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, September 28, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon י חשון - Cheshvan 10 - Fortieth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Chapter 9

In [this Chapter we] Shall Explain [Concerning] the Deplorable Situation [One Will Find Himself in] as a Result of this [Sin of Lashon HaRa], in Future Times

Behold, in the previous chapters, [we] explained [concerning the types of] punishment[s that] the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa [suffers] in this world. Now, [in this chapter], we shall explain
[concerning] the punishment [awaiting the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa] in the future, [that being in The World to Come].

Behold, our Sages of Blessed Memory have explained to us in [maseches
Sotah (42a)], that the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa [belongs to] one of the four categories [of people] who do not receive [G-d’s] Presence. [The gemara states], “Rav Yirmiyah the son of Abba said: ‘Four groups [of people] do not receive G-d’s Divine Presence: The group of flatterers, the group of liars, the group of mockers, [and] the group of speakers of Lashon HaRa. The group of mockers [do not receive G-d’s Presence], as it is written…[1] The group of habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa [do not receive G-d’s Presence], as it is written, “For You are G-d who does not desire evil, evil will not dwell with You [in Your midst].” (Tehillim: 5; 5) You are righteous HaShem, evil will not dwell in Your “habitation””. (Sotah, 42a) This section deals with the sin of the habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa, as RaSh”I explained over there[2] [on the passage in the gemara]. Furthermore, the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa is referred to by the name “ra” – “evil”, as is taught in Aggadas Mishlei[3] on the [following] pasuk [quoted in sefer Mishlei]: “Deceit is in the heart of one who dwells in evil”. (12; 20) “Rav Chama the son of Rabbi Chanina said: All those who speak with their fellow and eat with their fellow and speak Lashon HaRa against him – The Holy One, Blessed is He, [refers to that person as] “evil”…[4]

[The speaker of Lashon HaRa] is also sentenced to [be punished] in the third sector of gehinnom because of this sin [of Lashon HaRa], as is [taught] in Midrash HaNe’elam on [the Book of] Ruth.

Take note of the great punishment [that befalls the speakers of Lashon HaRa], for due to the greatness of their sin [of Lashon HaRa], gehinnom is barely able to cleanse them from this sin. [This follows] that which is explained in Tanna D'vei Eliyahu,[5] [as follows]: “Just as the evildoers speak Lashon HaRa and [that Lashon HaRa] rises to [HaShem’s] Throne of Glory, measure-for-measure, angels descend from the “Mouth” of G-d [to] take the evildoers and throw them into the depths of gehinnom. At the moment [that these speakers of Lashon HaRa are thrown into gehinnom], gehinnom responds and says before The Holy One, Blessed is He: “Master of the Universe, I do not have the ability to exact sufficient retribution from them in accordance with their punishment. The entire Universe is unable to provide them sufficient retribution [for their sin of Lashon HaRa, for] the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa has sinned from the earth to the Heavens! Rather, first shoot your arrows from Above, [in Heaven], and afterwards [the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa] will receive rosem cinders from us from below, [inside the earth], as it says [in
Tehillim] “What shall the deceitful tongue give to you and what shall it add to you? The sharp arrows of The Strong One, with rosem cinders[6].” (120; 3 – 4) [In this context], “Strong One” refers only to The Holy One, Blessed is He, as it says [in Devarim] (10; 17) “…The G-d – The Great, The Strong…”… We find a similar [teaching to the aforementioned] in [maseches] Arachin (15b), see over there[7]. The [receptive] person must strengthen himself to stand against his [evil inclination in order to avoid] this bitter sin [of Lashon HaRa], especially when aware of the great punishment that would otherwise await the gossiper, [it being] the great prison, [better known as] gehinnom. [Even gehinnom] does not have the wherewithal [to punish the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa] until it is assisted from Above, [from HaShem].

[1] The rest of the quote from the gemara is as follows: “The group of mockers [are not received by HaShem's Divine Presence], as it is written, "...He withdrew His hand [from being with] mockers" (Hoshea: 7; 5), the group of flatterers, as it is written, "For a flatterer does not come before Him." (Iyov: 13; 16), the group of liars, as it is written, "One who speaks lies will not be established before My eyes." (Tehillim: 101; 7), the group of speakers of Lashon HaRa...”

[2] RaSh”I on the gemara in Sotah notes that this section of Tehillim (chapter 5) deals with speakers of Lashon HaRa, as it says in the following pasuk: “For his mouth is not established, their thoughts are of deceit, their throats are an open grave, their tongues cause division.” (Tehillim: 5; 10) RaSh”I explains this pasuk as follows: Their mouths are not established as they make themselves appear as if they love each other, while, in reality, they are enemies. Their throats are open graves as they intend to swallow the work of others.

In the pasuk quoted above from Tehillim, the term “yachalikun” – “יחליקון” is used, while “lips of division” – “sifsei chalakos” – “שפתי חלקות” is found in Tehillim (12; 4) which refers to “lips of division” (alternatively, “lips that speak with import).

[3] This teaching can be found in Aggadas Mishlei 12, remez 959 or Midrash Mishlei, at the beginning of chapter 14.

[4] From what we learn in Aggadas Mishlei, it is evident that the pasuk from Tehillim (5; 5) is referring to the speaker of Lashon HaRa when it states “…evil will not dwell with You.”

[5] This teaching is found in the 18th chapter of Eliyahu Rabba.

[6] RaSh”I explains rosem cinders as follows: “All coals, when extinguished from outside, are similarly extinguished from the inside. [However], when these [rosem cinders] are extinguished on the outside, they are not [necessarily] extinguished on the inside.” Metzudas David adds: [The rosem cinder is similar to] one who speaks Lashon HaRa in private, [though], while in public, speaks smoothly. So too, the rosem cinder appears to be extinguished on the outside, not posing any danger, while, in reality, it is still burning on the inside and is therefore still dangerous. The rosem coal may come from the retama or broom plant.

MaLBI”M explains that Lashon HaRa is comparable to the sharp arrows of the mighty warrior which can kill from a distance. In contrast, the deceitful tongue is compared to the rosem coal which misleads the unsuspecting victim, leading him to approach and be “burned” by the deceitful tongue. The above is similar to one who touches and is thereby burned by the rosem coal, believing it to not pose a danger.

[7] Similarly, the gemara (Arachin, 15b) explains that HaShem shoots down “arrows” while gehinnom offers the rosem cinders to punish the speaker of Lashon HaRa. Rabbi Chama the son of Chanina says that a remedy for the speakers of Lashon HaRa is to involve oneself in Torah. If they are not a Torah scholar, it is recommended that they become lowly of spirit.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon ט חשון - Cheshvan 9 - Thirty-Ninth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

It is obvious that one who acclimates himself to constantly [partake] in this sin [of Lashon HaRa], is consequently punished with poverty and [suffers from] privation, as well as other troubles. [These punishments that he suffers] are also constant, [measure for measure for constantly involving himslef in the sin of Lashon HaRa, and take] the place of confirmed tzara’as that was fitting to [come] upon him due to this [sin], as mentioned earlier, in chapter five.

