Please Learn in the Merit of:

Please learn for the merit of a complete recovery for the following individuals:

Ya'akov Don ben Esther Ahuvah Sharona
Avraham Yishayahu ben Aviva
Perel Leah bas Sima

Please learn in the merit/memory of Eyal ben Uriel, Gil-Ad Michael ben Ophir, Ya'akov Naftali ben Avraham, and Alter Aryeh Leib Reuven ben Sima

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon כ"ז תשרי - Tishrei 27 - Twenty-Seventh Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

[It is written] in Eileh HaDevarim Rabbah[1]: “Rabbi Chaggai said, afflictions only come [to a person] as a result of [the sin of] Lashon HaRa. Our Rabbis said, you should know that [one is punished for speaking Lashon HaRa], for consider [the following]: Miriam, the Righteous, as a result of her speaking [Lashon HaRa] concerning her brother Moshe, had [tzara'as] afflictions drawn into her, as it says “Remember that which HaShem your G-d did to Miriam [while you were] on the path when you left Egypt”. (Devarim: 24; 9) [In reference to] this [sort of situation], the pasuk [from Tehillim (50; 20)] states, “When you sit down [to rest], you speak [slander] concerning your brother, you [even] speak slander [against] the son of your mother.[2]”…” Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levy said: “If you have accustomed yourself to speak [Lashon HaRa] against your half brother, [the son of] your father, ultimately, “you [even] speak slander [against] the son of your mother.”[3] The one who decides to speak [Lashon HaRa against] one who is greater than himself, causes evil [to come against] him, for he will draw afflictions upon himself. If you do not believe [that afflictions befall a person as a result of the Lashon HaRa that they have spoken], Miriam, the Righteous, serves as a sign to all the habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa, [attesting to this reality. You may deduce that Miriam serves as a sign for all habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa, from the following pasuk, for we are commanded]: “Remember that which HaShem, your G-d, did to Miriam [[while you were] on the path when you left Egypt].” (Bamidbar Rabbah, Parsha 6; 14)

“Rabbi Shimon said: Just as Miriam, the Righteous, was punished though she did not have [any] intention to speak Lashon HaRa, but rather spoke for the sake of her brother, for his own good,[4] those evildoers who intend to speak Lashon HaRa against others [in order] to cut into [and bring destruction to] their lives, how much more so will The Holy One, Blessed is He, cut[5] off their tongues, as it says “HaShem will cut off all of the smooth lips [the tongue that speaks with import]”.[6]
(Tehillim: 12; 4)

[Another instance of afflictions coming upon the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa is evident in the incident of the spies who spoke Lashon HaRa against the Land of Israel]. [These] spies died an unnatural death as a result of their sin of Lashon HaRa. [This follows that which our Sages of Blessed Memory have] said [in maseches Sotah (35a)]
: “And the men who brought out evil slander about The Land died [in a plague, before HaShem]. (Bamidbar: 14; 37) Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said that [the spies who spoke Lashon HaRa] died an unnatural death. [The Rabbis also] said in the [above] gemara: “[Rabbi Shimon said in the name of Rabbi Chanina the son of Pappa: Rabbi Sheila from the village of Timrata expounded [as follows]: [The fact that the pasuk notes “in a plague”] teaches [that] their tongues stretched out and fell on their navels, and worms were going out of their mouths, entering their tongues, and from their tongues were entering their navels.”[7]

[Our Sages of Blessed Memory] have [taught] in [maseches] Arachin (15a), [as follows]: “Come and [take note of the] great [destructive] power of issuing a libelous report. From where [do we behold of the great damage caused by issuing a libelous report]? From the [incident involving the Motzi Shem Ra spoken by ten of the] spies [and their resulting punishment. The spies, by speaking] libelously against trees and stones [nevertheless suffered] such [a punishment of death, by falling victim to such a horrific plague, therefore], how much more so would one who speaks libelously against his fellow [be severely punished].

Based on the aforementioned, we can learn [of] the magnitude of the punishment [for speaking Lashon HaRa and Motzi Shem Ra. This sin is so severe], for a person is punished through afflictions as well as other types of punishments on account of these [sins. Realization of the severe punishments for speaking Lashon HaRa will enable] everyone to understand the tremendous good compensation[8] for one who guards himself from this sin, [that good compensation] outweighing [the punishment of one who speaks Lashon HaRa and Motzi Shem Ra].

[1] This teaching can also be found in Bamidbar Rabba on ParshasKi SeitzeParsha 6; 8-9.

[2] This translation is based on the MaLBI”M’s explanation of the verse.

[3] The commentators RaDa”L and MaHaRa”Z explain that “son of the mother” refers to a full sibling, whereas “son of the father” is a half brother. Therefore, if one begins to speak of a half-brother, who they have less love for, they will eventually come to speak against a full brother who they love more.

The RaDa”L explains that those brothers from the same father would argue with each other over the inheritance and are therefore more likely to speak Lashon HaRa against each other than against their brother from the mother. Nevertheless, they will eventually come to speak against their sibling from the mother as a result of the Lashon HaRa against their siblings from the father. MaHaRa”Z explains that we do not read “son of your mother” – “ben imcha” but rather “one of your nation” – “ben umaticha”. If one comes to speak Lashon HaRa against their “brother from their father” who is not Jewish, they will eventually come to speak against a member of their nation.

[4] For more information on this teaching, see sefer
Chofetz Chaim” - k'lal 8 in the B’air Mayim Chaim.

[5] The word “cut” -
חתך” - is used in both the phrases “those evildoers who have the intention to speak Lashon HaRa against others [in order] to damage (lit. cut) their lives” and “how much more so will The Holy One, Blessed is He, cut off their tongues”. We see from here that HaShem punishes the speaker of Lashon HaRa measure-for-measure. Just as he intended to damage someone else’s life, HaShem will cut off his tongue.

[6] Alternatively,
“smooth lips” - sifsei chalakos”, can be translated as lips of division.

[7] RaSh”I states that the verse writes the phrase "בּמגפה" – “in a plague” with a “patach” under the letter “beis” in the place of the “sheva”. The “patach” under the “beis” denotes a unique type of plague, especially fitting for the Lashon HaRa that the spies spoke against the Land of Israel. Since they sinned with their tongues, they were punished, measure for measure, by having their tongues stretched out to their navels with worms crawling from their mouths into their tongues and then into their navels. (Sotah, 35a) The gemara states that according to another opinion, ascara, commonly translated as “diphtheria” was the plague from which the spies suffered and died. Diphtheria is an upper tract respiratory ailment which is characterized by a sore throat.

