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

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shmiras HaLashon כ"ז שבט - Shevat 27 - One-Hundred-and-Forty-Sixth Day

© 2008 by Robert Lepor. All rights reserved.

[THE] GATE OF THE TORAH - שׁער התּוֹרה

Chapter 1

In [this Chapter we] Shall Explain that the Study of Torah is a Great Rectification for the Blemish of [the Sin of] Lashon HaRa. [We shall also Explain of] The Great Obligation of the Person to [Study] Torah

Behold, there is another overarching rectification designated [to rectify] the blemish of [the sin of] Lashon HaRa, that [rectification] being the study Torah, as is written in [maseches] “Arachin” (15b), [as follows]: “Rav Chamma, the son of Rabbi Chaninah, said, [as follows]: ‘What is the remedy for those who speak Lashon HaRa? If he is a Torah scholar, he should involve himself in Torah learning, as it says [in “Mishlei”], “A remedy for the tongue is The Tree of Life…”[1] (Mishlei: 15; 4) “The Tree of Life” refers only to The Torah, as it says, “It is The Tree of Life for those who grasp onto it…[2][3] (Mishlei: 3; 18)’


[Chofetz Chaim’s note: The reason that I did not [quote] the opinion of Rabbi Acha, the son of Chanina, [as is taught in masechesArachin”], concerning that which he said [that] “[If the person] related [Lashon HaRa], there is no remedy for him”, as [King] David has already cut him off through [his] Ruach HaKodesh[4], as it says [in “Tehillim”], “HaShem will cut off all of the lips of flattery, [the] tongue that speaks with import.” (Tehillim: 12; 4), rather, what is [his] remedy [so] that [he] will not come to [involve himself in the sin of] Lashon HaRa? If he is a Torah scholar, he will involve himself in [the study of] Torah…” Seemingly the [above teaching] is perplexing. To what is [the above] comparable? [For] if [the one who spoke Lashon HaRa] requested from the victim of his Lashon HaRa to pardon [him for his sin] and appeased [him, then this would be a remedy for his having spoken Lashon HaRa, so] what is the reasoning of [Rabbi Chamma] who says that he has no remedy [for his having spoken Lashon HaRa]? The [person who spoke Lashon HaRa] has definitely been pardoned of his sin, as is demonstated in the Rokeach in ma’amar 28. [In the case where the speaker of Lashon HaRa] did not appease [the victim of his Lashon HaRa, then] what is the reasoning of [Rabbi Chamma when he taught] that [the person] is pardoned through [his] study of Torah? [Lashon HaRa] is one of the sins committed against one’s fellow, [therefore he would need to request to be pardoned by the victim of his Lashon HaRa]! [As an explanation of Rabbi Chamma’s teaching], it appears that the prohibition of Lashon HaRa really involves two sins. [The first sin being] that which [the person] sins against his fellow [by speaking Lashon HaRa concerning him, thereby] also tormenting him with the anger of his tongue. [In respect to this facet of the sin of Lashon HaRa, the person] is definitely not pardoned until he will appease [the victim of his Lashon HaRa], as is written in “Sha’arei Teshuvah” of Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’ar 3) in ma’amar 207, and as I have explained the halacha in [sefer] “Chofetz Chaim” in k’lal 4, sif 12.[5] [The second aspect of the sin of Lashon HaRa relates to the person having] blemished his power of speech, thereby descending further downward from his [previous] level, as we have written earlier [in this sefer], in volume 1, chapter 7 and chapter 10.[6] It is concerning [these two aspects related to the sin of Lashon HaRa] that the two Amorayim are split [in their teachings]: Rabbi Chamma, the son of Chanina, holds, since he is constantly involved in Torah [study], he thereby sanctifies the power of speech that had descended from its level [of holiness] as a consequence of the Lashon HaRa [that he had spoken], and through this [study of Torah, the person] will immediately heal the blemish that is on the tongue, though not having rectified the aspect [of the sin that] involves interpersonal relationships. [The fact that one can rectify the blemish inflicted upon his tongue by studying Torah, is based on] that which is written [in “Mishlei”, as follows]: “A remedy for [the] tongue [is The Tree of Life]…” (Mishlei: 15; 4) Rabbi Acha holds that [the] person who has not appeased his fellow concerning that which he tormented him through his [having made his fellow the victim of his] Lashon HaRa, [concerning such an instance, in addition to the other ramifications], the blemish [inflicted upon] his tongue is similarly not healed through his Torah study, and [his tongue] will be cut off in the future, as it says [in “Tehillim”], “HaShem will cut off… [the tongue that speaks with import].” (Tehillim: 12; 4) [[The] explanation [of the above teaching being] that the holiness which is inherent in the [power of] speech will be removed from him, [the holiness of the person’s ability of speech] being the essence of the makeup of the person. [The above] is the intended teaching of the Midrash (Divarim Rabbah: 6; 14) [when] it states [as follows]: “In the future, The Holy One, Blessed is He, will cut off their tongues, as it says, “HaShem will cut off all lips of flattery, [the] tongue that speaks with import.””[7] (Tehillim: 12; 4) [If the gemara does not follow my interpretation, then perhaps [the understanding of the gemara] is in line with the straightforward reading.] In any case, if [the person who spoke Lashon HaRa] will rectify the aspect [of the sin that involves] interpersonal relationships, [then], as a consequence of [his involvement in] Torah study, he would have [rectified] the blemish [inflicted upon] his tongue, according to all opinions. [The person who had spoken the Lashon HaRa should appease his fellow], for this [person who is punished with this type of] kareis[8] is not superior [in any respect to] those who [have transgressed other prohibitions involving] kareis, as we have learned [in masechesYoma” (86a)[9], as follows]: “If a person has transgressed those prohibitions for which he would be liable for kareis and the death penalty in the Beis Din, [then] repentance and Yom Kippur wait in suspension, and suffering cleanses [one of the sin].” [One can save oneself from suffering, for] it is known that through involvement in Torah [study], one is saved from suffering, as [our Sages] have said [in masechesBirachos” (5a), as follows]: “[Concerning] all [of] those who involve themselves in Torah [study], afflictions [are repulsed] from him.”[10] [In this context of Torah study being beneficial to rid one of the blemish inflicted as a result of the Lashon HaRa that the person had spoken, we learn in] “Sha’arei Teshuvah”, [by] Rabbeinu Yonah, that he wrote in “letter 35” [in Sha’ar 1], concerning the Ba’al Teshuvah, that he will seek to improve his actions in [reference to] the matter in which he intentionally sinned. If he stared at [immodestly clad women, concerning whom it is] forbidden [to stare], he will [then make sure to walk] with his eyes lowered [toward the ground], if he sinned [by having spoken] Lashon HaRa, he will involve himself in Torah [study, the same being true concerning] all of the limbs which he [employed in the performance of a given] sin, he will strive to [utilize them towarwd the] fulfillment [of] mitzvos. [Our Sages] of Blessed Memory, have similarly stated [in “Tanchuma” on Parshas Bishalach”, as follows]: “The righteous are appeased [of their sin] with that which they utilized to sin…”, see over there. [In addition], it is evident from the words of the “Minoras HaMaor”, in neir 2, k’lal 4, chapter 3, that the dispute of the Amorayim [in the gemara quoted above, concerning the one who speaks Lashon HaRa], is only in reference to [a person] who is accustomed in the matter and his hand is still outstretched [to commit] this sin, [and] he therefore [is punished with] kareis due to his sin, and, [in such an instance, his] Torah study is of no benefit to him [with respect to rectifying his tongue from the self-inflicted blemish].[11] However, one who has stumbled in this [sin of Lashon HaRa] and wishes to guard himself [from committing this sin] from this point onwards, [then with respect to such a person], definitely everyone agrees that [he has the capability to rectify his blemish that he brought upon himself through having spoken Lashon HaRa].]