The great punishment [that the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa suffers] has been explained [to us as follows]: He [suffers] in this world and,
due to [the sin of Lashon HaRa, he is also] punished with constant troubles and poverty. At times, [the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa is] even punished with death, Heaven Forbid.

For the habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa, it is insufficient that they cause themselves to be stricken [with severe punishments due to] this [sin], but [they also cause] the [entire] world to be afflicted in the same manner [as they had been afflicted] as a consequence of their sin [of Lashon HaRa]. Due to the sin [of Lashon HaRa, the habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa effect] a decrease in the world’s food supply. [The above follows] that which is written in [maseches] Ta’anis (7b), “Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi said: “The rains are only stopped on account of those who speak Lashon HaRa[1], as it says, [“The north wind cancels the rain and angry faces [arise from] a hidden tongue [that speaks Lashon HaRa]][2]”.” (Mishlei: 25; 23) [This sin of Lashon HaRa] also causes plague, sword, and killing [to come to afflict] the world, as is written previously, in chapter two, in the name of the Holy Zohar[3].

Therefore, the person who desires his life [in this world] and [desires] the life of The World to Come, will guard his tongue from evil and it will be good for him in this [world] and in [The World] to Come.

[1] RaSh”I, in maseches
Ta’anis”, explains that forbidden types of speech, such as talebearing, result in the north wind coming in. The north wind blows away the rain and brings light to the world. HaShem exhibits an “angry countenance” by causing the north wind to blow the rain-clouds away as a result of the forbidden speech that was spoken.

[2] Metzudas David explains that the north wind “creates” and “gives birth” to the rain. Similarly, speaking Lashon HaRa leads the victim of Lashon HaRa to “give birth” to an angry countenance against the person who spoke against him. The varying explanations between RaSh”I in the beginning of his commentary on the teaching in maseches
Ta'anis and Metzudas David and RaSh"I, commenting on the pasuk in sefer Mishlei”, are as a result of different understandings of the term “ticholel” – “תחולל” which stem from the following:

RaSh”I, in maseches
Ta'anis”, says that “ticholel” is from the same root as “lo yachel divaro” – “לא יחל דברו” which means that his “words will not lie devoid [of action]…” (Bamidbar: 30; 3) However, RaSh"I on the pasuk in sefer Mishlei”, as well as at the conclusion of his explanation on this section of the gemara, in maseches Ta'anis”, agrees with the explanation of Metzudas David.

Metzudas David, in Metzudas Tzion, says that “ticholel” relates to the term “cholalti” (Tehillim: 51; 7) which means “created”.

Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi’s teaching that rain stops as a result of Lashon HaRa clearly follows RaSh”I’s explanation. However, based on the commentary of Metzudas David we can see how distraught a person can become if they are the victim of Lashon HaRa. If one were to combine part of the explanations of RaSh”I and Metzudas David, they might get the following explanation: There are three partners in the creation of man. HaShem contributes the soul. Therefore, when an individual’s feelings are hurt, the soul is suffering. If someone speaks Lashon HaRa against another individual, the victim will almost inevitably feel hurt in some way, often leading to the hurt feeling being expressed as an angry countenance. As the speaker of Lashon HaRa causes the victim of his Lashon HaRa to exhibit an angry countenance, HaShem, measure-for-measure, expresses an angry countenance and thereby holds back the rain.

[3] This teaching is found in the Zohar on Parshas
Pekudei, volume 2, 264, 2 – 265, 1. The quote is found in the first paragraph of the “Fifteenth Day”.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon ח חשון - Cheshvan 8 - Thirty-Eighth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Furthermore, we find [another teaching that discusses the severe consequences for the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa] in Midrash Aggados Bereishis, [as follows][1]: “In future times, everyone aside from the snake will be healed[2]. Similarly, the one who speaks Lashon HaRa against his fellow will not be healed in future times, as it says, “If the snake bites because it was not charmed, and there is no gain for the speaker of Lashon HaRa.[3] (Koheles: 10; 11)

Chofetz Chaim’s note: [The following teaching] is brought in Midrash Rabbah, Parshas Bereishis (parsha 20; 1): “Rabbi Levi said: “In the future, The Holy One, Blessed is He, will take the idolaters[4] and lower them into gehinnom[5]. [Whereupon being lowered into gehinnom, The Holy One, Blessed is He] will say to them: “Why were you penalizing My children, [the Jewish People]? [The idolaters] will say to Him [in response]: “[There were those] from [among] them and in their midst who would come and speak Lashon HaRa, one person against his fellow.” The Holy One, Blessed is He, would [then] take these [idolaters] and these [Jews who spoke Lashon HaRa] and lower them into gehinnom.

We also learn in Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer[6] “All those who speak Lashon HaRa against their fellow in private will not have a portion in The World to Come[7], as it says, “One who speaks Lashon HaRa against his fellow in private, I shall cut him off.”
(Tehillim: 101; 5) ([He will be cut off] permanently as it says in maseches Arachin, (15b).) Another pasuk states, “Cursed is one who smites his fellow in private”. (Devarim: 27; 24) [You should] know [that one who speaks Lashon HaRa against his fellow in private will never be healed]. Come and take note of that which [befell] the serpent who spoke Lashon HaRa between The Holy One, Blessed is He, and Adam and his helper[8], [Chavah]. [For this sin of Lashon HaRa that the snake spoke], The Holy One, Blessed is He, cursed [the snake] that his food would be dirt, as it says, “And you shall eat dirt all of the days of your life.” (Bereshis: 3; 14)

The explanation [of the punishment of the snake, is as follows]: Just as
it is written by [the punishment of the serpent], “all the days of your life” which definitely means that [the snake] will not be healed even in the days of Mashiach, so too, [the speaker of Lashon HaRa] will never be healed [even during the period of Mashiach. This follows that which our Sages of Blessed Memory] have said in [maseches] Berachos (12b), [as follows]: “The days of your life” [refer to life] this world, [while] “all the days of your life” include the period of Mashiach. Similarly, I have also seen in the holy books, that one who speaks Lashon HaRa experiences a decrease [in the availability of] his food supply, similar to the snake whose food supply was decreased.

[1] This teaching is found in
chapter 78 ofMidrash Aggadas B'reishis on Parshas Bereishis.

[2] The snake will not be healed, for it related Lashon HaRa directed against HaShem, to Chavah, thus leading to the mortality of man and Adam and Chavah’s banishment from Gan Eden, among other things. The snake told Chavah that HaShem did not want people eating from the eitz ha’da’as (tree of knowledge of good and evil), “For G-d knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you shall be like G-d, knowing good and evil.” (Bereishis: 3; 5) According to Bereishis Rabbah (19; 4), Rabbi Yehoshua of Sichnin quoted Rabbi Levi as teaching that the snake spoke slander against HaShem, by claiming that HaShem does not want people eating from the eitz ha’da’as, as they will be able to create worlds, as can G-d.

