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

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”.

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