The reason that the pasuk uses the phrase “Tree of Life” [with respect to The Torah] is because “death and life are in the hands of the tongue.”[12] (Mishlei: 18; 25) [This being the case], one who relates Lashon HaRa acquires the [state of] eternal death. For this [precise] reason, the pasuk advises [the speaker of Lashon HaRa] that one who wishes to heal his tongue will eat from The Tree of Life, that being The Torah, “and he will eat and live forever.”[13] (Bireishis: 3; 22)

However, [involvement in Torah study is only one part of the solution towards removing the blemish inflicted by his having spoken Lashon HaRa, as the person] should [also] stimulate himself to guard himself from further [involvement in] this sin [of Lashon HaRa], just as one would act had they inadvertently put a deadly poison into [their] mouth. [The person who had consumed this deadly poison will] involve [himself] in remedies [to combat] this [poison and will make sure to] not continue to consume this deadly poison [again], and will thereby [allow] the medicine to benefit him [in combating the ill effects he had experienced from his] past [consumption of the poison].

[1] The entire pasuk reads as follows:

“The remedy for the [Lashon HaRa of] the tongue is [The] Tree of Life, and one who has been corrupted through [Lashon HaRa] will be of broken spirit.” (Mishlei: 15; 4)

[2] The entire pasuk reads as follows:

“It is [The] Tree of Life for those who grasp onto it, and those who support it are praiseworthy.” (Mishlei: 3; 18)

[3] The passage from the gemara states as follows:

“Rabbi Chamma said in the name of Rabbi Chanina, [as follows]: ‘What is the rectification for those who speak Lashon HaRa? If he is a talmid chacham (Torah scholar), he should involve himself in [the study of] Torah, as it says in “Mishlei”, “The Tree of Life is a remedy for the tongue” (15; 4), and “tongue” refers to Lashon HaRa, as it says, “Their tongues are a bow that slaughters...” (Yirmiyahu: 9; 7), and “tree” refers to Torah, as it says, “It is a Tree of Life for those who grasp onto it…” (Mishlei: 3; 18) If [the person who is accustomed to speak Lashon HaRa] is an am HaAretz (largely ignorant of Torah), he should lower himself, as it says, “…One who has been corrupted through [Lashon HaRa] will be of broken spirit.” (Mishlei: 15; 4)’ Rabbi Acha says in the name of Rabbi Chanina, ‘One who relates [Lashon HaRa] has no rectification [for his sin], as [King] David has already cut him off with Ruach HaKodesh, as it says, “HaShem shall cut off all lips of division, [the] tongue that speaks with import.” (Tehillim: 12; 4), rather, what is his rectification so that he will not come to involve himself in Lashon HaRa [in the future]? If he is a talmid chacham he should involve himself in [the study of] Torah, and if he is an am HaAretz, he should lower himself, as it says, “…One who has been corrupted will be of broken spirit.” (Mishlei: 15; 4)’”

[4] “Ruach HaKodesh” is “The Spirit of Holiness” that rests upon the person, commonly referred to as “Divine Inspiration”. Apparently, King David punished those speakers of Lashon HaRa with kareis – spiritual excision (lit. being “cut off”).

[5] In this section of seferChofetz Chaim”, we learn that in a case that someone spoke Lashon HaRa which was rejected by those who heard the Lashon HaRa and his friend was not derided as a result, then, in such a case, the sin falls solely in the category of sins between man and G-d, and he would therefore need to mention his sin, regret having performed it, and accept to never do again. However, if the victim of his Lashon HaRa was harmed as a result of the Lashon HaRa that he related, he must appease this person and request to be pardoned of his sin. The Chofetz Chaim explains that the above teaching can be derived from that which Rabbi Yitzchak says in masechesYoma” (87a), that even if someone derides someone with words, he must appease him. Therefore, the Chofetz Chaim explains that the person who derides his fellow before others and thereby has caused his fellow distress, must all the more so appease such a person.