[3] This pasuk from Koheles connects the punishment of the snake to the punishment of the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa. It is especially appropriate to compare the snake and the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa, for the snake was the first one to sin through Lashon HaRa. (See Bereishis Rabbah: 20; 1)

On the pasuk from Koheles (10; 11), RaSh”I notes that there is no gain for the snake-charmer if he were to stop charming the snake, and, on the contrary, there is a loss, as the snake can feel free to go about and bite people. Similarly, there is nothing to be gained if a Torah scholar is silent, unwilling to teach the populace the laws of The Torah, [rationalizing that] the population will almost inevitably come to transgress many of the laws of The Torah. Metzudas David adds that the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa is worse than the snake, for the snake does not bite while it is being charmed and while it is being warned against biting. However, the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa, though warned of the severity of speaking Lashon HaRa, would nevertheless sin. The snake and the habitual speaker of Lashon HaRa are comparable as they both do not gain from the damage that they inflict on the victim and they nevertheless attack with the weapon of their mouths.

[4] The Hebrew term is “ovdei kochavim u’mazalos” - its literal translation is “those who worship stars and constellations”, though it also refers to idolaters.

[5] “Gehinnom” refers to “hell”.

[6] This teaching is found in chapter 53 of
Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer.

[7] Alternatively, this teaching may state that the speakers of Lashon HaRa will not be healed.

[8] Adam’s wife, Chavah, is described as an “eizer” or “helper” for Adam. The term “eizer” is found immediately before HaShem formed Chavah, where it states that “…and for Adam, he did not find a helper opposite him.”
(Bereishis: 2; 20)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon ז חשון - Cheshvan 7 - Thirty-Seventh Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

In addition [to all which we have already learned concerning the sin of Lashon HaRa], we have discovered [the following teaching] in [maseches] Arachin (15b): [Reish Lakish said]: “All those who speak Lashon HaRa raise their sins to the Heavens, as it says (Tehillim: 73; 9) “Their mouths have drank in the Heavens [and their tongues walk on the earth][1].”” [Lashon HaRa is] also equivalent to the three most severe sins, as mentioned earlier, in chapter four.

Just as [Lashon HaRa] is equivalent to [the three most severe sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, and murder], so too does [the] punishment [of the speaker of Lashon HaRa] correspond to the [punishment of the] three most severe sins. [This follows that which is taught] in the Yerushalmi[2]. This matter [of the severity of Lashon HaRa] is [also] [taught] in the SMa”G[3], [where we learn] that for four [sins] a person is punished in this world and the principle [of the punishment] remains for him in The World to Come. These [four sins] are idolatry, sexual immorality, murder, and Lashon HaRa, [the severity of Lashon HaRa being] equivalent to all [first three sins combined]. Similarly, we have quoted in chapter six from Sefer HaKanah, where we [note] that on account of this sin of Lashon HaRa, one is stricken with poverty.

[The following teaching] from Tanna Dvei Eliyahu[4] [comments on the great punishment [awaiting] one who speaks Lashon HaRa]: “Those who strike others in secret[5], those who profane the Name of HaShem, those who [employ their power of speech] to deride others, and those who incite dispute, their end will be as [was the end] of Korach. In reference to [Korach and many of those who partook in the dispute against Moshe], the pasuk states (Bamidbar: 16; 33) “…and the ground covered over them…[6]

At times, [due to the] sin of Lashon HaRa, one dies from [the sickness of] ascara[7]. [As the sin of Lashon HaRa] is the most severe of [all] sins, [the one who involves himself in this sin] suffers, [measure-for-measure], from the most severe sickness, [that being] ascara. This follows that which our Sages of Blessed Memory have said (Berachos, 8a): “Nine-hundred-and-three types of death were created in the world, the most severe of all of them is ascara.” A sign is given to all people that the punishment that comes [to the person] as a result of the sin, resembles the sin. [This follows that which our Sages of Blessed Memory have said] in [maseches] Shabbos (33a): “Our rabbis taught: “There are four signs [for four sins]… The sign for Lashon HaRa is ascara.” The [rabbis] have said [in maseches] Shabbos (33b), that [the following] question was posed to the tanayim[8]: “Why does this death [that results from ascara] begin in the intestines and conclude [by spreading to] the mouth?” Rabbi Yehudah, quoting Rabbi Ilai, answered by saying: “Though the kidneys advise and the heart understands and the tongue articulates, the mouth concludes the Lashon HaRa.[9]

[1] This verse teaches of the greatness of the sin of Lashon HaRa, for by sinning with their mouths, “their mouths have drank in Heaven…”

Onkelos explains the pasuk as follows: “They have placed their mouths against the holy ones of Heaven and
they have heated their tongues against the holy ones of the earth.”

Metzudas David explains that “…their tongues walk on the earth” refers to the tongue, for, though it is on the earth, it dares speak against HaShem, The One who dwells in Heaven.

Ibn Ezra explains that “their mouths drink in the Heavens” to speak against HaShem and His angels and “their tongues walk on earth”, acting as spies against righteous individuals to try to find some bit of negative information to use in order to speak [Lashon HaRa] against these individuals.

Based on the explanation of Onkelos, the speaker of Lashon HaRa does not care to speak that which is improper, whether against HaShem, His angels and the righteous on earth.

The juxtaposition of the victims of Lashon HaRa (or Motzi Shem Ra) being in the Heavens with the righteous of the earth, demonstrates the great severity of speaking Lashon HaRa against fellow people, especially the righteous.

The severity of mocking, scorning, and otherwise deriding prophets of HaShem, as well as Torah scholars, can be found in
Divrei HaYomim II (36; 16): “And they were mocking the angels of HaShem and scorning His words and would mock His prophets, until the anger of HaShem arose against His nation, without remedy.”

The gemara in maseches Shabbos (119b) teaches that the pasuk quoted from Divrei HaYomim (36; 16), refers to the derision of Torah scholars. Rabbi Yehuda said, 'Jerusalem was only destroyed as a result of the mocking of Torah scholars, as it says, “And they were mocking the angels of HaShem and scorning His words and would mock His prophets, until the anger of HaShem arose against His nation, without remedy.” What does "without remedy" mean? Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, 'All those who scorn Torah scholars do not [experience] healing for their wounds.' Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav, what is the meaning of [the following] verse, "Do not touch My anointed one and do not do [that which is] evil [against] My prophets."? “Do not touch My anointed one” refers to the children who learn in the study hall of their rabbi, and “do not do evil to My prophets” refers to the Torah scholars (Talmidei Chachamim).”

RaSh”I notes that the verse from
Tehillim (90; 12) “…and a prophet [is one with] a wise heart” is a support for the gemara’s teaching that the term “prophets” can also refer to “Torah scholars”.

From the above verses, we can better understand of the seriousness of disparaging Torah scholars. In
Tehillim (73; 9), Torah scholars are grouped together with speaking improperly against HaShem, Himself. In maseches Shabbos (119b) we learn that a “prophet” can also refer to a “Torah scholar”. In Divrei HaYomim (36; 16) we learn that mocking prophets has led to HaShem’s anger being expressed against the Jewish People, without remedy. Clearly, though, in general, it is a major sin to deride and mock an individual. However, it is even more of a severe sin if one were to disparage a Talmid Chacham (Torah scholar).

[2] This teaching is found in the Jerusalem Talmud, Peah (Chapter 1, halacha 1).

