of whether the slander was true or not, we can remember how we burned with shame and felt isolated and shunned.

Perhaps remembering those situations can help prevent us from repeating such injustices to others.

Before speaking, let’s try to pause and reflect so we don’t cause unbearable, malevolent harm to another.

The Orchot Tzaddikim wisely teaches: “Before you speak, you are master of your words. After you speak, your words master you.”