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, November 20, 2006

Shmiras HaLashon א כּסלו - Kislev 1 - Sixty-First Day

© 2006 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Chapter 15

In [this Chapter, we] Shall Explain [Concerning] the Greatness of the Sin of Strife and [of] the Greatness of [The] Punishment [for those who Partake in this Sin. We Shall Also Explain] that Through [Involvement in] This [Sin, the Individual] Comes to [Perform] Other Severe Sins.

Behold, from all that we have [discussed] at length up to this point, with regard to the greatness of the punishment, both in this world and in The World to Come, [for involvement in] Lashon HaRa, we are able to understand how much one should distance himself from the sin of strife. [It is of utmost importance for one to distance himself from strife], for, aside from the sin itself, it being a criminal offense, as we shall explain, it is also a powerful cause [that encourages a person] to subsequently come [to perform] a number of severe sins. [The sins that strife can lead to, include] baseless hatred, Lashon HaRa, Rechilus, anger, O’na’as Devarim[1], causing embarrassment to another, revenge, bearing a grudge, vain curses, depriving the income of one’s fellow, and, at times, [the sin of strife leads] to profaning HaShem’s [Holy] Name, Heaven Forbid, that sin being exceedingly great. [Due to the sin of strife], it is also common to thereby come to [transgress] the prohibition of flattery [as a means to] attract people to his quarrel. We find [that flattery was used as a tool] by Korach, [in order to attract people to his quarrel against Moshe], as our Sages of Blessed Memory have said on the [following] pasuk [from Tehillim]: “With those flatterers who scorn [in exchange for] cake, he ground over them with his teeth.” (Tehillim: 35; 16): “With that which Korach flattered those [whom he attracted to his dispute against Moshe], by giving them cakes, the ministering [angel] of gehinnom ground them with his teeth.” (Sanhedrin, 52a) Strife also leads to jesting, [for the person responsible for the dispute will] joke about the opposing side [of the dispute], and thereby attract people to his gathering. All of [the above] comprised the behavior of the first habitual quarreler, he being Korach, as is [taught] in Midrash Rabbah, Parshas Korach.[2] (Bamidbar Rabbah: 18; 2 – 4) The punishment for jesting is known, for the beginning [of the punishment] is suffering, and its end is destruction, as our Sages of Blessed Memory have said. (Avodah Zarah, 18b)[3] [It is more common for the Yetzer [HaRa] to entice [the person] to strengthen the dispute and draw people to his gathering than [for him to come to perform the aforementioned sins. The initiator of the quarrel is still] fearful that perhaps [those who joined the dispute] will withdraw [from the dispute], and he will [be the] only [one] remaining [to continue it. Therefore], the Yetzer [HaRa] further entices [the instigator of the quarrel] to make a strong and powerful bond [with the participants in the quarrel, by making those who join his side of the dispute] take an oath [to remain loyal to him with respect to] this [dispute]. We find all of [the above] in the Midrash and in the gemara [in chapter chelek[4]] with respect to Korach, Dathan, and Aviram, [in their quarrel against Moshe]. Take notice, my brother, [that] a great deal of blindness is involved with [taking an oath of loyalty to one side of a quarrel]: For [such an oath] is practically in the category of swearing in vain, since [the person who swore allegiance to continue to involve himself in the quarrel], swore to transgress a mitzvah. With regards to swearing to violate a mitzvah, see Yoreh Deah, in siman 236, sif 2, and in the Shach over there, sif kattan 4.[5] Even if the person were to fulfill his oath, the matter still falls under the category of an oath taken in vain, as is [taught in the Shulchan Aruch[6]] in siman 238, sif 5.*[7] The great punishment for swearing in vain is known, that [punishment being] that The Holy One, Blessed is He, will not cleanse him [from his sin] because of this, as it is written, “…he will not be cleansed…” (Shmos: 20; 7) Similarly, [the above teaching] is brought in [maseches] Sh'vuos [39a, see over there [for a discussion of] the greatness of this sin[8]. I have only written all of this [concerning swearing in vain], in order to demonstrate the great blindness [that exists] in [disputes]]. Even if at the outset, [the participant in the quarrel] did not,
to such an extent, intend [to do that which is] evil, nevertheless, in the end, he will not be cleansed from the aforementioned sins, as has been examined and tested by all of those who know the nature of the world.