SMa”G is an acronym for Sefer Mitzvos Gedolos. The teaching is found in the discussion of the ninth Torah prohibition.

[4] This teaching is found in Eliyahu Rabba, chapter 15.

[5] The Chofetz Chaim points out that the source for this teaching is in Parshas
Ki Savo (Devarim: 27; 24) [where] RaSh”I explains that those who strike others in a hidden manner refers to the speaking of Lashon HaRa.

[6] In a description of the suffering of Korach (and many of his followers), the Orach Chaim notes the following: These people descended alive to gehinnom, only to suffer there alive, thereby having greater torment than if they had died and subsequently suffered in gehinnom. Perhaps Tanna Dvei Eliyahu is coming to compare the punishment of Korach (and many of his followers) to the punishment of the habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa, as follows: Just as Korach suffered more severely in gehinnom, being punished while still alive, so too, the punishment of the habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa is more severe, as gehinnom needs extra help from HaShem in order to properly punish these gossip-mongers.

[7] “Ascara” is commonly translated as diphtheria. Diphtheria is an upper tract respiratory ailment which is characterized by a sore throat. The gemara says that the phrase “v’lamaves totza’os” – “and for death is the frontier” teaches that there are 903 types of death based on the numerical value of the word “totza’os” – “תוצאות”. In other words, the phrase “and for death is the frontier” can be read “and there are 903 ways for death to come about”. Ascara is the most painful of the types of death, where the throat constricts, it being comparable to pulling out thorns that are stuck in wool, thus ripping the wool. Another opinion compares ascara to pulling a rope through a hole just big enough for the rope. From here we can see the severe type of death that can result from Lashon HaRa, chas v’shalom.

[8] “Tanayim” refers to the rabbis who are quoted in the gemara and who lived at the time of the compilation of the mishna.

[9] RaSh”I comments on this teaching from the gemara (Berachos, 61a), that the kidney advises the heart what to do, the heart understands the kidney and decides whether or not to comply, the tongue enunciates the words, but it is the mouth that concludes the sin. RaSh”I quotes Tehillim (16; 7) “I shall bless HaShem Who has advised me, even at nights my kidneys give me moral rebuke”, to show that the kidneys advise (translation follows MaLBI”M’s explanations). RaSh”I explains that the heart understands, based on the pasuk from sefer Yeshayahu “…and his heart understands…” (Yeshayahu: 6; 10) However, since it is the mouth that brings the sin into reality by taking the final action, the mouth is the last to suffer from the ascara affliction.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Today is The Chofetz Chaim's Yartzheit

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Today, the 24th of Elul, is the Chofetz Chaim's 73rd yartzheit. The Chofetz Chaim, also known as Rav Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan, is the well-known author of Shmiras HaLashon. Click here to find out more.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon ו חשון - Cheshvan 6 - Thirty-Sixth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Chapter 8

[In this Chapter we] shall Explain [Concerning] the Great Punishment in this World [for One Who Speaks Lashon HaRa]

[By speaking Lashon HaRa, in addition to all of the other negative consequences, one] also detracts from his level as part of the human species, to the point that he is inferior to the dog. [This follows that which our Sages of Blessed Memory have] said in [maseches] Pesachim (118a)[1]: “Anyone who speaks slander… it is fitting to throw him to the dogs”, as it says, “Do not accept a false report,” - “lo sisa”, (Shmos: 23; 1) and it is read as “Do not cause others [to bear a false report]” – “lo sasi[2]. [This verse that forbids accepting a false report] is juxtaposed with [the phrase] “you shall send him to the dog”. The reason [that the person who speaks Lashon HaRa is inferior to the dog] is obvious. [This follows] that which the Maharal of Prague wrote [in the context of the speaker of Lashon HaRa and the dog]: For the dogs would restrain themselves from barking when necessary, as it is written [in Shmos (11; 7)] “And for all of the Children of Israel, no dog barked…” [However, how can] the [the person to whom] HaShem granted understanding and knowledge, [claim to be] unable to restrain his [evil] inclination from this [sin of Lashon HaRa]? Therefore, [in light of the above, we can understand how the speaker of Lashon HaRa] is inferior to [the dog].

Furthermore, [the following teaching is] brought in [maseches] Arachin (15b): “Rav Chisda said, all [those] who speak Lashon HaRa, it is fitting to stone him. It is written over here [in Tehillim (101; 5)] “[One who slanders his fellow secretly], I shall cut him off…” [while] it is written over there [in Eichah (3; 53)] “They have cut off my life in a pit and have thrown a rock at me.”[3]

Chofetz Chaim’s note: Take note, my brother, that “The balance and the scale of justice belong to HaShem, [his action [are as] all of the stones in a pouch.”] (Mishlei: 16; 11)[4] and all of the words of our Sages of Blessed Memory are living and continue to exist. For in [sefer] Shmuel II, (16; 4), immediately following the incident where [King] David answered Tziva: “Behold, all that belongs to Mifiboshes [is now] yours”[5] , it is written [in Shmuel II (16; 5)]: “And King David came until Bachurim, and behold, a man was coming out [to meet David] from the family [of the House of Shaul and his name was Shimi ben Gera, he was going out and cursing [David]. From the phrase “and behold”, it is implicit that this [incident involving Shimi cursing David], relates to [the pasuk] immediately beforehand [when David accepted the lies of Tziva, thereby unjustly punishing Mifiboshes]. However, who is capable of speaking of the great holiness of our master David, Alav HaShalom, for he accepted the Judgment of Heaven upon himself and did not permit Avishai ben Tziruyah to touch Shimi ben Gera[6] and [David subsequently] said (16; 10) “HaShem told him to curse”. Though [David] did not yet himself suppose that the punishment [of Shimi’s curses] was due to this [acceptance of Lashon HaRa against Mifiboshes, he still knew that the punishment came to him through Divine Providence]. For if this was not the case [and King David would have realized that the punishment of Shimi’s curses was as a result of accepting the Lashon HaRa of Tziva, David] would not have said in the end “you and Tziva shall split the field”[7] (Shmuel II: 19; 30)[8]. Nevertheless, [David] suffered all of the affronts from Shimi who threw stones at him, cursed him, and threw dirt at him, as is written in the [pisukim] (Shmuel II: 16; 5- 8, 13). [David concluded that] all [of his suffering at the hands of Shimi] was dependent on the Providence of HaShem Yisbarach.

[1] The full text in the gemara (Pesachim, 118a), reads as follows:

“Rav Sheishes said in the name of Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah: All those who speak Lashon HaRa and all those who accept Lashon HaRa [as true] and all those who testify falsely against their fellow, it is fitting to throw him to the dogs, as it says, “you shall throw him to the dog” and it is subsequently written “Do not bear a false rumor” and it is read as “Do not cause another to bear a false rumor”.

[2] According to the RaShBa”M we do not have the text “lo sasi” - “Do not cause others [to bear a false report]”. Possibly in the context of the above statement – “Do not cause others to bear a false report” – refers to one who accepts the Lashon HaRa as true is also considered as having committed a great sin and if he would not repent, he would be held liable.

