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

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.

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