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, December 20, 2007

Shmiras HaLashon ט"ז שבט - Shevat 16 - One-Hundred-and-Thirty-Fifth Day

© 2007 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

For some, the cause of [their] having become habituated in the sin [of Lashon HaRa] results [from the sin of Lashon HaRa being] disregarded. In other words, [the person] notices that [the laws of Lashon HaRa are] disregarded by many people who do not consider [Lashon HaRa] to be a sin at all, due to our numerous sins. Therefore, [since the prohibition against Lashon HaRa has been forsaken by many people, those individuals who note this] have become lax in guarding [themselves from involvement in the sin of Lashon HaRa].

[The following is] a [piece of] advice [for these people who view the sin of Lashon HaRa as having been forsaken], that [being that] he should consider [that] if he and the people of his city would be sick, with one of the types of severe sicknesses, chas v’shalom, HaShem should protect us [from such sicknesses, the person would try to find a doctor to cure him of this illness. If the the situation would reach] the point that all of the doctors of his city would grow weary [in] seeking out a remedy and cure for this [sickness, he would exert great effort to find a cure for his sickness. Subsequent to seeking out a cure for his great illness], word got around [town] that a great, world-renowned doctor arrived in the city, [this doctor being] unsurpassed in his success-rate of curing the hopelessly ill person to his [original state of] health, [to the extent] that no hint of his sickness would be evident. Would [this desperately ill person] be lax [and thereby refrain from taking the initiative to] immediately send for this doctor to come and see him [in him in his] troublesome state, [especially now] that he is lying on a sickbed, [for] perhaps [this doctor] will [be able to] heal him from his illness?” If one the friends of [the desperately ill person] would inquire of him [by asking], ‘Why are you more enthusiastic than the other [ill people in pursuing this world-renowned doctor]?’, you would definitely answer him [as follows]: ‘[You are the greatest] fool in the world! [Concerning] a matter that my life depends upon, even if there [is only] a small doubt [that a cure will be found for my illness], I do not need to [pay heed] to others [who are lax in finding a remedy to their illnesses]! How much more so [is my zeal appropriate] concerning this doctor, regarding whom we already personally familiar and who is world-renowned for his wondrous cures, for he heals all of those who are hopelessly sick. Would I abandon my life for the sake of these fools who do not have pity on their own lives?” [Since the above is the case of] matters [concerning] the body, [there is] all the more reason [for us to respond with zeal regarding] matters [concerning] the soul. [As important as it is for us to guard our physical health, it is all the more important for us to act for our spiritual wellbeing], as it is known to us, that one who guards his tongue from evil [speech] will merit to live everlasting life in The World to Come, as [Dovid HaMelech writes in “Tehillim”], “Come children,… who is the man who desires life…?”[1] (Tehillim: 34; 12 – 13) Who is a more trusted doctor than our Master, King David, Alav HaShalom [who taught us of the importance of guarding one’s speech for one who desires life]? In contrast, Heaven Forbid, [if one were to involve himself in the sin of Lashon HaRa, he will consequently] never [attain] a cure for his malady, and in this world [he will experience] afflictions and pain due to this sin [of Lashon HaRa], as it says earlier, in the name of Midrash [quoted in the eighth chapter of “Sha’ar HaZichirah”][2]. How much more so, should [the person] not focus on other [people who involve themselves in Lashon HaRa and thereby show no compassion for themselves, for, due to this sin, suffering befalls such people in this world and in The World to Come].

[1] The full text of the quotes is as follows:

“Come children, listen to me, I shall teach you concerning fear of HaShem. Who is the man who desires life to see [that which is] good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” (Tehillim: 34; 12 – 14)

[2] This teaching is found in Midrash Aggados B
reishis, [as follows]: “In future times, everyone aside from the snake will be healed. 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.” (Koheles: 10; 11) For a futher discussion related to this teaching, see the “thirty-eighth day” of “Shmiras HaLashon in chapter 8 of “Sha’ar HaZechirah”.

Shmiras HaLashon ט"ו שבט - Shevat 15 - One-Hundred-and-Thirty-Fourth Day

© 2007 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

[Just as one is capable of controlling his evil inclination], so too is the same true [concerning] our matter [of being careful to avoid speaking Lashon HaRa]. For if the [individual] will [focus] his eyes and his heart on his actions, and he will be agreeable to guard the openings of his mouth, [to the extent] that he will only open [his mouth when] necessary, and [will be cautious] to abstain from speaking [that which is] evil and deceitful, [such a person] will definitely not fall short in [his observance of the prohibition against Lashon HaRa. The aforementioned relates to the following teaching from masechesYoma”]: “One who comes to purify himself [is] assisted [towards becoming purified].”[1] (Yoma, 38b) [The teaching from masechesYoma” follows that which] our Sages of Blessed Memory have said [in “Tanna D’Vei Eliyahu[2], as follows]: “If a person wants to become a tzaddik, The Holy One, Blessed is He, sends him an angel that deals with him as would a righteous individual. If a person wants to become pious, The Holy One, Blessed is He, sends him an angel that deals with him in the manner that a pious individual would [relate to him].”[3]