[3] Both verses mention “cutting off” "אותו אצמית" – “him I shall cut off” and "צמתו בבור חיי" – “they have cut my life off in a pit”. As both verses share that which is common – “cutting off”, we can apply that which we have learned from one verse to apply it to another verse (hekeish). In the verse from Eichah it mentions an individual being stoned, while the verse from Tehillim mentions the punishment of the slanderer. We can therefore apply the pasuk from Eichah to teach that a slanderer is fitting to be stoned.

[4] The MaLBI”M notes that HaShem has the scale to weigh the ways of man and his actions and the balance to direct them to the proper path. He also has a balance to weigh the actions of people and to pay them with reward or punishment based on one’s behavior. The “stones in a pouch” refer to all of one’s free-will actions, for HaShem pays a person back through His actions and the way of nature precisely in relation to the good or bad deeds that one does. This follows that which we learn in the second paragraph of the Sh'ma where we read that if one properly follows the ways of the Torah, they will be rewarded through the means of nature, by getting rain in the proper time. In contrast, we are told (in the same paragraph) of the punishment of a lack of rain if one does not follow the ways of The Torah, Heaven Forbid (chas v’shalom).

In the context of the above teaching of the Chofetz Chaim, we learn that David is punished with the curses from Shimi almost immediately after accepting the Lashon HaRa from Tziva. In this situation, we clearly see how the acceptance of Lashon HaRa (according to some Amoraim) by David led to his subsequent punishment.

[5] The Chofetz Chaim points out: “This statement [of David’s] is considered acceptance of Lashon HaRa according to the opinions of some Amoraim in maseches Shabbos (56a).”

The gemara in Shabbos (56a) brings a dispute between the Amoraim Rav and Shmuel. Rav holds that King David did accept the slander spoken by Tziva, whereas Shmuel holds that David saw that due to Mifiboshes’ unkempt state, it appeared that Mifiboshes was saddened by David’s return to Jerusalem, whereas, in reality, Mifiboshes was in such an unkempt state because of his mourning for David while David was in exile.

[6] Yoav said to David that he would behead Shimi for cursing king David.

[7] The RaDa”K on this verse notes that when King David said, “you and Tziva shall split the field”, David was referring to Mifiboshes’ entire portion of land that he owned. RaDa”K then quotes Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav: “When David said, “you and Tziva shall split the field”, a Heavenly Voice came forth and proclaimed, ‘Yiravi’am and Richavi’am shall split the kingdom.’ (Richavi’am was the grandson of David who lost rulership over ten of the twelve tribes to Yiravi’am – the ten tribes became the “Kingdom of Israel” and the two tribes became the “Kingdom of Yehuda”.) [Rav Yehuda further quoted Rav as stating, “Had David not accepted Lashon HaRa, David’s Kingdom would not have been split, the Jews would not have come to worship idols, and we would not have [ever] been exiled from the Land of Israel.] This great punishment involving the loss of most of the kingdom (as well as the other negative consequences, according to Rav), came as a result of David’s acceptance of Tziva’s Motzi Shem Ra against Mifiboshes. Even when Mifiboshes justified himself before David, explaining what really happened, David did not accept that justification. David saw that Mifiboshes was unkempt and therefore felt that it wasn’t clear that Mifiboshes was correct when he recounted what truly occurred, in contrast to the words of Tziva. (See the MaHaRSH”A on this gemara)

However, according to MaLBI”M, David could not retract his previous command for Tziva to receive Mifiboshes’ property though David recognized that Tziva had spoken slander against Mifiboshes. Therefore, David clarified that the two should split the field

[8] Quick summary of the incident involving David, Mifiboshes, and Tziva:

Tziva, the servant of Mifiboshes, came to David alone, bringing with him provisions for David and his men as they returned to Jerusalem. (Shmuel II: 16; 1 – 2) David, surprised that Mifiboshes did not join Tziva, inquired of Tziva as to why Mifiboshes did not come to greet him. Tziva then answered King David with the following lie: “…Behold [Mifiboshes] dwells in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘today the House of Israel will return
the Kingdom of my father to me [i.e. the kingdom will be returned to Shaul, Mifiboshes' grandfather].” (16; 3) Tziva falsely claimed that Mifiboshes was hoping that Avshalom would kill his father, David, in an attempt to assume the kingship. The Israelites would then kill Avshalom, judging him as a rebellious son (ben sorer u’moreh), and thereby the kingship would return to Shaul’s family. Of course, Mifiboshes, immediately upon greeting David, explained why he did not join Tziva to greet David: “[Mifiboshes] said, ‘My master the king, my servant [Tziva] mislead me, for your servant [Mifiboshes] said [to Tziva], ‘Harness the donkey for me and I shall ride on it and I shall go to [greet] the king, for your servant [Mifiboshes] is lame. And [Tziva] spoke gossip about your servant [Mifiboshes] to my master the king…” (Shmuel II: 19; 27 – 28) Metzudas David explains that Mifiboshes told King David that Tziva mislead him by taking the donkey, instead of helping him onto the donkey. Hence, Tziva set up a situation where it appeared as if Mifiboshes wronged David, thereby getting David to reward Tziva at Mifiboshes’ expense.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon ה חשון - Cheshvan 5 - Thirty-Fifth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

From [the following teaching] we are able to understand of our great laxity in [learning] Torah and [performance of] mitzvos, in our many sins. For it is self-evident that everyone constantly sets his thoughts in matters [involving] his dealings and commerce, [in order] to enhance and enlarge [his business. The owner of the business] will also eliminate any source of potential loss [to his business]. No person with intelligence would come to imagine that he would personally inflict damage on [the] transactions and business from which he financially sustains himself. However, [concerning] matters of the desired objective[1], the complete converse [of the business outlook] is true. For it is not sufficient that our [evil] inclination has strengthened itself over us every single day [in order] to increase inadvertent and rebellious sins, [for] we even provide rationale and [bring up] issues that lead to deleterious effects on the [small] remnant of Torah [study] and prayer of which we are currently in possession.

HaShem should move our eyes from focusing on vanity, and [bring] us to [achieve] merit, [attaining] the recognition of the great value of the holiness of The Torah. By [understanding that the Torah is truly that which is important], our souls will be healed and the words of [The Torah] will become sweeter than honey in our mouths, as it is written, “It is more pleasant than gold and an abundance of pure gold and [it is] sweeter than honey [and the sweetness of honeycomb].[2]
(Tehillim: 19; 11)

[1] The “desired objective” refers to Torah learning and following The Torah by performing its mitzvos, thus greatly assisting one to successfully achieve
their goal and purpose in this world, that being to fear HaShem and follow the mitzvos, as Shlomo advised at the end of Sefer Koheles (12; 13). By doing so, the individual will not only improve himself and otherwise benefit in this world, but will benefit in The World to Come.

[2] Once one understands concerning the great superiority of Torah over one’s business dealings, much of his focus will shift from improving one’s business to spending time becoming better acquainted with The Torah and following the mitzvos. King David is telling us in the above verse quoted from Tehillim, that one’s desire should be in The Torah to the extent that he should find it sweeter than honey and more pleasant than gold. The three prior pesukim (Tehillim: 19: 8 – 10) mention the following six types of Torah teachings and commandments, the explanation of which is based on the MaLBI”M (119; 1):

1) Torah – Refers to the Torah of HaShem. The Torah teaches one truth, knowledge, proper character traits and teaches how one should behave in life.