[8] The reward for good actions is greater than the punishment for committing sins, as we see in Parshas
Ki Sisa that HaShem “Guards kindness for thousands of generations… He visits the sins of the parents upon the children, grandchildren, third, and fourth generations.” (Shmos: 34, 7) HaShem rewards for thousands of generations, but punishes for a few generations; the reward being in much greater measure than the punishment.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon כ"ו תשרי - Tishrei 26 - Twenty-Sixth Day

Please learn in the merit of Eliezer ben Chaim HaLevi

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

We read in Sifrei[1], regarding that which is written [in Parshas Ki Seitzei] (Devarim: 24; 8): “Guard yourself concerning the tzara’as affliction…” after which we read of [the commandment] to “Remember that which HaShem, your G-d, did to Miriam…” What is the relationship between [tzara’as and the punishment that HaShem inflicted upon] Miriam [as a result of the Lashon HaRa that she spoke]? [The juxtaposition of these two concepts] comes to teach that [Miriam] was punished because of the Lashon HaRa [that she spoke about her brother, Moshe. In this context of Miriam’s Lashon HaRa, we also learn] in Sifrei[2]: “Can we not derive a kal va’chomer[3] [from the Lashon HaRa spoken by Miriam and her ensuing punishment]? Miriam spoke [Lashon HaRa] about her younger brother [Moshe] and was punished. All the more so, one who speaks Lashon HaRa against one who is his elder, would be punished. A second kal va’chomer can be learned from Miriam’s punishment: When Miriam spoke [with Aharon about Moshe], no bystander heard [what she said], for only The Holy One, Blessed is He, [heard], as it says (Bamidbar: 12; 2): “And HaShem Heard”, [yet] she was [still] punished. [If Miriam, who was careful to speak privately to Aharon about Moshe, was punished], how much more so would one be punished for speaking publicly of shameful matters concerning his fellow.

The rabbis also expound [from] the [following] pasuk [from Koheles (5; 5) regarding Lashon HaRa bringing physical harm to the speaker]: “Do not allow your mouth to bring sin upon your flesh…”[4] [This verse teaches us][5]: “Do not speak Lashon HaRa with your mouth, [thus] punishing all of your flesh through this sin.”

Our Rabbis explain the above pasuk in reference to Miriam:

““Do not allow your [your mouth to bring sin upon your flesh]…” – This refers to Miriam, as it is written: “And behold, Miriam was afflicted with tzara’as resembling snow”.
(Bamidbar: 12; 10)

“And do not say before the emissary[6]” – This [emissary] refers to Moshe, as it says: “And He sent an emissary and took us out of Egypt”.
(Bamidbar: 20; 16)

“For it was negligence” – as it says: “for that which we were foolish and for that which we sinned”.
(Bamidbar: 12; 11)[7]

“Why should HaShem be angry concerning your voice?” – Regarding the Lashon HaRa which you (Miriam) spoke about Moshe, as it says: “And HaShem’s Anger flared up against them, and He left”.
(Bamidbar: 12; 9)

“And destroy the work of your hands.” Rabbi Yochanan said: With her mouth she sinned and all of her limbs were afflicted, as it says: “And the cloud moved from atop the Tent, and behold, Miriam [was afflicted with tzara'as resembling snow]…”
(Bamidbar: 12; 10)

This [incident involving Miriam] is in line with the following pesukim: “Do not allow your mouth to bring sin upon your flesh…”
(Koheles: 5; 5) and “One who guards his mouth and tongue [guards from troubles of his soul].” (Mishlei: 21; 23)

[1] This teaching is found in Parshas Ki Teitze, Piskah 275.

[2] This teaching is found in Parshas Devarim, Piskah 1.

[3] The phrase “Kal Va’chomer”, literally meaning “light and stringent” is used to introduce, or can refer to, an a fortiori argument, whereby one draws a conclusion that is inferred to be even more certain than another accepted conclusion. There are ten places in TaNaCh (written Torah, including the Torah, Prophets, and Scriptures) where there are Kal Va’chomer’s, one of which (Bamidbar: 12; 14) where HaShem tells Moshe that Miriam must be quarantined for seven days for her sin of slandering Moshe. HaShem tells Moshe, “…and if her father would spit in her face, would she not be ashamed for seven days…”, how much more should Miriam be ashamed for seven days for her sin of Lashon HaRa.

[4] The pasuk from Koheles (5; 5) reads: “Do not allow your mouth to bring sin upon your flesh, and do not say before the emissary ‘for it was negligence’. Why should HaShem be angry about your voice and destroy the work of your hands?”

[5] RaSh”I, quoting a Midrash, explains that “the work of your hands” refers to a person’s good deeds which can be lost as a result of the sin of speaking Lashon HaRa.

[6] This teaching can be found in Vayikra Rabba: 16; 5, Koheles Rabba: 5; 5, and Shocher Tov, Tehillim 52.

[7] The Hebrew for emissary is “Malach”, meaning either “angel” or “emissary”. The term “Malach” is to be understood as “emissary” in the pasuk quoted from
Koheles, while the quoted phrase from the Torah refers to “angel”. RaSh"I, on the pasuk in Bamidbar, explains that the usage of “Malach” comes to teach that one should regard Torah leaders as akin to angels.

According to the Sforno, “for it was negligence” refers to one who is explaining that he did not fulfill his obligation due to negligence. Aharon said to Moshe: “that we were foolish and that we sinned” when explaining why he and Miriam took part in Lashon HaRa against Moshe. Therefore, both verses relate to one another as they provide some sort of attempted explanation for their misdeed.

Shmiras HaLashon כ"ה תשרי - Tishrei 25 - Twenty-Fifth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Chapter 5

[In this Chapter, we] shall Explain [Concerning] the Punishment of the Habitual Speakers of Lashon HaRa

The punishment of the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa is very great, for he brings afflictions upon himself though his speech, thus becoming a confirmed metzora[1]. [This follows that which] is written in [maseches] Arachin (15b): “[Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Yosi ben Zimra]: Afflictions come upon [the] one who speaks Lashon HaRa, as it says: “He who slanders his fellow in private, I shall cut him off[2] (Tehillim: 101; 5) The phrase “I shall cut off” is derived from the language describing the determination of the infliction of the confirmed metzora, as the Gemara[3] derives]: “Reish Lakish said: “This shall be the law of the metzoraמצורע (Vayikra: 14; 2) – the law of the Motzi Shem Ra[4]מוציא שם רע.”

Notice the extent of the severity to which the Torah deals with the impurity of the metzora. [The Torah treats the metzora’s impurity as] more severe than the impurity of the zav[5], the ba’al keri[6], and one impure from coming into contact with the dead. [In contrast to the zav and ba’al keri, the metzora] is not allowed to remain anywhere within the Israelite camp, as it says “He shall sit alone outside the camp of his habitation”. (Vayikra: 13; 46)

[Our Sages of Blessed Memory] have said [in maseches Arachin (16b)]: “What is unique about the metzora, concerning whom the Torah said “he shall sit alone…”? He caused [there to be separation between man and wife [and] between man and his fellow. Therefore the Torah decreed: He shall dwell in isolation. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levy said: What is unique about the metzora, [concerning whom] the Torah said he will bring two birds to purify himself? The Holy One, Blessed is He, said: [The metzora] performed an action of a babbler; he should bring a sacrifice of babblers.”[7]

[1] A confined metzora is a person who has the Kohen confirmed to have tzara'as.