There is one strategy that the Yetzer HaRa possesses, by means of which to be victorious,
over even the complete person. [To make his job of overcoming the complete person easier, the Yetzer HaRa] injects the attributes of anger and the yearning to achieve victory into [the complete person], and then, all of the crooked [paths] will become straight before [this person].[9] [The above is true, especially] since the Yetzer HaRa will subsequently show numerous heteirim[10] [to the complete person, in order to “allow” him to join in the quarrel. In addition, the Yetzer HaRa] will make it “permissible” to speak Lashon HaRa and Rechilus, as well as [“allow” him to speak] hurting words and [to] embarrass [others], aside from [allowing him to commit other] similar [types of sins]. Furthermore, the Yetzer [HaRa] will urge [the individual] that it is forbidden to have mercy with respect to such types of people, and, [on the contrary], it is permissible to pursue them in all sorts of ways.

[1] “O’na’as Divarim” literally means “oppressive words” and involves situations where one individual wrongs another with his words. The source for the Torah prohibition against “o’na’as divarim” is the following: “And one person should not oppress his fellow, and you shall fear from your G-d, for I am HaShem, your G-d.” (Vayikra: 25; 17)

RaSh”I comments on the above pasuk as follows, “Here we are warned about oppressive words, that one should not bring aggravation to his fellow [with his words] and he should not give him improper advice… If one says, ‘Who knows if my intentions were for the bad?’ Therefore, it says [in the pasuk], ‘…and you shall fear from your G-d…’, The One Who knows [the] thoughts [of everyone], He knows. Everything that is passed over to the heart, concerning which only that individual is cognizant, [the verse] states, ‘…and you shall fear from your G-d…’” (Bava Mitzia, 58b)

The RaMBa”M brings specific examples of “O’na’as Divarim” (Hilchos Michirah: Ch. 14; Mishnayos 10 – 16):

“If one was a ba’al tishuvah, one should not say to him, ‘Remember your previous deeds’. If he was the son of converts, do not say to him, ‘Remember the deeds of your fathers’. If he is a convert and comes to learn Torah, do not say to him, ‘The mouth that ate meat that is not kosher will come and learn [the] Torah that was given [to the Israelites] from HaShem?!’ If sicknesses and suffering have come upon him, or he was burying his son, do not say to him, in the manner that the friend of Iyov said to him, “Was your fear [of HaShem] not your foolishness…Remember, who was the innocent person who has perished?”” (Iyov: 4; 6 – 7)

RaSh”I explains that Iyov’s friend was telling Iyov that his fear of HaShem was lacking and therefore considered as if it had been done in a foolish manner.

The RaMBa”M continues, as follows, “If donkey riders are seeking grain, do not tell them to go to an individual [from whom to buy grain if] you know he has never sold grain. If someone asks a question relating to a specific area of wisdom, do not say to someone who is ignorant of that wisdom, ‘What do you answer [with respect to] this matter?
, or, What is your opinion with respect to this matter?. [O’na’as Divarim applies] to anything similar to [the above examples, as well].”

The RaMBa”M adds that bringing suffering to an individual through words is more severe than causing the individual harm through money, for the money can be returned, but harming someone with words cannot be undone in such a matter. [Incidents involving] money [only negatively] affects the other’s money, while harmful words affect the person’s body. Furthermore, one who cries out as a result of having been afflicted by another’s words is answered immediately, as it says, “And one shall not torment his fellow with words, and you shall fear from [before] your G-d, for I am HaShem, your G-d.” (Vayikra: 25; 17)

[2] This section of Bamidbar Rabbah discusses much of what went on during Korach’s quarrel and rebellion. The Midrash brings some examples of how Korach mocked Moshe and thereby claimed that Moshe was making up the law. Korach asked Moshe if a house full of holy books would require a mizuzah and whether a tallis that was colored with ticheiles requires tzitzis. Moshe said that the room with sifarim requires a mizuzah and the tallis with ticheilis requires tzitzis. To this, Korach mocked Moshe and claimed that Moshe was making up the halacha, which, of course, is not true.

[3] This teaching is quoted in the name of Rabbi Elazar.

