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

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.

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