I, in this verse, refers to HaShem.

Gemara” is Aramaic for “Talmud”.

[4] “Metzora” is one with a spiritual affliction, somewhat similar to leprosy – מצורע (Metzora) can also be read as a shortened version of the words "מוציא רע" as in "מוציא שם רע" (Motzi Shem Ra) – one who brings out an evil name by speaking slanderously against a person. "מוציא שם רע" usually refers to one who speaks slander about a person which is false.

[5] A male with gonorrhea who has one discharge becomes impure for the following twenty-four hours. If on the same or the following day he has a second discharge, he remains impure for a week. If there are three discharges, he must also bring a sacrifice after his week of impurity.

[6] One who has an emission of semen is impure and then immerses in a mikvah. Following the first nightfall after his immersion, he is pure.

“Babbler” can also refer to birds who incessantly chirp. In this context, we see that the metzora was afflicted with tzara'as due to his speaking that which is forbidden, likely due to his involvement in speaking excessively.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon כ"ד תשרי - Tishrei 24 - Twenty-Fourth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

What [reason] is there for me to continue on at length regarding the magnitude of this bitter sin [of Lashon HaRa], for [our Sages] have already said that one who performs this sin is comparable to [one who] violates the five books of the Torah and [one who] denies HaShem (a kofer[1]), Heaven Forbid. [According to] the Midrash Rabbah[2]: “Rabbi Yeshoshua ben Levy said, ‘The word ‘Torah[3]’ is written five times in the parsha [of Metzora]: “This is the Torah of the affliction of tzara'as[4]”, “this is the Torah for all of the tzara'as afflictions”, “this will be the Torah of the metzora[5]”, “this is the Torah of one who has a tzaraas affliction”, “this is the Torah of the tzara'as”. “This shall be the law of the metzora” – the Motzi Shem Ra[6]. [The comparison of the similar sounding phrases of “metzora” and “motzi shem ra” comes] to teach you that anyone who speaks Lashon HaRa transgresses the five books of the Torah…”[7]

Our Sages of Blessed Memory have said, in [maseches] Arachin (15b): “Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Yosi ben Zimrah, all who speak Lashon HaRa are considered as if [they] deny HaShem, as it says “for they have said, ‘with our tongues we shall be strengthened, our lips are with us, who is our Master
? (Tehillim: 12; 5) The reason [that Lashon HaRa is tantamount to denial of HaShem] follows that which [our Sages of Blessed Memory have] written in Sifrei Yirayim[8], for it is known, that one who wishes to speak Lashon HaRa, looks to all of his sides, [for] perhaps that man, [he being the target of his Lashon HaRa], is standing [in his vicinity. Consequently, by speaking in such a manner, the speaker of Lashon HaRa acts as if] The Eye Above, [in Heaven],[9] does not see, Heaven Forbid. [The above] resembles that which our Sages of Blessed Memory have said [in maseches Bava Kamma (79b)] concerning the thief[10]. [The following teaching is taken from] Midrash Tanchuma[11]: “Lashon HaRa is [such a] severe [transgression], for a person does not emit [the slander] from his mouth until he denies HaShem, as it says, “for they have said, [‘with our tongues we shall be strengthened, our lips are with us, who is our Master?”].”

Therefore, [in light of the above, those] who have a brain in [their] skull will always see to motivate himself to fight the war of HaShem against his evil inclination, so that he should not be ensnared in this great and bitter sin [of Lashon HaRa. Once the person fights the war of HaShem successfully against the Yetzer HaRa], then praiseworthy is [that person's] portion, [both] in this world and in The World to Come.

[1] “Kofer” is one who denies HaShem, the whole Torah, or any part of the Torah.

[2] This teaching is found in the Midrash Rabbah on Parshas Metzora (16; 1).

[3] ‘Torah’ means ‘law’. In our context, the term ‘Torah’ is written in light of the connection between the sin of Lashon HaRa and violation of the entire Torah.

[4] Tzara'as is a form of affliction that can affect ones home, clothing, or person. The affliction can manifest in many forms and often resembles the appearance of leprosy. This Divine Punishment can come about as a consequence of several types of sins, including Lashon HaRa.

[5] “Metzora” refers to the individual afflicted with tzara'as.

[6] “Metzora” is one with a spiritual affliction, somewhat similar to leprosy – מצורע (Metzora) can also be read as a shortened version of the words "מוציא רע" as in "מוציא שם רע" (Motzi Shem Ra) – one who brings out an evil name by speaking slanderously concerning a person. "מוציא שם רע" usually refers to one who speaks libelously against another.

[7] Since the word
metzora” is similar to Motzi Shem Ra”. Therefore, since it mentions the word "Torah" five times, (in varying forms), in the section of the Torah discussing the metzora, we can learn from here that one who speaks Motzi Shem Ra” - libel”, is considered as if he has transgressed the Five Books of The Torah.

[8] For this teaching, also see in “Reishis Chochmah”, The Gate of Holiness, Chapter 13, paragraph 3.

[9] “The Eye Above” refers to “the Eye” of HaShem.

[10] The gemara notes in the name of Rabbi Yochanan that the Torah is stricter concerning the thief than the robber, for the thief is afraid to act in front of people, though he behaves as if HaShem does not know what he is doing. The thief is worse than the robber, for the robber treats
the honor of the servant (people) equal to the honor of his Creator (HaShem). However, the thief respects people more than he respects HaShem, as he wouldn’t dare steal in the presence of people, though acts as if “no one is watching” when there are no people around, thus acting as if HaShem is unaware of his actions. Rabban Gamliel compares the thief to one who invites all of the townspeople to a party, while failing to invite the princes. In contrast, the robber is compared to one who has a party and does not invite the townspeople and the princes. The one who invited the townspeople and declined to invite the princes would suffer a worse punishment. So too, the thief, by sinning and ignoring HaShem, while he takes notice of people when committing his crimes, is considered worse than the robber.