[Concerning] that which our Sages of Blessed Memory have said in [masechesBava Basra” (165a)]: “Everyone [stumbles in the sin of] Lashon HaRa”, they have immediately concluded [this teaching by stating the following]: “Do you really think [that everyone stumbles in the sin of] Lashon HaRa? Rather, [we mean to] say that [everyone stumbles in the sin of] Avak Lahshon HaRa. [In his commentary on the above teaching], the MaHaRSh”A wrote [that] even [in reference to] Avak [Lashon HaRa, concerning] which [our Sages] have said “Everyone [stumbles in the sin of [Avak] Lashon HaRa”, [the above] refers only to [those people] who [are not cautious to] focus their eyes and their hearts on their speech. [Such people allow their speech to follow] its natural course [and the gemara refers to] all of [these people when it says that they] will definitely stumble [in the sin of Avak Lashon HaRa. The sin of Avak Lashon HaRa] is not similar to robbery and sexual immorality, for even if [the person] were [to allow himself to follow] his natural [inclinations], he will [nevertheless], at times, be able to rescue himself from these [sins] for a given period of time, this not being [true of] Lashon HaRa, as it is dependant on his [power of] speech. However, [though it might appear otherwise from a casual examination of the text of the gemara, it is evident from the commentary of the MaHaRSh”A, that] our Sages of Belssed Memory did not intend to say that the person is completely incapable of saving himself from [the sin of] Avak Lashon HaRa, Heaven Forbid. [For more on the topic concerning the person’s ability to avoid speaking Lashon HaRa, refer to] the introduction, [where] we have explained this matter [at] length.[4]

[1] We see from this teaching found in masechesYoma”, that the individual is expected to invest a real effort to purify himself, in this context by refraining from involvement in Lashon HaRa. By making an effort to properly follow The Torah, the person will be provided Heavenly assistance to succeed in purifying himself and thereby successfully overcome his negative inclinations. Based on this teaching, the person should always understand that no matter how difficult it may seem to properly fulfill a given mitzvah, he should not give up, but rather should invest the requisite effort in accordance with his abilities, and he will succeed in his goal.

[2] This teaching is found in the third chapter of Eliyahu Zuta.

[3] This teaching from “Eliyahu Zuta” continues by discussing different types of angels who are sent to the person to assist them toward their intended goal, whether their goal is to become righteous, pious, evil, or of average behavior. This section notes that the angel who assists the person who is working to become righteous, acts in a manner befitting of a righteous individual and this angel speaks the truth, by acting in such a manner, this angel thereby assists the person in his quest to become righteous. The above is true of the individual who wishes to become pious who is sent a “pious angel”, as well as is the case with the person who wishes to become evil, he being sent an angel that behaves in a manner resembling an evil person.

From this teaching from “Eliyahu Zuta”, we see that the person is encouraged to continue on the path that he has chosen for himself, whether it be good or for evil. This teaching follows that which is taught in “Sha’arei Teshuvah” that a person’s habits rule over him, it often being difficult for a person to overcome his habits, whether for the good or for the evil.

[4] This teaching that the Chofetz Chaim refers the reader to, can be found on the 6th – 8th days of Tishrei. On the 6th day of Tishrei, the Chofetz Chaim quotes from “Avos D’Rabbi Nosson” where he brings forth the claim of the Yetzer HaRa that the person should distance himself from those things which are limitless, such as the prohibition against Lashon HaRa which constantly applies. On the 7th day of Tishrei, the Chofetz Chaim quotes the GR”A who points out the awesome reward that one attains from refraining from speaking Lashon HaRa even for a short period of time. On the 8th day of Tishrei, the Chofetz Chaim refutes the claim of the Yetzer HaRa that one can only refrain from speaking Lashon HaRa for a short period of time and explains that it is within the person’s capability to emerge victorious over his Yetzer HaRa and regularly refrain from speaking Lashon HaRa.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shmiras HaLashon י"ד שבט - Shevat 14 - One-Hundred-and-Thirty-Third Day

© 2007 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

Chapter 15

In this Chapter, [we] Shall Explain Concerning [the] Lashon HaRa that Results from certain people who perceive [that the public] has abandoned [the laws of Lashon HaRa. Such People therefore] Despair [of being able to Abide by the Prohibition of Lashon HaRa].

There are certain [people] who’s reason [to justify their involvement in Lashon HaRa] is due to despair. [These people despair of the possibility to abide by the prohibition of Lashon HaRa] as the [evil] inclination entices them [to involve themselves in Lashon HaRa by convincing them] that it is completely impossible for a worldly man to remain [careful to refrain from involvement in Lashon HaRa] unless he were to completely disassociate himself from worldly matters, this being [an] impossible [task]. [These people justify their involvement in Lashon HaRa with] the [teaching] of our Sages of Blessed Memory, [in maseches “Bava Basra[1] (165a), which states as follows]: “And everyone [stumbles in the sin of] Avak Lashon HaRa[2]. Therefore, these individuals completely despair from guarding [themselves from involvement in] this matter [of Lashon HaRa].

