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

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.

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