[11] This teaching from Midrash Tanchuma is found on Parshas Bereishis, siman 8, Parshas Metzora, siman 2.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon כ"ג תשרי - Tishrei 23 - Twenty-Third Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

[Chofetz Chaim’s note: The analogy of our Sages of Blessed Memory [which compares the speaker of Lashon HaRa to a rabid dog] is very beautiful. For when we soundly contemplate [the characteristics of the habitual slanderer], we find within [the speaker of Lashon HaRa] all of the signs indicative of a rabid dog, regarding which our Sages of Blessed Memory have spoken of in the eighth chapter of Yoma. Therefore, [the speaker of Lashon HaRa] has drawn upon himself the spirit of impurity that rests on that [rabid] dog. The following is quoted from the aforementioned passage from the Talmud (Yoma 83b): “Our Rabbis taught, there are five things that are said about a rabid dog: 1) His mouth is open, 2) his saliva flows, 3) his ears are spread out, 4) his tail is placed between his thighs, and 5) he walks on the sides of the public domain. There are those who say that [the rabid dog] even barks [though] his voice is not heard… One who is attacked by him is endangered[1], one who is bitten by him dies. The one who is attacked by him, what is his remedy? He shall remove his garment and throw it before [the rabid dog] and [then] run [away].

Now we shall explain [how the aforementioned signs of a rabid dog relate to the characteristics of the speaker of Lashon HaRa]: 1) [The rabid dog’s] mouth is open, this also being the comportment of the habitual slanderer, his mouth always being open [to speak] against all those who happen [to pass] before him, [regardless of] whether [the person is] unimportant or is distinguished. 2) [The dog’s] saliva flows: This is because the evil spirit rests upon him, overpowering him greatly with the power of anger and brazenness which is ingrained within him[2] [which encourages him] to swallow anyone who happens [to pass] before him. [The saliva of the rabid dog flows because of his intent to attack the passerby], specifically as his mouth is open and does not have a border which retains saliva. [Similar to the salivating dog], so is the way of one established as a habitual speaker of slander, [for he] always becomes angry concerning anyone that pops into his mind. Furthermore, there is a more suitable manner [in which the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa is comparable to the rabid dog], that being just as it is one of the characteristics of the rabid dog to have his saliva flow, that being the froth of the dog which is definitely very disgusting, specifically [when coming] from the rabid dog, if [the rabid dog’s froth drips] the prior presence of the rabid dog would be evident though he briefly chanced that place, his presence even being evident after he left the area [as] the saliva continuously pours from his open mouth. Similar to the rabid dog, the habitual slanderer has an open mouth and his stench rises everywhere he goes, making a mark in that place. There are another three signs inherent to the rabid dog: His ears are spread apart, [his tail is placed between his thighs, and he walks on the sides of the public domain]. That is that the rabid dog, regarding which our Sages of Blessed Memory have said his bite is exceedingly dangerous, also really desires to bite all [those] who happen [to pass] before him. In order that people do not conceal [themselves] from him due to the great danger [he poses] as a result of the evil spirit that rests upon him, as [our Sages of Blessed Memory] have said, he hides and conceals himself in [any possible] manner, and suddenly, [without warning], he encounters a person and bites him. Therefore, [in order to mislead the unsuspecting passerby, the rabid dog] walks and is [careful] to not run. [He walks] on the sides of the public domain [avoiding entering into] the public domain [in close range of] people. [This follows that which our Sages of Blessed Memory have said (Bava Kamma 60b): “A person should never walk on the sides of the paths”], in order so that all who see him [will] think that he is slowly going on his way. [Similarly, in order to mislead people the] ears [of the rabid dog] are also spread out. It is known that The Holy One, Blessed is He, endowed the dog with a powerful innate sense of hearing, so that he would be able to guard himself and his owner, and so that nothing [harmful] befalls them. Therefore, this dog who wants to endanger everyone, walks on the sides of the public domain [with] his ears spread out, [that is, his large ears are folded downward (see RaSh”I’s explanation on Beitzah 25b)] so that it will appear as if he is going on his [own] way, not wanting to hear anything which is [spoken] on his side. [In order to keep a low profile] his tail is also placed between his thighs, not lifting it. [The rabid dog assumes a low profile in the aforementioned manners], in order to [make it appear] to everyone that he is a calm and secure [dog], not wanting to arouse his senses to fight against those in his vicinity. There are those who say that [the rabid dog] even barks without his voice being heard. All of these [actions displayed by the dog are performed for] the aforementioned reason: In order that everyone thinks that he is the best of dogs, [so that they will] not put up their guard against him. The evil spirit that [rests] upon [the rabid dog is responsible for] all of the [aforementioned] actions [that he undertakes].

The [aforementioned actions of the rabid dog] is precisely the nature of the habitual slanderer: Aside from [from the fact that the slanderer] always investigates [concerning] that which was performed in the houses of the city in order that he will have some [gossip] to relate in the marketplace[3], [the slanderer] also changes his methods [of information gathering]. Once the slanderer is publicly exposed for what he is, [that being] as a thorn in the eyes of the people of the city, everyone [consequently] guarding themselves from him, he [thereupon] goes on the sides of the public domain slowly and quietly, as if nothing [of the goings-on] affects him, and [by doing so, he] spies out all of the concealed as well as [the] revealed happenings [withing] the city. [Just as the dog misleads the unsuspecting passerby, so too the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa], at the time when he relates slander and tale-bearing, he will do so in a deceitful manner, acting as if he is relating [that slander] incidentally, not relating the entire story, only hinting [as to what happened in a manner that] will clue his friend into the rest of the events that occurred, [leading him to] understand the rest [of the tale on his own, and will thereby be subject to the forbidden speech of the slanderer].

[The] ears [of the rabid dog] are spread out, and his tail is placed between his thighs, similarly, [the above] applies to [the habitual slanderer, for] though [on the outside, the slanderer acts in a calm and composed manner], all of his senses are burning, specifically the sense of hearing, [in order] to hear all that was done in the city, [and] to [then] run and [spread] gossip from one [person] to [another]. Nevertheless, when in public, [the slanderer] makes himself appear to [others] as if he has subdued all of his [outward behavior that would indicate his intent to spread slander, behaving] pleasantly toward everyone, [acting as if he does] not want to hear any of the interpersonal goings-on. [The habitual slanderer performs] all of these actions in order that the city-dwellers won’t [take precautions] from [him, thereby putting their guard down], revealing to him everything [that occurred of which they are aware]. There are those who say that [the rabid dog emits a soundless bark. [The slanderer resembles this character trait of the rabid dog], for through his slander, he [inflicts] damage against [the victim in a] concealed [manner]. [The aforementioned refers] specifically [to] those [people] who write notes of misery (which are called “paskavvilin[4]”), concerning such [types of sins], it says [in the Torah] “Cursed is one who strikes his fellow in a concealed [manner]”[5]
(Devarim: 27; 24). Everything is undertaken [by the slanderer] in order that his fellow will not be able to take precautions from him. Consequently, [that individual] remains a potential victim [of the slanderer, analogous to the victim of the rabid] dog [with] the [silent bark, concerning whom we have] mentioned earlier. [As the slanderer resembles the traits of the rabid dog], the spirit of impurity that rests on the rabid dog is drawn upon [the slanderer]. The Sifrei compares [the slanderer] to one who is bitten by the rabid dog, who similarly has the spirit of impurity rest upon him, as mentioned earlier.][6] [The conclusion of the teaching concerning the rabid dog is self-explanatory. See the end of chapter 16].

