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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

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.

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