With respect to the negative implications of jesting and mockery, the gemara in maseches Avodah Zara (18b), states as follows:

“Rabbi Elazar said, ‘[Concerning] all those who [are involved in] mockery, suffering comes upon [them], as it says, “And now do not jest, lest your suffering be strengthened…”’ (Yishayahu: 28; 22) Rava said to the Rabbis, ‘I beg of you, that you should not [be involved] in jesting, so that suffering does not befall you.’ Rav Katina said, ‘All those who jest, [their] sustenance is decreased, as it says, “…he has drawn his hand [from rectifying the country, in order to partner] with jesters.”’ (Hoshea: 7; 5, based on the commentary of Metzudas David) Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said, ‘All those who jest fall into gehinnom, as it says, “A sinner who is haughty, his name is “mocker”, he performs sin with wrath.” (Mishlei: 21; 24) “Evrah” – “Wrath”, [refers] only to gehinnom, as it says, “That day is a day of wrath…”’ (Tzifaniah: 1; 15) Rabbi Ohshaya said, ‘All those who become haughty fall into gehinnom, as it says, “A sinner who is haughty, his name is “mocker”, he performs sin with wrath.” (Mishlei: 21; 24) “Evrah” – “Wrath”, [refers] only to gehinnom, as it says, “That day is a day of wrath…”’ (Tzifaniah: 1; 15) Rabbi Tanchum the son of Chanilai said, ‘All those who jest cause destruction [to come] to the world, as it says, “And now, do not jest, lest your suffering be strengthened, for I have heard of utter destruction [coming upon the Land from HaShem Elokim].”’ (Yishayahu: 28; 22) Rabbi Elazar said, [mockery] is so severe, for the beginning [of its punishment] is suffering and its end is destruction.’”

[4] This teaching is found in Sanhedrin, 109b. Also see RaSh”I, beginning with the words “havai b’eitzah”.

The gemara here is discussing the incident where On’s wife encouraged him to leave the dispute with Korach. RaSh”I, on this gemara, points out that On tells his wife that he swore to the participants in Korach’s dispute that if they would call him to come with them and assist them in their dispute, that he would come. To get On out of his bind, On’s wife gave him wine to drink, whereupon On got drunk. On’s wife stood by the entrance to the tent with her hair uncovered. Anybody who was involved in Korach’s dispute who came to call On to join,
immediately turned around from the tent upon seeing her standing by the entrance to the tent with uncovered hair.

[5] The Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah states as follows:

“There are things for which he swore falsely, [concerning which] he is not obligated to bring a korban (sacrifice). For example, if he swore to fulfill a mitzvah and he did not fulfill [the mitzvah], or [if] he swore to do something bad to a certain individual, such as to hit him or curse him, [for these types of oaths, he is not obligated to bring a korban]… However, it is a sin, in any situation, to swear falsely…”

On the statement of the Shulchan Aruch that if one takes a false oath to perform a mitzvah or to sin, the Shach (Sifsei Kohen) states that, “There are also lashes [inflicted on such a person who] swears in vain.”

[6] The Shuchan Aruch teaches, that “If one swore to eat a carcass of an animal (i.e. the animal was not slaughtered, but died) or [to eat] a trief animal, or anything resembling such [oaths, such as swearing to violate] any other Torah prohibitions, this person receives lashes for taking a vain oath, whether or not he ate [the forbidden meat].”

*[7] [Chofetz Chaim’s note: For it is not necessary to know [that which] Rabbeinu Yonah [wrote] in Sha’arei Tishuvah, in letter 57, and in the SMa”G (Sefer Mitzvos Gidolos), Torah prohibition #157 in his introduction [to this law, where we learn] that there is a [Torah] prohibition [against] continuing to involve oneself in a quarrel. [Holding onto a quarrel is] definitely in the category of an oath taken in vain, [that oath being] to violate a mitzvah. Rather, even according to those others who count the mitzvos [and] do not count maintaining involvement in a quarrel as one of the prohibitions, nevertheless, [one who maintains a quarrel] is practically within the category of transgressing a mitzvah, for there are a number of pesukim in the Torah that hint to the sin of quarreling. It is more severe [to hold onto a quarrel] than to transgress the prohibition of a half-portion, which are only included [as a prohibition] from [the word] “any” (Vayikra: 7; 23). See in siman 239, sif 6, and in the Shach over there (sif kattan 20). Therefore, it appears that he should ask [a Torah sage to revoke] his oath. (Note: The gemara in maseches Yoma (73a – 74b) brings a dispute regarding one who eats forbidden foods in a measure that is smaller than the punishable measure. Rabbi Yochanan holds that there is a Torah prohibition to eat such a portion, while Reish Lakish holds that the prohibition is Rabbinic.)