[1] RaSh”I explains that the term "חייף" refers to one who is “scratched” by the rabid dog, rather than the more general term “attacked”.

[2] Addition of the Chofetz Chaim: [This follows that which our Sages of Blessed Memory] have said Beitzah (25b): “There are three who are brazen… the most brazen of the animals is the dog…

[3] The Chofetz Chaim notes that this follows the explanation of RaSh"I in Parshas Kedoshim (Vayikra: 19; 16). The pasuk states: “Do not walk as a talebearer in your nation…” RaSh”I notes as follows: “I say, that these talebearers are called [“Holchei rachil”] for all of these people who incite quarrels and speak Lashon HaRa arrive at their friends house in order to spy to see what they will see or hear that is bad so that they can subsequently relate that information in the marketplace. These individuals are referred to as “Holchei rachil” [similar to the phrase] “Holchei Rigilah” – “those who go to spy”… A proof of this is that we do not find “richilus” – “talebearing” without the description of “halicha” – “walking”. “Do not walk as a talebearer” (this pasuk), “those who walk as talebearers are as copper and iron”. RaSh”I continues, saying that concerning Lashon HaRa, we do not have the description of walking. The “chof” of “rachil” – “talebearer”, and the “gimmel” of “rogail” – “spying” are interchangeable. This teaches us the method of the talebearer resembles the method of the spy, as he collects information in order to relate it in a harmful manner against the intended victim.

[4] “Paskavvilin” – "פאסקווילן" according to the Chofetz Chaim, refers to “letters of misery” can be broken up to two words that mean “writings of misery” or “writings of foolishness”.

[5] RaSh"I notes that one "who smites his fellow in private" refers to Lashon HaRa. The Sifsei Chachamim, commenting on RaSh"I, notes that one who physically smites his fellow in public is of course liable for punishment. However, this teaching of "smiting in private" comes to teach us of the sin of speaking Lashon HaRa against one's fellow in private.

[6] The conclusion of the above passage above notes that one who is bitten by the rabid dog, dies, while someone who is scratched by the dog is in peril. Similarly, the habitual speakers of slander can kill with their slander, as did Doeg, as we have learned earlier. The slanderer can also inflict physical or financial loss to the victim of the Lashon HaRa, similar to the scratches inflicted by the rabid dog which put the victim in peril and cause him injury.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon כ"ב תשרי - Tishrei 22 - Twenty-Second Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Furthermore, [in addition to being responsible for driving HaShem's Divine Presence out of the midst of Israel], we find in a Midrash, that The Holy One, Blessed is He, does not want to bond at all with the habitual slanderer to save him from his troubles. The only advice to offer [this type of] individual is that he should guard his tongue from evil [speech] and he should conceal himself, as well, from sitting amongst a group of people who speak of shameful matters concerning their fellows.

The Midrash and Sifrei Zuta state as follows[1]: The Holy One, Blessed is He, said: From all of the troubles that come upon you, I am able to save you, but with [regards to the sin of] slander, conceal yourself, and you will not lose out. [The above teaching is similar to the following] parable: [There was] a wealthy person who had a great affinity toward a villager [and] ventured out to inquire of him as to his wellbeing.
A rabid dog resided [in close proximity to the villager] who would [regularly] bite people. The wealthy man said to the [villager whom] he loved: ‘My son, if you are in debt to a person – I will pay it off for you, do not conceal yourself from him. However, if you see a rabid dog, hide from him, for if he bites you, I do not know what I can do [to assist] you!’ Such [did] The Holy One, Blessed is He, say: “From six troubles He will save you… and when the tongue wanders, you shall hide”[2] (Iyov: 5; 19-21)”. Behold the sweetness of the words of our Sages of Blessed Memory, for they sweetened the words of the one spoiled from this sin [of slander] likening it to one who is bitten by a rabid dog. In reality, [the rabid dog and the slanderer] are identical, as [our Sages of Blessed Memory] have said in [maseches] Yoma (84a) [as follows]: One who is bitten by a rabid dog has no remedy. Regarding slander [our Sages] have similarly [taught], that one accustomed to this sin [of slander], Heaven Forbid, has no remedy, [as our Sages of Blessed Memory] said (Arachin, 15b): “One who relates [slander] has no remedy.”

[1] See Yalkut Parshas Ki Teitze (Yalkut Shimoni ParshasKi Teitze” 23, Remez 933 – toward the end)].

[2] The full verse reads: “From a wandering tongue you shall hide and do not fear from plunder when it arrives.” (Iyov: 5; 21) Metzudas David explains that when the tongue of Lashon HaRa and gossip increase in the world, you should hide from these gossipers so that they do not speak concerning you, and you will be saved from the plunder and the destruction that comes as a result of Lashon HaRa.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon כ"א תשרי - Tishrei 21 - Twenty-First Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

[Lashon HaRa is so severe], that in addition [to being equivalent to the three cardinal sins, as well as leading to defeats in war], it also causes the Shechinah[1] to remove itself from the Jewish People, as [our Sages of Blessed Memory] have said in Midrash Rabbah[2], [as follows]: “Rabbi Mona said, all [those] who speak Lashon HaRa, remove the Shechinah from below, [in this world], to [ascend] above, [to the Heavens]. [In this context], you should be aware concerning that which David said, [as follows]: “My soul is among lions, I lie with men who are aflame; people whose teeth are swords and arrows, and their tongues are sharp swords”. (Tehillim: 57; 5) What is written [immediately] following [the above verse]? “G-d is high upon the Heavens…” (Tehillim: 57; 6) David said: ‘Master of The Universe, what is The Divine Presence [of HaShem] doing below, [in this world]? Remove The Shechinah to the Heavens [due to the forbidden speech practiced on earth]! Similarly, [the following teaching] is brought in Midrash Rabbah[3]: The Holy One, Blessed is He, said: In this world, since there has been slander in your midst, I have removed My Presence from being amongst you. [Similarly, [our Sages of Blessed Memory] have said in [maseches] Arachin (15b), [as follows]: Rav Chisda said in the name of Mar Ukvah: [In reference to all those who speak slander, The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, ‘I and he are not able to dwell in the world, as it says, [One who slanders his fellow in secret, him I shall cut off, one with haughty eyes, and who desires everything, him I cannot bear]. (Tehillim: 101; 5) Jerusalem was destroyed [at the time of the destruction of] the Second Temple solely as a result of the sin of speakers of slander who were amongst them, as a result of the baseless hatred that was [present] among the [Jews], as [our Sages of Blessed Memory have taught] in maseches Yoma (9b)[4].