In reality, [the above justification for speaking Lashon HaRa] is a big mistake, for if it is true [that it would be impossible to avoid involvement in Lashon HaRa, then] why did The Torah command us with a prohibition concerning [Lashon HaRa]? For isn’t it known that The Holy One, Blessed is He, does not come with a grievance against His Creations.[3](Avodah Zarah, 3a) [If it would have been impossible for a person to constantly avoid Lashon HaRa] then The Torah should have included [Lashon HaRa] among the category of character traits [included in the midst of] the rest of the holy attributes which are directed toward select individuals. Rather, [in reality], The Fashioner of the person definitely placed it within the power of every single Jewish man such that if [they] would only [direct] their eyes and [their] hearts [to focus] on their ways, [then they] will be careful [to refrain] from this [sin of Lashon HaRa. This follows that which is taught] in “Sifrei” [on] parshasHa’Azinu” (Piskah 307), [as follows]: “…Trustworthy G-d and [within Whom] there is no perversion…”[4] (Devarim: 32; 4), [this teaches us] that [HaShem] did not create people to be evildoers, rather, [He Created us] to be tzadikkim,[5] [the] explanation [of this being] that if not for this [reality, and it would be the case that people were not created to be righteous], Heaven Forbid, [then there would be] perversion in [HaShem] Yisbarach’s law, for the punishment with which He subsequently [inflicts upon the person for speaking Lashon HaRa. In reality, HaShem did create people to be upright, as] it says [in this context], “That G-d made man upright, and they sought out many [sinful] thoughts.” (Koheles: 7; 29) [We find a teaching] similar to [the above] in “Tanchuma” [on] parshasB’reishis” (letter ז), [as follows][6]: ““That G-d made man upright…”, The Holy One, Blessed is He, Who is called righteous and upright, did not create the person in His image, except in order to [similarly] be righteous and upright. If you will say [in response to the above]: “Why did [HaShem] Create the evil inclination, regarding whom it is written, “…for the inclination of the person is evil from his youth…”? (B’reshis: 8; 21) [HaShem], You [even] say that [the Yetzer HaRa] is evil, [that being the case], who is [then] able to make him good?” The Holy One, Blessed is He, [said in response, as follows]: “You made him evil, you were a baby and you did not sin, you grew up and you sinned.”

[Chofetz Chaim: [The] explanation [of the above is as follows]: [It is] the person [who] draws [the Yetzer HaRa] upon himself with his actions and his affairs, for The Holy One, Blessed is He, bestows the person with the power to rule over himself, the [person’s] evil inclination being in the category of a servant [who exists in order] to assist him with certain matters, [in order to support him in his quest to attain] his ultimate objective. [In this context], it is written [in reference to the person’s relationship with the Yetzer HaRa], “and you shall rule over him”[7] (B’reshis: 4; 7), and it is [similarly] written [in seferMishlei”], “[one who] indulges his servant from his youth…”[8] (Mishlei: 29; 21), [such] matters [as] these [continue on at] length].

[The teaching from Tanchuma continues as follows]: “There are a number of things in the world that are harsher and more bitter than the YetzerHaRa, and you sweeten them. There is nothing more bitter than lupine, and you [nevertheless] persevere to blanch it with water seven times until it is made to be sweet, and similarly [you persevere to sweeten] mustard and caper, as well as many [other bitter] things. Just as, for your needs, you sweeten those bitter things that I have Created, how much more so [can you sweeten and positively influence] the evil inclination that I have given over in your hand!”

[1] The text from masechesBava Basra” (164b-165a), states as follows:

“Rav Amram said, ‘[There are] three sins concerning which a person is not saved from them every day, [as follows]: 1) Sinful thoughts, 2) focusing on [the results] of one’s prayers (RaShBa”M – i.e. that the person thinks that his requests in his prayers will be answered positively by HaShem as he concentrated in his prayers), and 3) Lashon HaRa. Do you really think [people involve themselves in] Lashon HaRa [on a daily basis]? Rather, [people involve themselves in] Avak Lashon HaRa. Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: ‘A majority [of people involve themselves] in robbery, and a minority [of people involve themselves] in sexual immorality, and everyone [involves themselves] in Lashon HaRa. Do you really think [that all people involve themselves] in Lashon HaRa? Rather, [everyone involves themselves in] Avak Lashon HaRa.”

[2] “Avak Lashon HaRa” literally means “the dust of Lashon HaRa” and refers to speaking that which implies Lashon HaRa. The example of Avak Lashon HaRa that RaSh”I brings is found in masechesArachin” (15b), where someone says that a fire for cooking can be found in a given household. RaSh”I explains in masechesArachin” that saying that a fire for cooking is regularly found in a given household implies that the residents are wealthy and that they regularly cook food in that household. By revealing that food is regularly cooked in the given household, it can negatively affect the residents as people may come to their door asking for food or for a meal.

[3] The gemara in masechesAvodah Zarah” explains that when the Mashiach comes, the nations of the world will want to share in the greatness by becoming Jewish and following The Torah. HaShem will give these people an opportunity to demonstrate that they are true to their word by giving them the easy mitzvah of Sukkah. The people of the world will build their sukkahs and once they sit in the Sukkah, HaShem will cause the sun to beat down heavily upon them. These people will then spurnfully kick down their sukkahs and thereby demonstrate that they are not prepared to abide by The Torah. The question is don’t we say that HaShem doesn’t come against His creations in such a manner as to have a grievance against them – giving the people of the world a situation where they can’t reasonably fulfill the mitzvah of sukkah. The answer is that the Jews also sometimes celebrate Succos in that period of the year when it is regularly hot. Though people are exempt from the mitzvah in such a situation, the people of the nations of the world should not have spurnfully kicked their sukkahs down.