You should not ask concerning that which we have determined that from the essence of the law, that this matter is referred to as “swearing to nullify the mitzvah”, [as we see] from that which is brought in [maseches] Sanhedrin (109b): “I swore to them…”, see over there. Why did [On] require advice [to bypass his oath], since he has sworn to nullify the mitzvah? [This follows] that which Moshe Rabbeinu, Alav HaShalom, said: “…you and all of your assembly who have appointed yourselves against HaShem…” (Bamidbar: 16; 11) For it is possible that [On] still had not performed Tishuvah for this [sin of joining Korach’s rebellion against Moshe] and thought that the law was on his side. [On] only [didn’t continue to join the rebellion at that time], for he listened to the words of his wife, [when] she said to him: “What practical difference is there for you [being part of this rebellion]? If [Korach] becomes the leader, you are his student, as is brought over there [in maseches Sanhedrin]. Only in the end, when everyone witnessed the miracle [of Korach and his assembly being] swallowed into the earth, [did On] performed proper Tishuvah for this [sin of partaking in the quarrel against Moshe], and he spent all of his [remaining] days in mourning [for this sin], as is brought over there. Another explanation for [On’s passive refusal to take part in Korach’s rebellion]: He was fearful to transgress the oath in public, [in order] that Korach and his assembly wouldn’t kill him. Therefore, his wife gave him advice concerning this so that they wouldn’t call him at all.

[8] The gemara in maseches
Shivuos (39a) discusses the great punishments that come about for swearing in vain. The source for the prohibition of swearing by taking HaShem’s Name in vain is found in Parshas Yisro in the Ten Commandments (Shmos: 20; 7), as follows, “Do not bear the Name of HaShem, your G-d, in vain, for HaShem will not cleanse those that bear His Name falsely.” (Note: This translation is based on RaSh”I’s commentary, where he quotes maseches Shivuos (29) and the Michilta (Midrash on Shmos).

Punishments for swearing in HaShem’s Name in vain which are unique in severity for such a sin include the following:

1) He is not cleansed of the sin, 2) he and his family are punished, and 3) the entire world is punished on account of his swearing when he takes HaShem’s in vain.

1. Rabbi Elazar explains that for this sin of swearing by taking HaShem’s Name in vain, the sinner is only not cleansed of his sin if he does not repent, however, if he does repent, he is cleansed. This teaching is based on the phrase, “…v’nakei lo yinakeh…”, the straightforward translation, according to RaSh”I, being, “…and He shall surely not cleanse…” (Shmos: 34; 7) However, Onkelos translates the above phrase as follows, “He forgives those who return to His Torah and to those who do not return, He does cleanse”. The above translation of Onkelos is that which Rabbi Elazar bases himself on when he explains that one who takes G-d’s Name in vain by taking an oath is forgiven if he repents.

2. His family is punished for his sin of taking HaShem’s Name in vain because they cover up for his sin. However, only the sinner himself is punished with kares (spiritual excision) (Vayikra: 20; 5)

3. The world is punished on account of this sin. Those “evildoers” of his family (i.e. those who could have opposed the sin but did not) are punished with the same punishment as the individual who swears in G-d’s Name in vain, while the “evildoers” of the world are punished with a severe punishment, though not as severe as the punishment of the “evildoers” of the sinner’s family. Those who are “righteous”, both of his family and of the world (i.e. those who were unable to oppose the sin from being committed), receive a light judgment. In contrast, with other sins, the “evildoers” of the family receive a severe punishment that is not as severe as the punishment of the sinner, while the evildoers of the world receive a light judgment. The “righteous” of the family and of the world, in the latter instance, receive no punishment. (Shivuos, 39a – 39b)

[9] The statement concerning making that which is crooked into something flat, is based on the pasuk from sefer
Yishayahu (42; 16), which states, And I shall lead the blind to walk on a path that they do not know of, on trails that they are not aware of, I shall lead them, I have placed darkness before them as light, and [have made] the crooked [paths] straight, these are the things that I have done and I shall not abandon them [in the future].

The RaDa"K comments that this is a prophecy about that which will happen to the Jewish People in the future when they will be taken out of the exile and brought to the Land of Israel.

Mitzudas David comments that the pasuk refers to miracles that HaShem performed for the Israelites when He took them out of Egypt and He will perform these miracles again for them in the future when they will be taken out of their exile.

In the context of sefer
Shmiras HaLashon, the Chofetz Chaim is telling us that the Yetzer HaRa will come and will inject the individual with the trait of anger and the desire to achieve victory. Then, once the complete person becomes infected with these traits, thus softening him up to sin, the Yetzer HaRa will provide him with all sorts of heteirim, making it seem to him that various types of forbidden speech, as well as taking part in a quarrel, are okay in this instance.

[10] “Heteirim” refers to something which allows for an exception to a given halacha.
Heter literally means “permit”, as something which is generally forbidden is “permitted” under special circumstances.

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