One who
incites an argument between those who love each other, Heaven Forbid, by means of his Lashon HaRa and Rechilus, is [consequently] abominable before HaShem, this sin being more severe than the sin of haughtiness, lying, and murder, [among other severe sins], as it says in Mishlei (6; 16 – 19): “There are six [individuals] whom HaShem hates, and the seventh is an abomination of His Soul: Haughty eyes, speaking falsehood, and hands that spill innocent blood… and those who incite quarrels between brothers”; Our Sages of Blessed Memory said[5] that this [sin of inciting quarrels between brothers] is the seventh [sin], it being the most severe of all [of the seven sins listed in the p'sukim].[6]

Shechinah is G-d’s Divine Presence.

[2] This teaching is found in Midrash Rabbah on Parshas Shoftim and Devarim Rabbah, Parsha 5, 10.

[3] This teaching from Midrash Rabbah is found in Parshas Ki Seitze, Devarim Rabbah Parsha (6, 14).

[4] The above teaching and
RaSh”I’s explanation can also be found in maseches Gittin (56, 57b), quoted in the name of Rabbi Elazar, following (RaSh”I’s explanation is preceded by the introductory phrase "והינו" – “and it is”).

[5] This teaching can be found in Vayikra Rabbah (parsha 16, 1).

[6] The verses read:
There are six that HaShem hates and the seventh [sin] is the abomination of His soul. Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that spill innocent blood. A heart that devises sinful thoughts, feet that quicken to run to evil. One who speaks falsehoods and testifies falsely, and one who incites quarrels between brothers.” (Mishlei: 6; 16 – 19)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon כ תשרי - Tishrei 20 - Twentieth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Chapter 4

Wherein shall be explained [Concerning] the power of [the sin of] Lashon HaRa

The power of [the sin of] Lashon HaRa is so great is that it is equivalent to the three most severe sins. This follows that which [our Sages of Blessed Memory] said in Arachin (15b) and in Midrash Shocher Tov: “It was taught in the Academy of Rabbi Yishmael, all those who speak Lashon HaRa make [their] sins as great as the three [cardinal] sins [of] idolatry, sexual immorality, and murder. [The relationship between the severity of Lashon HaRa and the three cardinal sins is demonstrated by the following verses]. For it is written over here [by the sin of Lashon HaRa], “The tongue that speaks of great things” (Tehillim: 12; 4), while by idolatry it is written “I plead with You, this nation has committed a great sin…” (Shmos: 32; 31), by sexual immorality it is written “And how will I perform this great evil” (Bereishis: 39; 9), and by murder it is written “My sin is too great to bear”.[1] (Bereishis: 4; 13)” These [verses] come to inform you that Lashon HaRa is more severe than these three [cardinal] sins.[2] An alternative explanation [concerning the negative power of Lashon HaRa]: The one who kills someone, kills just [but] one person, [while] the [person] who speaks Lashon HaRa kills three [people], [they being] The one who speaks [Lashon HaRa], the one who accepts [the slander as true], and the one who is [the target of the Lashon HaRa]. From where do [we] learn [of] this [destructive power of Lashon HaRa]? [Support for the above teaching can be found by the incident involving] Doeg who spoke Lashon HaRa [against] Achimelech, before Shaul, all three of them [eventually] being killed: Shaul who accepted [the Lashon HaRa], Achimelech who was [the target of the Lashon HaRa], and Doeg who spoke [the Lashon HaRa]. Shaul [was killed as a result] of accepting [the Lashon HaRa], as it says “And Shaul died…”[3] (Shmuel I: 31; 6) and Achimelech who was [the victim of the Lashon HaRa, died], as it says, “Achimelech shall surely die” (Shmuel I: 32; 16), and Doeg who spoke [the Lashon HaRa] was banished from the world, as it says “Also G-d shall cut you off forever” (Tehillim: 52; 7) – from life [in this world]. What caused this [punishment to befall Doeg]? [The] Lashon HaRa [that he spoke led to his being punished].

[The following teaching] stated [by our Sages of Blessed Memory] is found in Sifrei[4] and in Arachin (15a): “Our ancestors were tested [by HaShem with] ten tests, and for all of [the ten tests], the decree of judgment was not sealed except on account of the sin of Lashon HaRa. [This follows that which] it says: “And they have tested Me these ten times and have not heeded My voice[5] (Bamidbar: 14; 22), and it is written “you have wearied HaShem with your words.” (Malachi: 2; 17)[6]

Similarly we find in Midrash Shocher Tov[7] and in the Yerushalmi[8], that in the days of Achav, though they worshiped idols, they were victorious in the wars [in which they fought], for Lashon HaRa was not present among them. The proof [of the aforementioned] is that they did not slander Ovadiah who hid one-hundred prophets in two caves. No one revealed that there was a prophet among the Jews aside from Eliyahu, as it says (Melachim I: 18; 22) “I alone remain a prophet to HaShem”. Though everyone knew about [Ovadiah hiding one-hundred prophets], they provided Ovadiah with the bread and water to sustain [the one-hundred prophets][9]. At the end of Shaul’s life, there was slander in the midst of the Jewish People as was the case with Doeg and the Ziffim[10]. Though the Jewish People did not practice idolatry as in [the generation] of Achav, and [Shaul’s generation possessed] children who knew forty-nine facets of the Torah, they would go down to war and would [nevertheless] fall [in battle].

[1] See Midrash Shocher Tov on Tehillim 52.

[2] The first verse relates to Lashon HaRa, while in the second verse, Moshe is pleading with HaShem to hold back on inflicting the Israelites with a harsh punishment for their involvement in making and worshipping the golden calf. The third verse discusses Yosef informing the wife of Potiphar (Yosef’s master) that he could not have intimate relations with her, while the final verse discusses Kayin's admission of the severity of the sin he committed by murdering Hevel.

[3] It appears that the plural form of "גדול" - “great”, used only by the sin of Lashon HaRa, indicates that Lashon HaRa is of greater severity than the sin of idolatry, the sin of sexual immorality, and the sin of murder. The term "גדול" is used to connect the severity of Lashon HaRa to murder, sexual immorality, and idolatry.

The entire verse reads: “And Shaul and his three sons and those who carried his weapons and his men died together on that day. (Shmuel I: 31; 6) Metzudas David explains “his men” to refer to Shaul’s servants.

[4] This teaching is found on Parshas Devarim, Piskah aleph.

[5] This verse discusses all of the instances when the Jews tested HaShem from their exodus from Egypt until entering The Land of Israel. The above verse follows the section of the Torah discussing the slander spoken by ten of the twelve tribal representatives against the Land of Israel as well as their questioning the ability of the Israelites to overcome their enemies, even though HaShem was in their midst (Calev and Yehoshua were the two spies who did not speak slander).