[4] The entire pasuk from parshasHa’Azinu” reads as follows:

“The Rock, His actions are complete, for all of His ways are just, trustworthy G-d without perversion, He is righteous and straight.” (Devarim: 32; 4)

This pasuk is explained by RaSh”I as follows:

“Even though HaShem is strong, when He brings punishment to those who transgress His Will, He does not do it an an overwhelming manner, bringing all of the punishment at the same time, rather, He brings the punishment in a just manner. HaShem is Trustworthy as He gives the righteous their reward though they might have to wait to receive it until they arrive in The World to Come. HaShem does not act in a “crooked” manner, as He bestows the evildoers with their reward for their good actions in this world. Everyone recognizes that HaShem’s judgment is correct.” The Sifrei offers a different explanation of this pasuk, as noted in the text.

[5] Sifrei states that “without crookedness” teaches us that HaShem didn’t create people to be evildoers, rather He created people to be righteous, as it says in “Koheles”, “Aside [from that which is previously mentioned], see that I have found that G-d made the man upright and they sought after many [sinful] thoughts.” (Koheles: 7; 29)

[6] “And HaShem Eloh-im said, ‘Behold, Adam [was like one of us to know good and evil]…” (B’reishis: 3; 22), concerning this, “Aside from this, see this that I have found, that G-d made man upright…” (Koheles: 7; 29) The Holy One, Blessed is He, who is called “righteous and upright” (Devarim: 32; 4), did not create the person in His Image except to be righteous and upright like Him. If you will say, ‘Why [then] did HaShem create the evil inclination, concerning which it is written, “for the inclination of the heart of man is evil from his youth” (B
reishis: 8; 21)? You, [HaShem], say that he (i.e. the evil inclination) is evil, [therefore], who can make him good?’ [In response], The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, you make him evil. Why [is this the case]? A child of the ages of five, six, seven, eight, and nine years old, does not sin. Rather, [the person begins to sin] from the age of ten onwards, and at that time he [is responsible for] causing the evil inclination to grow great.’ If you will [then] say, ‘A person is unable to guard himself [from the evil inclination].’ [In response], The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, ‘You made him evil.’ How [is it that this is the case]? You were a baby and you didn’t sin, you grew up and you sinned.

There are a number of things in the world that are harsher and more bitter than the Yetzer HaRa, and you sweeten them. There is nothing more bitter than lupine, and you [nevertheless] persevere to blanch it with water seven times until it is made to be sweet, and similarly [you persevere to sweeten] mustard and caper, as well as many [other bitter] things. Just as, for your needs, you sweeten those bitter things that I have Created, how much more so [can you sweeten and positively influence] the evil inclination that I have given over in your hand!

Similarly you find [the above to have been true of] Chiram, the king of Tyre, for I had created him [to be] innocent and upright, as it says [in seferYechezkel”], “From the day I had created you, you have been innocent in your ways…” (Yechezkel: 28; 15) Eventually, crookedness was found within him and he was banished. [In addition], concerning the Generation of Dispersion it is written concerning them, “And the entire land was one language…” (
Breishis: 11; 1) and subsequently they sought to ascend to the Heavenly Firmament [in opposition to HaShem]. What is over there, “And HaShem descended to see the city and the tower that the people built.” (Breishis: 11; 5) [The above teaching relates to the following idiom]: “This [inferior] strap from this [quality] leather?!?” [The above] is analogous to a king who made a golden statue in his image and placed it at the entrance of his palace. [Whereupon], a bird took up residence upon it and made it dirty. Similarly, The Holy One, Blessed is He, created the person to be straight, the Yetzer HaRa then got up and dirtied [the person]. Similarly, it says [in “Tehillim”], “I said, you are judges [to carry out the Will of HaShem], and [that] you are all angels, in reality, you shall die like a person.” (Translation based on the commentary of the RaDa”K.) (Tehillim: 82; 6)…”

[7] The entire pasuk, in accordance with the commentary of Yonasan ben Uziel, reads as follows:

“Is it not that if you improve your actions you will be forgiven for your sin and if you do not improve your actions in this world, on the Great Day of Judgment your sin awaits and sin crouches on the entrance of your heart and you have been given the control over the Yetzer HaRa and you are the desire [of the Yetzer HaRa] and you shall rule over it, whether to act meritoriously or to sin.” (B’reishis: 4; 7)

[8] The entire pasuk from “Mishlei” reads as follows:

“[One who] from his youth indulges his servant, in the end, [that servant] will become the ruler.” (Mishlei: 29; 21)

RaSh”I explains that the servant who is indulged and subsequently becomes the ruler as a result of being indulged, is the Yetzer HaRa. Metzudas David explains that the master who indulges his servant from the servant’s youth will lead him to not act as a servant and to instead become the ruler over his master. Shlomo HaMelech is teaching us that the person who HaShem placed as the ruler over his Yetzer HaRa, if he acts improperly by indulging his Yetzer HaRa instead of treating him as subservient, it will chas v’shalom turn into a situation where the servant (i.e. the Yetzer HaRa) rules over the person and makes demands of him, rather than the other way around, as it should be.

Rabbeinu Yonah in
Sha'arei Teshuvah” explains that the more accustomed the person gets to following the dictates of his Yetzer HaRa, the harder it is for the person to overcome the Yetzer HaRa.