2) Mitzvos – Include all of the Torah’s commandments.

3) ChukimMitzvos that have no reason known to man.

4) Mishpatim – The commandments between man and his fellow.

5) Edus – That which is related in The Torah that testifies to the greatness of HaShem and His control over the universe.

6) Pikudim – The commandments that one is commanded in order to remember specific matters.

According to Metzudas David, one who desires Torah and its mitzvos will realize that nothing compares to the value and greatness inherent in The Torah, for Torah is
more pleasant for the person than is gold… and it is sweeter for him than is honey…” (Tehillim: 19; 11)

RaDa”K explains that the intelligent people will desire Torah and wisdom more than valuables such as gold and gems, for physical wealth exists only in this world and carries the possibility of being lost or stolen. However, Torah exists both in this world and The World to Come and cannot be stolen. It is sweeter than honey and honeycomb for eating such food has temporary benefits. If one consumes too much food there can be negative repercussions. In contrast, the benefits of Torah learning are eternal and one who increases in their acquisition of wisdom brings increased benefit to himself for eternity.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon ד חשון - Cheshvan 4 - Thirty-Fourth Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

[Chofetz Chaim’s note: My brother, take note of a wondrous matter concerning the breath [which emanates from the utterances] of the children who learn in their rabbis’ study hall: Though these children do not have any holy thoughts, [nor do they] cling to HaShem at the time they speak their words [of Torah], nevertheless, the world [continues to] exist as a consequence of the breaths [emanating] from their mouths [at the time they learn Torah]. To what is this matter analogous? [This matter is analogous] to a person who found a gem of high-quality and value, it being [considered to be] a great treasure in a number of ways, only found [to be used] in the crowns of kings. This matter [of the poor man finding this rare diamond] became known to the king [who thereupon acquired the gem from the poor man, in the process] greatly enriching him. Behold, this poor person who found [the valuable gem], though by means of his wisdom, he cannot comprehend [why this] gem is so greatly treasured, nevertheless, [he recognizes that] the self-evident good [quality] as well as the great light [the gem reflects] brought him all of this good [from the king. The poor man coming upon the rare gem and its subsequent sale to the king led to his installation] as minister and achieving significance in they eyes of the king.

[The above parable involving the poor man and the gem] is precisely the case with respect to the Torah of The Living G-d. For the person who wants to become holy through [the Torah] does not require a great [amount of] preparation in order that [the Torah] brings him holiness, for The Torah itself is exceedingly holy and awesome. When a person speaks [words of Torah], he clings to its holiness, as it is written, “For each time I speak of him, I surely remember him more…”[1
] (Yirmiyahu: 31; 19) [The verse from Yirmiyahu] refers to the time that one learns Torah [[it being] similar [to a teaching brought] in sefer Nefesh HaChaim[2]]. [In order to achieve the greatest benefit from one's Torah learning] a person only needs to be careful not to do that which is contrary [to speaking words of Torah], that is, that he should not diminish [the light of his Torah learning] by bringing impurity to his words [by speaking that which is forbidden].

[The negative implications of speaking that which is improper in the context of Torah learning lies behind] that which Rav Pappa said to Abayee: “What about [the power] of my [Torah study] and your [Torah study]? Meaning, “Our Torah, in and of itself is more holy than the Torah [learned by] the children, for [our Torah] is learned with holiness of thought!” [Abayee answered] him: The breath [emanating from the mouths of those who have sin is not similar to the breath coming from the mouths of those who learn Torah who are sinless]. The explanation being that the blemish outweighs the elevated level [of Torah learning], the reason for this as was explained earlier].

Now let us see: If the first "cedars of Lebanon"[3] whose thoughts were always clinging to The Holy One, Blessed is He, with fear of HaShem and His commands, who always spoke with great holiness and purity, happened to utter that which was improper, [the improper utterance then] became mixed [into all of their words of purity. These Torah leaders] definitely immediately performed proper Teshuvah [to negate much of the potential negative that would arise from that utterance]. Nevertheless, this matter [of improper speech] damaged all of the holiness of their speech, for [their speech] would not function [with the power] otherwise expected [when involved] in [speaking] that which is holy. [As the above is true of the Torah giants of the past], what shall we do, [we who are compared to] the moss on the walls, whose involvement in Torah is, in any case, diminutive and on a lowly level, due to our many sins. If we, Heaven Forbid, also [come to] make our mouths impure with the words of Lashon HaRa, talebearing, mockery, and dispute, [among other things], what holiness can rest on that [Torah] learning that one learns with the same mouth that he previously used to speak [that which is forbidden]?

[1] The full verse reads, “Is Ephraim a valued son to Me or is he a delightful child, for when I speak of him I shall surely remember him more, therefore, My “innards” are tumultuous for him, I shall surely have mercy on him, the word of HaShem.” (Yirmiyahu: 31; 19)

In our context, the above verse follows the explanation of RaSh”I: “…for whenever I speak of him…” refers to “Every moment that I speak of him. In Midrash Vayikra Rabbah [we learn]: Sufficient is My speech that I have placed within him, for I have taught him Torah in order to have mercy on him.”

Similarly, Targum Yonasan explains, “Has not Israel already sinned before Me, [nevertheless], he is greatly loved. [This is the case], for at the time that they place the words of Torah on his heart, [intending] to perform [the commandments of the Torah], I shall surely remember [him] to further bestow good [upon] him. Therefore, My mercy shall be aroused upon him, so says HaShem.”

Clearly, based on the commentaries of RaSh”I and Targum Yonasan, when one learns Torah, HaShem acts with mercy and love toward him. These commentators explain “when I speak of it” as referring to a Jew who speaks words of Torah.

However, many commentators explain that every time HaShem speaks of Ephraim, He remembers him more and has mercy upon him. Metzudas David explains that HaShem’s great love of Ephraim leads HaShem regularly talking concerning Ephraim, therefore, He will have mercy on Ephraim. MaHaR”I K’ra points out that Ephraim was the most sinful of all of the Israelite tribes both within their tribe and their great negative influence on much of the rest of Israel to fall into committing sin. Yiravi’am was from the tribe of Ephraim and was the king of the ten tribes of the Kingdom of Israel who placed two golden calves in his territory in order to discourage people living in his kingdom from going to the Temple in Jerusalem that was located in the Kingdom of Yehuda. Yiravi’am was worried that the people may go to Jerusalem and decide that Richavi’am, the king of Yehuda, should once again rule over a united Israel. However, since the tribe of Ephraim regretted their sins and stopped acting in their evil ways, HaShem shall surely have mercy on them.