The verses read: “For all of the people who see My honor and My signs which I have performed in Egypt and in the desert and they have tested Me these ten times and have not heeded to My voice. If they shall see the Land which I have sworn to their forefathers, and all those who spurn me shall not see it.” (Bamidbar: 14; 22 – 23)

The gemara (Arachin, 15a) lists the ten sins:

“We learn in a Baraisa: Our forefathers tested HaShem with ten tests. Two in the Sea [of Reeds], two with the manna, two with the quail, one with the golden calf, and one in the desert of Paran.

Two by the Sea [of Reeds, before entering the desert], as it says, (Shmos: 14; 11) “Are there not enough graves in Egypt…?” and once by ascending out of the Sea [of Reeds] (Tehillim: 106; 7) “And they were rebellious about the Sea while in the Sea of Reeds.” This teaches that the Children of Israel were rebellious and said, ‘Just as we are ascending from this side, so too are the Egyptians ascending from another side.

Two by the water, once in Marah and once in Rephidim: In Marah it is written (Shmos: 15; 23) “And they came to Marah” and it is written “and the nation complained against Moshe” (Shmos: 15; 24). Regarding Rephidim it is written (Shmos: 17; 1) “And they encamped in Rephidim and there was no water for the nation to drink and the nation argued with Moshe.

Two [sins were performed] by [the incident involving] the manna, as it is written that after Moshe commanded [the Israelites] to not go out to gather manna on the Sabbath – “Do not go out”, [nevertheless], some people “went out” trying to find manna. (Shmos: 16; 26 – 27) The Israelites also tested HaShem when they were commanded “do not leave over [from the mon until the morning]” and nevertheless they left over manna. (Shmos: 16; 20)

Two [sins were performed] by the [incident involving the] quail, the first one when the Israelites complained of the luxurious food they “had” in Egypt: “While we are sitting on the side of meat”. (Bamidbar: 11; 4)

By the golden calf, as the incident is recorded (Shmos: 32) while many of the Israelites allowed the golden calf to be made as a replacement for the supposed loss of Moshe.

[The incident] in the Midbar (desert) of Paran is recorded over here, it being the sin of the spies. (Bamidbar: 14)

[6] The entire verse reads: “You have wearied HaShem with your words and you have said, ‘How have we wearied you?’ When you have said, ‘All those who do evil are good in the eyes of HaShem and in them He desires or else where is the G-d of judgment?’”

The above statement by the evildoers is not only a denial of HaShem’s control over the world and/or of the Torah, it is also motzi shem ra (libel) against HaShem.

Metzudas David explains that obviously HaShem cannot be “wearied”, rather the verse speaks in the language of men, making the verse more understandable for people. Metzudas David explains that when upon noticing the hard life of many of the righteous, the evildoers claim that either HaShem must approve of their sinful lives or else, “where is the G-d of judgment” to punish the evildoers?

MaLBi”M explains that those heretics and deniers of the Torah claim that G-d is “too wearied” to punish the evildoer, either that or He views evil as good.

[7] This teaching from Midrash Shocher Tov is found on Tehillim (7; 8).

[8] This teaching from the Talmud Yerushalmi is found in maseches
Peah (chapter 1, halacha 1).

[9] For other sources which discuss this teaching, see the SMa”K (Sefer Mitzvos Ketanos) mitzva 124 in Beur Ha’Davar.

[10] Doeg spoke Lashon HaRa against Achilemelech and Nov, the city of Kohanim. When relating the incident involving David (Shaul’s enemy at the time) and Achimelech, Doeg worded his Lashon HaRa so as to mislead Shaul that Achimelech was conspiring with David against Shaul. (Shmuel I: 22)

Based on the intentionally skewed information that Doeg provided Shaul, eighty-five Kohanim that wore ephods, as well as the entire city of Kohanim (with one exception) were wiped out by Doeg. The victims of the Lashon HaRa – Achimelech and the city of Kohanim were wiped out, Shaul died in battle, and HaShem said that the speaker of Lashon HaRa, Doeg, would be cut off from life in this world and, according to maseches
Sanhedrin (90a), Doeg, as a result of Lashon HaRa was one of the few people to lose his portion in The World to Come.

The Ziffim told Shaul where David and his men were hiding so that Shaul could attack David, however, HaShem saved David from Shaul.

Shmiras HaLashon י"ט תשרי - Tishrei 19 - Nineteenth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

The Gaon[1] Rabbi R'phael, in his book Marpei Lashon[2], similarly explains the [previously quoted] verse [from Tehillim (34; 13)], with good taste and knowledge. [This explanation] follows that which is written in the book “Duties of the Heart[3]”, as follows: “Many people arrive at the day of accounting, [after passing away], and whereupon being shown their actions [performed in this world], they will discover in their book of merits, meritorious [deeds] which they did not perform, and will [then] say “we did not perform [these deeds]”. [In Heaven], they will say to them [in response]: Those who spoke [slanderously] and those who [related] that which is disgraceful about you, performed these [deeds]. Similarly, those who speak that which is disgraceful about their fellow, whereupon discovering that they are lacking merits, will inquire [regarding those meritorious deeds which have not been recorded], and, [in Heaven], they will [respond]: “You lost [those merits] at the time that you spoke [Lashon HaRa against others].” Similarly, some [of these slanderers] will also find, transgressions which they did not commit, included in the book of their sins. When [these slanderers] say “I did not perform [these sins]”, they will be told: “[These sins] were added to your [record] because of the following individuals whom you spoke [Lashon HaRa against]…” The other holy books have written that which is similar [to the aforementioned teaching from “Duties of the Heart”].

[As] the [above] is true, [the] one who is ingrained with this evil trait, Heaven Forbid, incessantly emptying the arrows of his tongue upon his fellow,
will not benefit from any wisdom or advice, even if he were to accustom himself to always [be involved] with Torah and mitzvos. [This is true], for immediately [after earning] the eternal reward from a week or two of learning Torah and performing mitzvos, [he] will [attack] his fellow with the arrows of his mouth, and [thereby] his merits [will transfer] [to his fellow] for eternity, [taking], in exchange, [from the] sins [of his fellow who was the target of his forbidden speech]. If subsequently he were to earn eternal reward for some months or years, he will [then happen upon] another person [and speak against him], thereby [transferring more of his eternal reward] to [his fellow], as mentioned above, [this pattern repeating itself] until the day of his death, Heaven Forbid. In summary: This person is likely to leave this world cleaned of his possessions, they being the eternal possessions of Torah and mitzvos [he performed]. In exchange for [the merits that he lost, he] will be full of many great, abundant, and immense sins, of various types, from [the] people [that he slandered. The slanderer will bear each of the victims’ sins] in accordance to the degree of shame and disgrace that [he caused] these [people] in his lifetime [through his forbidden speech]. Therefore, Dovid HaMelech, Alav HaShalom, warned us [that we must] first guard [our] tongue from evil, and afterwards “remove [ourselves] from evil and perform [that which is] good”, for by guarding one’s tongue, a great deal of [reward] that The Holy One, Blessed is He, sets aside for him, whether [the reward earned] is small or great, will in any case remain in his possession, and he will [thereby] not give [away] his wealth [that awaits him in The World to Come], to others.