Rabbeinu Yonah states as follows:

“Concerning one who delays from rectifying his soul, the Yetzer HaRa continues to go and strengthen itself, and hardens [the person's] heart, and it [thereby] becomes difficult for him to subsequently rectify his soul. [This follows] that which is written in Mishlei”, “And behold it has been completely covered with thistles...” (Mishlei: 24; 31) [Similarly], our Sages of Blessed Memory have said, at the time that the Yetzer HaRa is involved with a sin, it will be comparable to heresy, and [the person] will not be capable of purifying himself. [The philosophers] have said in the [teachings of] moral reproof, that becoming accustomed to any matter is [the] ruler.” (Sha'arei Teshuvah: 2nd Sha'ar; 30)

In the commentary - Zeh HaSha'ar - on Sha'arei Teshuvah”, we see that just as a person who is lazy from tilling their field will have thistles in their field, so too will one experience problems with their Yetzer HaRa if they refrain from opposing it's will. From the above teaching, we see that the person will be drawn after doing that which he has become accustomed to do, whether it is bad or good. From Rabbeinu Yonah, we further see how not ruling over one's Yetzer HaRa, can lead it to become the ruler over the person, chas v'shalom.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Shmiras HaLashon י"ג שבט - Shevat 13 - One-Hundred-and-Thirty-Second Day

© 2007 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

[The following] is the text of “Sefer HaPardeis” of our teacher, the rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Cordevaro, [this teaching being found in the] “Gate of Sanctuaries” – “שער היכלות”, [in the] second chapter[1], [as follows]: “Above, [in Heaven], one of the four holy Chayos is Yofiel, the Minister of Torah, and all of the keys of wisdom are in his possession. Once the soul rises and arrives Above, [in Heaven, after passing away], this Minister queries it concerning the wisdom that it learned in this world, and in accordance with the degree which [the person] toiled in Torah and pursued it, he will be given [his] reward. If he was able to involve himself in more Torah [study], and [nevertheless] did not involve himself [in more Torah study, his soul] is pushed to the bottom, in embarrassment and shame, below that sanctuary. Once the Siraphim below the Chayah, raise [their] wings, and touch [wing] one to another, they burn that soul, it being burned and it is not [completely] consumed… In such a manner [is that soul that was idle from Torah study] judged every day, regardless of whether it possesses good deeds, for it was not involved in Torah [study to a] fitting [degree].”

Therefore, [in light of the above teaching], the hearty [individual] must contemplate [the above] all of the days of his life, as it is written in “Tanna D’Vei Eliyahu[2], [as follows]: “A person should see to it that he will grasp in his hand that which he learned in order that embarrassment and shame will not evertake him on The Day of Judgment, at [which] time that they will say [to him], “Stand up and set [before us the] scriptures you have read and the Mishna that you have learned.”]

[1] Note from the “Kol HaLashon” printing of seferShmiras HaLashon”: This teaching is found in “Sefer HaPardeis”, volume 2, pgs. 46 [in the] complete Munkatch printing.

[2] This teaching is found in “Tanna D’vei Eliyahu” in “Eliyahu Rabba”, chapter 1.

Shmiras HaLashon י"בּ שבט - Shevat 12 - One-Hundred-and-Thirty-First Day

© 2007 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

[Take note that] once the person will contemplate concerning the magnitude of his deficiency in Torah [learning] and [in his performance of the] mitzvos, he will [realize that he does] not possess that which he can be haughty over. [This follows] that which our Sages of Blessed Memory have said [in masechesNidarim[1] (41a), as follows]: “If this is lacking, what has he acquired?”[2] Even if [the person] possesses a small amount of Torah [learning] and [performance of] good deeds, once he truthfully considers [the extent of his deficiency in these areas], he will realize that he still has not rectified half [of that which he is capable of rectifying] and has not even [attained] a third [of] the wisdom [in relation to his potential] with which The Holy One, Blessed is He, imbued within him.

[Chofetz Chaim’s note: The holy sifarim have recorded a [powerful] parable related to the above teaching [concerning the dearth of Torah knowledge] and one’s coming to the recognition that there is nothing concerning which he can become haughty]. It appears to me that I have seen this [parable] in seferZichru Toras Moshe[3], [as follows]:

[The parable is of] one rich man, who sent two people to a distant country to acquire precious stones on his behalf. [The rich man] gave one-thousand gold coins to one [of his messengers] for this task [of acquiring precious stones] and only provided one-hundred gold coins to the second [messenger]. On the journey, [the two messengers] wasted [much of] the money on purposeless [acquisitions], to the extent that only two-hundred gold coins remained in the possession of the [messenger] who was [entrusted with the] one-thousand [coins], and [only] forty [gold coins remained] in the possession of [his companion who was entrusted with] one-hundred [gold coins]. Once the [the messengers arrived at their destination], they [began to] quarrel with one another. The [messenger who was entrusted with] one-thousand [gold coins boasted to the accompanying messenger, as follows]: “Are you really able to compare yourself with me? Aren’t you a poor person [in relation to me, as you do] not even possess one-quarter of that which I [possess]!” [Overhearing the quarreling messengers, a bystander] responded to [the messenger entrusted with] one-thousand [gold coins]: “Woe, fool and haughty [one, concerning] what [is it that] you become haughty? [You pride yourself over your fellow as if you are wealthier than him, though] we are already aware that the coins do not belong to you, [rather], you are merely a messenger [sent] to bring the merchandise to the one who sent you [on the journey and entrusted you with his money]. In reality, you are poorer than [your companion] over whom you pride yourself, for he only owes the dispatcher [the] sixty gold coins that he squandered in his foolishness, and, [as for] you, didn’t you waste eight-hundred gold coins on useless matters! [When asked], how shall you explain to the one who dispatched you [concerning the great deal of money that] you have wasted? At that time [when you are required to provide an explanation to the one who dispatched you concerning the money that you have wasted], won’t you be [overcome with] a much greater degree of embarrassment and shame than this poor person whom you insulted?!?”