[2] This teaching is found in sefer Nefesh HaChaim, Gate 4, chapter 18. This chapter explains that one who clings to The Torah and HaShem is placed above the control of nature. In this chapter Rav Chaim Volozhin quotes a few passages from the Zohar. Rabbi Elazar says that one who utters words of Torah, The Holy One, Blessed is He, covers over him and The Divine Presence spreads its wings over him. The teaching from the Zohar (in this chapter) that seems to best relate to the above verse from Yirmiyahu, states: “Rabbi Yosi opened and said, “How [greatly] is the Torah loved before The Holy One, Blessed is He, for all those who are involved in learning Torah, are loved Above, [in Heaven, and] are loved below, [in this world]. The Holy One, Blessed is He, listens attentively to his words [of Torah] and does not abandon him in this world and does not abandon him in The World to Come…” (Beshalach, 46a)

[3] “The cedars of Lebanon” – “arzei ha’livanon” – refer to the Torah giants. In our context, [this] refers to the Amoraim (Sages of the era of the Talmud) Rav Pappa and Abayee. The description of these Torah giants as “the cedars of Lebanon” give us a context of the great stature they achieved in Torah. We, on the other hand, are compared to the “moss on the wall”, it being very lowly. To better understand the lofty level and stature of such Torah leaders as Rav Pappa and Abayee, we are referred to as the relatively lowly “moss”, as compared to these great “cedars”.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon ג חשון - Cheshvan 3 - Thirty-Third Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Concerning this person who makes his mouth impure [by speaking that which is forbidden], subsequently blemishes the holy words that he utters from his mouth. [The above follows that which is] written in the holy Zohar, Parshas Pikudei (Volume 2; 263b), [as follows]: “Many other “arousers of judgment” are dependent upon that evil spirit. [These “arousers of judgment”] are assigned to grasp onto that evil or vile speech which a person utters with his mouth. After [the individual speaks that which is forbidden, he] utters words of holiness – Woe to them, woe to their lives… Woe to them in this world, woe to them in The World to Come. For those impure spirits take that impure word [uttered previously] and when [that] person then speaks holy words, those impure spirits precede that impure speech and [subsequently] make that holy utterance impure. [Thereby, that] person [who uttered that which is forbidden] does not [receive] benefit [from those words of Torah], and, so to speak, the power of holiness is weakened.

Similarly, we also learned in [maseches] Shabbos (119b): “[Reish Lakish said in the name of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi]: The world [continues] to exist only as a result of the breath [that emanates from] the mouths of the children [who] learn Torah in the study-hall of their rabbi. Rav Pappa said to Abayee: ‘What about [the power of] my [Torah study] and your [Torah study]?’ [Abayee] said to [Rav Pappa]: ‘The breath from the mouth of one who has sin is not similar to the breath from the mouth of one who has not sinned.’” Though the diligence and holiness of the Torah [learned by Rav Pappa and Abayee] was extremely lofty and sublime, notwithstanding, [the learning of the children was viewed as superior]. [The learning of the children was considered superior], for, at times, according to [Rav Pappa and Abayee’s] viewpoint, some improper utterance was mixed into their words [of Torah learning, thereby] the power of [their] speech fell from its’ fitting level. [Therefore], the breath [of the utterances emanating from] the mouths of the children [learning at their] rabbis’ study-hall [was considered greater. In light of the complete purity of the children’s speech], Abayee answered [Rav Pappa that the Torah learning of the children has greater power than even their Torah learning].

Shmiras HaLashon בּ חשון - Cheshvan 2 - Thirty-Second Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Furthermore, [in the following manner], this sin [of Lashon HaRa] is more severe than [all of] the other sins: For [when one performs] all other sins, the limb which is used to sin, draws the Spirit of Impurity upon itself. The same is not true concerning the sin of Lashon HaRa, [for by committing Lashon HaRa, the sinner] draws the Spirit of Impurity upon all of his limbs and [thus] makes them impure. [This follows] that which is written in the Holy Zohar, Parshas Mitzora[1]: “Rabbi Chiya said, ‘All those who emit Lashon HaRa [cause] all of their limbs [to] become impure, for that evil speech rises and arouses the Spirit of Impurity upon him, and he [thus] becomes impure. [For] one who comes to make himself impure, [in Heaven] they make him impure. Through the speech [uttered] from Below, [in this world], another speech is aroused. (This [teaching from the Zohar resembles that which our Sages of Blessed Memory have said in [maseches] Yoma (39a): “If a person makes himself impure from Below, [in this world], they make him impure from Above, [in Heaven].[2]) The reason [that the speaker of Lashon HaRa suffers severe punishment of complete impurity], is obvious. [The above is not the case], for speech is not a specific [faculty] of the person, as [is the case with] the rest of his limbs, each of which have their own purpose. [The power of speech] comprises the entire person and [represents] him in his entirety. Therefore, when one makes himself a complete [person] by involving himself in Torah [study], all of his limbs will be rectified [from the Spirit of Impurity that had rested upon him as a consequence of his sins], for the Spirit of Holiness will rest on them to bring life to them and to allow them [to continue] to exist in this world and in The World to Come. [The above follows that which] our [Sages of] Blessed Memory have said [in maseches Eruvin, 54a]: “If one has a headache he should involve himself in Torah study [to relieve that pain], as it says [in reference to Torah learning], “[For they are an attachment of favor…”] (Mishlei: 1; 9) If he has a pain in his throat, he should involve himself in Torah study [to relieve that pain], as it says, “…and [as] a necklace for your throat.”… If he has a pain in his entire body, he should involve himself in Torah study, as it says, “…and for all of his flesh [it provides] healing.” (Mishlei: 4; 22) In the converse, [if], Heaven Forbid, [instead of learning Torah, one] speaks that which is forbidden, he brings impurity [upon] all of his limbs. As a result of [the forbidden speech], each of his limbs falls from its’ level [of holiness]. What benefit [does one’s limbs derive from] their master being a living being capable of speech [if he utters forbidden speech in his lifetime, aside from that he] must [use that speech to] give a judgment and accounting [in Heaven on account of all of his actions]?

[1] This teaching is found in the third volume of the Zohar (53a).

[2] The following teaching is found in maseches "Yoma" (39a): It was taught in the Academy of Rabbi Yishmael: "Sin makes the heart of man foolish, as it says, "And do not become impure from them and you shall be made impure in their midst", do not read "and you shall become impure" - "V'Nitmaisem", rather read "and you shall be made stupid" - "V'Nitamtem"." Our rabbis taught [in a Baraisa], "[If] a person makes himself a little impure, they make him very impure. [If he makes himself impure] from Below, [in this world], they make him impure from Above, [in Heaven]. [If he makes himself impure] in this world, he is made impure in The World to Come." Our rabbis have taught [in a Baraisa]: ""And you shall makes yourselves holy and you shall become holy" - [If] a person makes himself a little holy, is is then made very holy. [If he makes himself holy] from Below, [in this world], they make him holy from Above, [in Heaven]. [If he makes himself holy] in this world, they make him holy in The World to Come."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon א חשון - Cheshvan 1 - Thirty-First Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Chapter 7

[This Chapter] will Explain How One Causes Damage to himself Through this [sin of Lashon HaRa] in Respect to a Number of Matters

Come and see how [much] greater is the punishment for this bitter sin [of Lashon HaRa], for through speaking words of Lashon HaRa and Rechilus[1], one loses [the merit] that he acquired from the small amount of Torah [learning with which] he has [involved himself. In relation to the above statement that the speaker of Lashon HaRa loses out from much of his merit in The World to Come, the following teaching] is [taken] from the Midrash Shocher Tov [on Tehillim, chapter 52, quoting from [Koheles: 5; 5]:

““Do not allow your mouth to bring sin upon your flesh…” – this refers to Lashon HaRa.