Gaon often refers to a great sage.

[2] This teaching is found in The Pillar of Fear page 1, third column of the Vilna printing.

[3] This teaching is found in
“Duties of the Heart” - Chovos HaLevavos: Gate of Submission, chapter 7.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon י"ח תשרי - Tishrei 18 - Eighteenth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Chapter 3

In [this chapter, we] shall explain that eternal life and the good of this world are dependant on Guarding of the Tongue

Furthermore, [in addition to the great damage that comes to the world due to Lashon HaRa], we can say that Dovid HaMelech[1], Alav HaShalom[2], made the essence of eternal life [in The World to Come] and the good of this world dependent in Guarding [of] the Tongue. For it is known that the soul of a person is called a living soul, since, because of it, a person will live eternal life. The holy soul of the habitual speaker of slander leaves him because of this [sin], as is written in the Holy Zohar[3].

[Similarly], in this world [the habitual speaker of slander] is designated to experience suffering, [the suffering being] the fruits of the bitter sin [of Lashon HaRa]. As explained in the Yerushalmi[4], a person is punished on account of this sin [of slander] in this world and the [principle punishment] remains intact [for him] in The World to Come.

The man who restrains his mouth from speaking the forbidden words merits the life of The World to Come and the light hidden [reserved] for the righteous. [This] resembles that which the GR”A[5] wrote (in his letter “Alim L’Tirufah”) in the name of the Midrash, [where he states] that for every moment that a person restrains his mouth [from speaking Lashon HaRa], he merits the hidden light that no angel or person can imagine.

Therefore, Dovid HaMelech, Alav HaShalom, warned us (Tehillim: 34; 13-14), [as follows]: “Who is the man who desires life?” – in The World to Come, “and to see good” – in this world? [Then] “guard your mouth from evil...”.

There is another obvious matter through which we can understand the shamefulness of the bitter sin [of Lashon HaRa], that being the known superiority of the person over all other [forms of] life [in this world] is [the power of speech], which The Holy One, Blessed is He, added [to the person with] the “speaking soul”, as it is written (Bereishis: 2; 7) “And He Breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living being”. Onkelos[6] explains [a “living soul” to be]: “the speaking spirit”. The person, [referred to as the “speaking spirit”] is only [considered to be a “speaking spirit”] if he causes improvement through this power of speech [that is] provided to him by The Holy One, Blessed is He. If [the individual] uses his speech for [that which is] evil, he is inferior to the animals that are on the face of the earth, for, in any event, [the animals are] not be corrupted [by forbidden speech]. For this [reason], the pasuk was very precise [to state] “Who is the man?…”, for, if [one does not use their speech properly], they are not in the class of “man”. Specifically, [in the case where the slanderer] is Torah observant, his shamefulness is thereby more evident, he being comparable to a great palace with a tanner’s gutter situated in its midst. [This comparison] is similar to that [teaching] which is brought in tractate Derech Eretz[7].

[1] Dovid HaMelech” is King David.

[2] Alav HaShalom means “Peace is Upon Him”. “Peace” here refers to one of the names of G-d.

[3] This teaching is found in the Zohar, Parshas Tazria , volume 3, 46b.

The Zohar states that The Divine Presence of HaShem appears to the person before passing away, attracting the soul out of the body. If worthy, the soul attaches itself to G-d’s Presence. If the person was a sinner and he is unworthy, the soul wanders alone until it is deemed fit to be judged in gehinnom (purgatory) and is subsequently rewarded.

[4] This teaching from the Talmud Yerushalmi is found in maseches
Peah (ch. 1, halacha 1).

[5] The GR”A (Acronym for Gaon Rav Eliyahu, Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer (1720 – 1797), commonly known as the Vilna Gaon (Great one of Vilna).

[6] Onkelos wrote an Aramaic translation of the Torah which is also a commentary, at times, Onkelos does not literally translate the verse, but rather offers an explanation of the verse. Onkelos' commentary is also referred to as
Targum”, which means commentary.

[7] This teaching is found in
Derech Eretz Rabbah, in chapter three, quoted in the name of Rabbi Elazar ben Ya’akov. Derech Eretz Rabbah adds that just as a fragrant smelling spice has a foul odor after passing through the digestive system, so too is a respected person considered despicable upon saying that which is looked down upon, the offense appearing similar to a tanner’s gutter that flows through a palace.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon י"ז תשרי - Tishrei 17 - Seventeenth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Behold, when the [receptive] person contemplates the words of the Holy Zohar quoted above, focusing with an open eye on that which comes into existence [as result of] his words, he will be full of fear, trembling, and tremors, rather than speak any [Lashon HaRa] against his fellow. Would it not be that if a person [were told] that he himself should enter the sanctuary of HaShem or send someone in his place, and he will stand before the Ark of His Covenant, [to] prosecute against the Jewish People, not saying [that which is] untrue about them, only [relaying information] which he knows to be true, it is clear, that even the most contemptible of the Jews would [rather] place himself in danger, and will not burden himself with the guilt of [such a great] sin. Is the same not true [with regards to] Lashon HaRa? For [the] gossip that [the individual] arouses in his mouth rises Above, [to Heaven], before the Throne of HaShem Yisbarach’s Glory. [The above is] explicitly taught in Tanna Dvei Eliyahu[1], as follows: “Just as the evildoers speak slander, and it rises opposite the Throne of Glory, similarly… [The speaker of Lashon HaRa] with [his forbidden speech] arouses the great prosecutor against the Jewish People, as is mentioned earlier, in the name of the Holy Zohar[2].

Behold, from all [that which we have learned], we can understand the great punishment that is fitting to befall [the speaker of slander, both] in this world and in The World to Come, [as a result of] this bitter sin. Therefore, Dovid HaMelech, Alav HaShalom, warned us, that when we desire to live the eternal life in The World to Come and [enjoy] good days in this world, [we] should, [first of all], guard [our] tongues from [speaking that which is] evil. How greatly must we be embarrassed and ashamed from [before] The Holy One, Blessed is He, on the High Holy Days [when] we entreat Him “Silence the Prosecutor and take the defense in his place”, [while] we ourselves, through our Lashon HaRa, arouse [the Prosecutor], giving him the power to prosecute [against us]. May HaShem place love, brotherhood, peace and friendship in our midst. [Amen!]

[1] This teaching is found in Eliyahu Rabbah, chapter 18, section 82.

[2] See the fifteenth day for more from this quote from the Zohar.