[The above parable] is precisely the case in our matter [concerning our degree of involvement in Torah study and performance of mitzvos], for aren’t we all messengers of The Merciful One, [sent] here from The Upper World, [in order] for each of us to rectify our soul and polish it. [The person is expected to rectify his soul] to the extent of the degree of wisdom that The Holy One, Blessed is He, embued within his soul. Therefore, [in light of the above], it is not [fitting] for the person to become haughty concerning the greater [degree of] wisdom that he possesses over his fellow, for [the wisdom that he possesses] does not [truly] belong to him, rather, it is given to him for [that which he] needs [in order to successfully arrive at] the end-purpose, [that being, that he will use his wisdom to rectify his soul. Rather than being haughty by comparing himself with his fellow], he should consider how many days and how many years he was idle from Torah [learning, concerning which] he will be [held responsible] for all of [the time he was idle from involvement in Torah learning. The person who was idle from involvement in Torah study will be required] to give an accounting for each day of his life [concerning those things] which he involved himself [in the place of Torah study].

[1] The text in the gemara (Nedarim, 41a), states as follows:

“Abayee said, ‘We have derived [that] “one is only poor with [respect to] knowledge.”’ In the West (i.e. Babylonia), they said, ‘If he possesses this [knowledge], he possesses everything, if he doesn’t possess this (i.e. knowledge), what does he possess? If he has acquired this (knowledge), what is he lacking? If he has not acquired this (knowledge), what has he acquired?”

[2] The actual text of the gemara states “If he has not acquired this (i.e. knowledge), what has he acquired?” The text as recorded in seferShmiras HaLashon” is slightly differenet – “If this (i.e. knowledge) is lacking, what has been acquired?”

[3] Note from the “Kol HaLashon” printing of seferShmiras HaLashon”: [Concerning the discussion of the attribute of haughtiness, as recorded in seferZichru Moshe”, see his introduction where he goes on at length concerning this attribute. However, [the author presents] a different parable which resembles the parable [transcribed in seferShmiras HaLashon”].

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Shmiras HaLashon י"א שבט - Shevat 11 - One-Hundred-and-Thirtieth Day

© 2007 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

[One who wishes to cease involvement in the sin of haughtiness], will also contemplate [concerning] the severity of this sin, it being one of the prohibitions from [among] the six-hundred-and-thirteen [mitzvos], as is written [in ParshasEikev”], “And your heart shall become haughty and you shall forget HaShem your G-d...”[1] (Devarim: 8; 14), as is written in the “SMa”G[2]. Our Sages of Blessed Memory have also said in [maseches] “Sotah” (4b), [as follows]: “Any person who possesses haughtiness of spirit, it is [considered] as if he is worshipping idols…”[3] As long as a person intends to make his name great in the world, his name is lost, diminished, and departs, and people treat him disrespectfully. [This person who wishes to separate himself from the attribute of haughtiness] will contemplate [concerning] the greatness of his punishment in this world and in The World to Come [for this sin of haughtiness], as [our Sages] have said [in masechesSukkah” (29b), as follows]: “As a result of four things, the property of homeowners goes down the drain… and due to haughtiness of spirit.”[4] [Our Sages] have also said in [maseches] “Sotah” (5a), [as follows]: “Any person who possesses [the attribute of] haughtiness of spirit, will eventually be diminished [from his stature of prominence]…”[5] We also have the text over there [in masechesSotah”, as follows]: “Rav Chisda said, ‘[Concerning] any person who possesses haughtiness of spirit, The Holy One, Blessed is He, [says]: “He and I cannot dwell [together] in [the] world, as it says…’ Rabbi Elazar says, ‘[Concerning] any person who possesses haughtiness of spirit, his dust is not moved for The Resurrection of the Dead, as it says…’[6] [This punishment of not being arounsed for The Resurrection of the Dead] is measure-for-measure, for, instead of constantly contemplating concerning himself, as he should have, that he would eventually go to a place of dirt, maggots and worms, and that he [therefore] shouldn’t be haughty, as mentioned earlier, [instead, he ignored such thoughts. Rather], he did not consider such [an eventuality], for [instead he thinks that] his fortress will constantly be in the heights of the boulders, and his [eternal place of] rest will be in the expansive lofty abodes, [such being] over and above all of his peers. Therefore, once his body will [decompose into] dirt, there [will not be the requisite] power within his dirt to move from his place, and [while] everyone will arise and get up on their feet, he will remain lying lowly, [lying motionless] below the soles of all of the people upon whom he made himself haughty while he was still living. Furthermore, due to [the person’s attribute of haughtiness], he is abominable in the Eyes of HaShem Yisbarach, as it is written [in “Mishlei”], “All those who are haughty of heart are an abomination [before] HaShem…” (Mishlei: 16; 5)