“…Why shall G-d be angry concerning your voice…?” – Concerning that voice which you emitted from your mouth in order to speak Lashon HaRa against your fellow.

“…and destroy the work of your hands.” – ["The work of your hands" refers to] the small [amount] of Torah that you possess “in your hands” [which is] lost [as a result of the sin of speaking Lashon HaRa].”

It is obvious [that the intended teaching] of the [above] Midrash follows that which is written in the holy books[2], [where we learn that] one who speaks Lashon HaRa against his fellow, personally causes that the merits of the speaker [of Lashon HaRa], gained up until this point are detracted from him and transferred to his fellow [who was the victim of his Lashon HaRa].

Furthermore, due to [the Lashon HaRa that he spoke], his prayers are not accepted Above, [in Heaven], as is written in the Holy Zohar, Parshas Mitzora[3]: “The prayer of one who has committed the [sin of Lashon HaRa] does not rise before The Holy One, Blessed is He, for the Spirit of Impurity has aroused itself upon him. Once he returns [from committing this sin in the future through his] repentance [from his sin of Lashon HaRa] and has accepted upon himself to repent[4], [then] what is written in reference to him? “On the day that he becomes pure he shall be brought before the Kohen”… (Vayikra: 14; 2)

With the above teaching, the following verse from the Torah (Vayikra: 13; 45) will be understood: “And 'impure, impure' he shall call out.” Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory have explained that [the one afflicted with tzara’as] must make his [troublesome situation] known to the masses [in order that] the masses will beseech [HaShem] to have mercy upon him. [The speaker of Lashon HaRa must appeal to the masses to pray to Hashem on his behalf], for [the Lashon HaRa that he spoke has led to] his prayer not being accepted Above, [in Heaven]. Therefore, the Torah revealed
this [piece of] advice to us, [which is] specifically [meant for the benefit of] this troubled [individual, who is unable though his own prayers to successfully beseech HaShem to rid himself of his tzara’as affliction].

Furthermore, on account of this [sin of Lashon HaRa, the person's] holy soul departs from him, as is written earlier in this book in chapter three [where we quote from] the Holy Zohar (Parshas Tazria; Volume 3; 46b).

[1] Rechilus is talebearing.

[2] This teaching can be found in Chovos HaLevavos - "Duties of the Hearts": The Gate of Submission, chapter 7.

The following is from “Chovos HaLevavos”:

“A person should not strive to embarrass [the one who speaks Lashon HaRa] against him, he should not deny his words of [Lashon HaRa], nor should he shame [the speaker of Lashon HaRa] on account of revealing [that which was offensive] concerning him. Rather [the victim of the Lashon HaRa] should say to [the one who spoke Lashon HaRa against him]: ‘My brother, how [are my sins] which you noticed comparable to all of my sins about which you are unaware, which The Creator has kept hidden for so long. If my evil actions and sins were to be revealed to you, you would run from me and be fearful of the punishment that The Creator [will inflict upon you] on account of them. [This follows that which] one of the poets [wrote]: “If only my neighbors will smell my sins, they would then run away and distance themselves from my borders.” [Similarly], Iyov said, “Have I covered over my rebellious sins as do [other] people, [to conceal in my hidden place my sins which I have justified by my twisted logic?] (Iyov: 31; 33)

[However], if what was spoken against him was false, he should say to the speaker of [the Motzi Shem Ra]: “My brother, it is not surprising that The Creator has saved me [from committing] that which you accuse me of [committing] due to the abundance of good which he has bestowed upon me. Rather, that which is surprising to me is that He has kept hidden [sins] which are greater and more reprehensible from that which you have spoken [falsely] concerning me. Stop [your forbidden speech] and spare [yourself] your merits, [so] that you do not lose [those] merits, [though you are] unaware [of the subsequent loss of your merits]. For it is already related regarding one of the pious who [was the victim] of someone [speaking that which was] evil against him, that, once word arrived [that someone spoke that which is forbidden against him], he sent a basket full of the choicest [produce] of the land to the one who spoke against him. [The pious individual sent
the following note along with the basket]: “[Word has] arrived to me that you sent a present [replete with some of] your merits, and, in exchange, I have paid you with this [basket].

Based on the above passage written by Rabbenu Bachya, zt”l, it is clear that one loses some or all of the merits they earned in exchange for speaking forbidden words against a fellow Jew.

[3] This teaching is found in the third volume of the Zohar (53a).

[4] The Zohar notes that a person is purified from their sin of Lashon HaRa once they "returned [from performing the sin through] repentance" and "accepted [that] repentance upon himself". Clearly there is a difference between "returned in repentance" and "accepted repentance upon himself". From the context of the Zohar, the first step is to "return in repentance", it being mentioned first and in the past tense, whereas "accepted repentance upon himself" is mentioned second, referring to that which he has already accepted upon himself to accomplish in the future.

Perhaps the difference between these two types of teshuvah (repentance) can be understood from the RaMBa"M in his section of the Mishneh Torah which details the laws of repentance (Hilchos Teshuvah, chapter 2)

Law 2: What is "Teshuvah"? That refers to when the sinner abandons his sin, removes [the sin] from his thoughts, and determines not to do that sin again, as it says, "An evildoer shall abandon his ways..." (Yeshayahu: 55; 7) [The sinner] should also regret his past [sinful actions], as it says, after I have returned [from my sins], I have regretted [having performed them]." The sinner must sincerely determine to never return to commit that sin and confess the sin that he has performed, as well as all that which he has taken upon himself.

Law 9: A person who sinned against his fellow is only forgiven once [that person] returns that which was taken from the victim, appeases him and asks his forgiveness for having wronged him. Once he has returned that which he has taken and been forgiven, then he is forgiven [for the sin that he has performed].

Based on the above, the repentance of the past seems to refer to the sinner (in our case, the speaker of Lashon HaRa), having accepted upon himself
to not commit that sin in the future and regretting ever having committed that sin. The repentance which he has accepted upon himself for the future is described as fulfilling all that he has accepted upon himself as well as appeasing the person that he has wronged, in our case, by speaking Lashon HaRa. Once the sinner is forgiven by the victim, then he is completely forgiven. Hence, in order to become "pure" one must regret his past sinful actions, determine to never commit that sin again and accept upon himself to complete that action of repentance by asking the victim of his Lashon HaRa to forgive him, at that time he can become pure from his sin. However, that person only returns to his normal state of purity after living in the Israelite camp, outside of his tent for a period of a week. (Vayikra: 14) During that week he has time to ask forgiveness from those whom he had wronged. By the time the eighth day rolls around and the one who has spoken Lashon HaRa has completed his process of purification, he also has probably asked for and received forgiveness from the victim of his Lashon HaRa. For more on this, please see the "Twenty-Eighth Day".