[1] The pasuk that the Chofetz Chaim quotes in the context of the severity of the sin of haughtiness is preceded by a passage which discusses how HaShem provided for The B’nei Yisrael (Jewish People) in the Sinai Desert, providing us nourishment with the manna, making sure our clothes wouldn’t wear out and protecting us from the surrounding dangers. (D’varim: 8; 1 – 4) Then The Torah tells us that when HaShem brings us afflicting, it is for our good, as a loving father would afflict his child, this being in the context of our benefit. (Devarim: 8; 5) We then learn that we should fear HaShem (8; 6), and that HaShem will bring The B’nei Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael, a land full of blessing. (8; 7 – 9) Once HaShem has provided all of these blessings for us and we eat of the food that He has blessed us with, we will bless HaShem, which, as we learn in maseches B’rachos (15a) refers to Birchas HaMazon (the prayer recited after eating bread).

We are then warned to not forget HaShem by not following the mitzvos of The Torah. (Devarim: 8; 11) The Torah then informs us how that one can forget HaShem by becoming wealthy (8; 12 – 13) and then becoming haughty, as we learn:

“And your heart shall become haughty and you shall forget HaShem, your G-d, Who took you out from the Land of Egypt, from the House of Servitude.” (Devarim: 8; 14)

We then learn again about how HaShem miraculously provided us with nourishment in the Sinai Desert and how we were provided with water in the arid Sinai Desert – “where there wasn’t water”, and that HaShem protected us from the dangerous snakes and scorpions that inhabited the desert. (Devarim: 8; 15 – 16) Nevertheless, even in light of all of this, the haughty person forgets HaShem and rather says in his heart, “…my strength and the power of my hand has acquired all of this wealth for me.” (Devarim: 8; 17) We are then instructed to remember that all of our possessions come to us through the blessing that HaShem gives us the ability to acquire those possessions and that wealth. (Devarim: 8; 18)

From the above we can learn of the severity of the sin of haughtiness, for it causes a person to even forget about HaShem and all of the miraculous things He has done for us and that all of our wealth comes about through the blessing that HaShem bestows upon us. By forgetting HaShem, the person can easily come to stop following The Torah. From here we see that the sin of haughtiness is so severe, one of the reasons being that it can lead one to dissacociate himself from HaShem and His Torah.

[2] The “SMa”G” is the “Sefer Mitzvos Gedolos”. The prohibition of haughtiness is the 64th prohibition discussed.

[3] The entire section in this section of the gemara that discusses the severity of the sin of haughtiness, states as follows:

“Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai: ‘Every person who possesses haughtiness of spirit is considered as if he worships idols, [for] it is written over here [in seferMishlei”], “Everyone who is haughty of heart is an abomination – toavas – of HaShem…” (Mishlei: 16; 5) and it is written over there [in seferDevarim” concerning idols], “And you shall not bring an abomination – toeivah – into your house…” (Devarim: 7; 26) Rabbi Yochanan himself said [concerning the severity of the sin of haughtiness], “[One who is haughty is considered] as if he has denied The Essence (i.e. HaShem), as it says, “And your heart shall become haughty and you shall forget HaShem, your G-d...” (Devarim: 8; 14) Rabbi Chama the son of Chanina said, [one who is haughty is considered] as if he had sexual relations [from among] all of the forbidden types of relationships, [for] it is written over here [in “Mishlei”], “All of those who are haughty of heart are abominable – toavas – to HaShem…” (Mishlei: 16; 5), and it is written over there [in seferVayikra”], “For all of these [sexual] abominations – toeivos – [were performed by the people [who dwelled in] the Land prior to you, and the Land became impure.]” (Vayikra: 18; 27) Ula said, [one who is haughty is considered] as if he has built an idolatrous altar (bamah), as it says [in seferYishayahu”], “Stop yourselves from [associating with] the person who has a soul in his nostril, for of what – va’meh – במה – importance is he?” (Yishayahu: 2; 22) Do not read [the word as] “va’meh”, [rather read it as] “bamah”.” (Sotah, 4b)

The Chofetz Chaim quotes the Zohar on ParshasTitzaveh” (Volume 2; 182a) (See the fifth day of Shevat) that the person with “a soul in his nostril” refers to those people who have rejected The Torah life and instead perform evil. As we have learned above in note 1, as quoted in The Torah, one who becomes haughty can come to forget HaShem and reject The Torah. We learn from the pasuk from seferYishayahu” quoted in the gemara, that a person should not associate with the person who has rejected The Torah, as The Zohar warns. This is the person who, due to his haughtiness has adopted an evil lifestyle in the place of living in accordance with The Torah. It is considered as if, due to his rejection of HaShem and his evil lifestyle, as if he has built an idolatrous altar and such a person must be avoided.

[4] The entire passage from masechesSukkah” (29b) concerning loss of wealth as a consequence of haughtiness, states as as follows:

“Rav said, ‘The property of homeowners goes down the drain on account of [the following] four things: 1) For withholding the wage of a hired worker, 2) for robbing the wage of a hired worker, 3) on account of removing the yoke from upon their necks and placing it on their fellow [people], 4) on account of haughtiness of spirit, and haughtiness of spirit is equivalent to all of them.

However, concerning the humble, it is written [in “Tehillim”], “And the humble shall inherit the Land and they shall delight on an abundance of peace.” (Tehillim: 37; 11)”

The MaHaRSh”A explains that the haughty leaders will expect their fellows to take upon themselves the yoke of leadership in their place. The MaHaRSh”A also notes that the individual performs the first three of the aforementioned sins as he is haughty.

[5] The passage in masechesSotah” (5a), concerning the haughty person being diminished from his stature of prominence, states as follows:

“Rav Avira expounded [concerning those who are haughty]. Sometimes [this teaching is quoted] in the name of Rav Ashi, and sometimes [it is quoted] in the name of Rav Ami. [The teaching states as follows]:

‘Every person who possesses haughtiness of spirit, will eventually be diminished [from their prominence], as it says, “His loftiness shall be diminished…” (Iyov: 24; 24) Perhaps you will say that [this haughty person will continue] to exist in the world, [therefore] the pasuk comes to teach us, “…and he is not [in existence]…” (Iyov: 24; 24) If [this haughty person] will return [from being haughty by performing teshuvah], he will pass away at his designated time like our forefather Avraham, as it says, “…and [if] he shall make himself lowly like everyone – ka’kol, he will [pass away as have the righteous ones]…” (Iyov: 24; 24), just as was the case concerning Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov, concering whom it is written, “ba’kol – with everything” (B’reishis: 24; 1), [concerning Avraham], “mi’kol – from everything” (B’reishis: 27; 33), [by Yitzchak, and] “kol – everything” (B’reishis: 33; 11), [concerning Ya’akov. However, if the haughty person does not humble himself and repent from his haughty nature, then the following from seferIyov” is written concerning him]: “…and he shall be cut down like the head of a sheaf.” (Iyov: 24; 24) What does [the pasuk mean when it states] “like the head of a sheaf”? Rav Huna and Rav Chisda [both explained the meaning of this phrase], one said ‘like the awn (i.e. on the top) of the sheaf’, and one said ‘like the sheaf itself’. The explanation of the one who said ‘like the awn of the sheaf’ makes sense. However, according to the one who said ‘like the sheaf itself’, [then] what is [the meaning of that which is written], “and as the head of the sheaf”? Rav Asi said, and similarly it was taught in the Academy of Rabbi Yishmael [as follows]: “[The above] is comparable to a person who enters into his field, he gathers the highest [sheaves].””

RaSh”I explains that the person who enters his field will gather the sheaves whose tops are the highest, and therefore the heads of those sheaves are above the other sheaves. Similarly, the haughty person who does not perform teshuvah and remains haughty could die an untimely death.

[6] The passage from the gemara (Sotah, 5a), states as follows:

“Rabbi Elazar said, ‘[Concerning] every person who possesses haughtiness of spirit, it is fitting to cut him down like an asheirah tree (i.e. a tree that was regularly used for idolatrous purposes), [for] it is written over here [in seferYishayahu”, “…and those who are lofty of stature are cut down – g’du’eem - גְּדוּעִים…” (Yishayahu: 10; 33), and it is written over there [in parshasEikev”], “…and their asheirah trees shall be cut down – t’gadei’oon - תְּגַדֵּעוּן…”’ (Devarim: 7; 5) Rabbi Elazar also said, ‘Every person who possesses haughtiness of spirit, his dust will not be moved [at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead], as it says [in seferYishayahu”], “…awaken and be mirthful, those who dwell in the dust…” (Yishayahu: 26; 19), it is not written “those who lie in the dust” – “שכבי בעפר”, rather [it is written] “dwellers of the dust” – “שכני עפר”, [this refers to] one who is made into a neighbor – שכן – of the dust in his lifetime [by being lowly of spirit, the opposite of haughtiness – RaSh”I].’ (RaSh”I – This teaches that only some people will be resurrected at the time of The Resurrection of the Dead.) Rabbi Elazar also said, ‘Every person who possesses haughtiness of spirit, The Shechinah laments over him, as it says [in “Tehillim”], “…and [concerning] the haughty one, the [Shechinah] is broken in mourning over him.” (Tehillim: 138; 6)’ Rav Avira, and some say Rabbi Elazar, expounded [as follows]: ‘Come and see that the behavior of flesh-and-blood is not like the behavior of The Holy One, Blessed is He, the behavior of flesh-and-blood is that the haughty person sees the [other] haughty person, [however] the haughty person does not see the lowly person. However, this is not the behavior of The Holy One, Blessed is He, [for] He is raised up and He sees the lowly, as it says [in “Tehillim”], “For HaShem is lofty and He shall see the lowly…” (Tehillim: 138; 6)’ Rav Chisda, and some say Mar Ukva, said [the following concerning the haughty individuals]: ‘Concerning every person who possesses haughtiness of spirit, The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, ‘I and he are not able to [both] dwell in the world’, as it says [in “Tehillim”], “[Concerning] one who slanders his fellow stealthily, I shall cut him off, I cannot bear he – oso – אוֹתוֹ – who is haughty and covetous.” (Tehillim: 101; 5) Do not read [the word] as “אוֹתוֹ” – “him”, but [rather as] “אִתּוֹ” – I cannot bear [to dwell] “with him”.’ Some teach [this pasuk] in reference to habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa, as it says, “[Concerning] one who slanders his fellow stealthily, I shall cut him off…” (Tehillim: 101; 5) (Sotah, 5a)