[6] In chapter 7 of “Sha’ar HaZechirah”, the Chofetz Chaim notes that by speaking Lashon HaRa, the person loses the merit of the small amount of Torah that has remained remained in his possession and other merits that were in his possession. Furthermore, as a result of Lashon HaRa, the person’s prayers do not arise to Heaven. The person also draws the Spirit of Impurity upon his limbs due to his having spoken Lashon HaRa. He also blemishes the power of the holy words that he later utters, such as the Torah that he subsequently learns. In chapter 10, the Chofetz Chaim also explains that the words of holiness that a person utters, creates worlds and holy angels who will subsequently serve as advocates on his behalf of his soul when it will be judged in Heaven. The Chofetz Chaim explains that in order for the mitzvos that he has performed and the Torah that he has learned to be able to create worlds and angels, he must make sure that he has performed the mitzvos properly and completely in accordance with his abilities, in all of their specifics. In order for his Torah learning to have the greatest possible effect on the degree of holiness of the worlds and the holy angels that he creates, he must be sure to not have blemished his mouth with forbidden speech such as Lashon HaRa and Richilus. Similarly, the person must make sure that he doesn’t make his tefillos disgusting by having spoken that which is forbidden. The above sums up much of what is written in chapters 7 and 10 of “Sha’ar HaZechirah”.

[7] The text from “Devarim Rabbah” states as follows:

“Rabbi Assi said, ‘A person does not [come to] speak Lashon HaRa until he denies [the existence of] The Holy One, Blessed is He, as it says, “That they have said, ‘We shall become strong with our tongues, our lips are with us, who is our Master?’”’ (Tehillim: 12; 5) Rabbi Shimon said, ‘Just as Miriam, the Righteous, who did not intend to speak Lashon HaRa, but rather spoke [to Aharon concening Moshe] for the sake of propagation, [was nevertheless punished], how much more so will The Holy One, Blessed is He, cut off the tongues of the evildoers who intend to speak Lashon HaRa against their fellows in order to cut [down] their lives, as it says, “HaShem will cut off all of the lips of division…” (Tehillim: 12; 4) The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, ‘In this world, on account of their being habitual speakers of Lashon HaRa in your midst, I have removed My Shechinah from [residing] in your midst, as it says, “G-d is raised up above the Heavens…”’ (Tehillim: 57; 7) However, in the future, when I [will] uproot the Yetzer HaRa from your midst, as it says, “…and I shall remove the heart of stone from your flesh…” (Yechezkel: 36; 6), [at that time], I shall return My Shechinah to be in your midst, as it says, “And it shall be afterwards, [in the future, that] I shall pour My Spirit upon all flesh…” (Yoel: 3; 1) As a consequence of My causing My Shechinah to dwell upon you, you will all merit [to regularly involve yourselves in] Torah and you will dwell in peace in the world, as it says, “And all of your children are students of HaShem, and your children [benefit from] an abundance of peace.”’ (Yishayahu: 54; 13)”

[8] “Kareis” is spiritual excision, thirty-six of which are mentioned in The Torah. (Kireisus, 2a)

[9] Note from the “Kol HaLashon” printing: This teaching can also be found in Hilchos Teshuvah (Chapter 1, Halacha 4).

[10] The text from masechesBirachos” states as follows:

“Reish Lakish said, ‘[Concerning] all of those [people] who involve themselves in Torah [study], afflictions are repulsed from him, as it says, “…and the children of reshef shall be lifted up [by] flying – עוף – oof” (Iyov: 5; 7), “עוף” referring to Torah, as it says, “Close – התעיף – ha’sa’eef – your eyes with it and it is no longer around…” (Mishlei: 23; 5) “Reshef” only refers to afflictions, as it says [in parshasHaAzinu”], “Bloatings of famine and fighting reshef…”’ (Devarim: 32; 24) Rabbi Yochanan said to [Reish Lakish], ‘Even the children [who study] in the study-hall of their rabbi, know [that Torah study protects one from afflictions], as it says, “And he said, ‘If you shall surely listen to The Voice of HaShem your G-d, and you shall perform that which is upright in His Eyes, and you shall listen to all of His Commandments, and you shall guard all of His ordinances, [then] all of the sicknesses that I have placed on Egypt I shall not place on you, for I am HaShem, your Doctor.”’ (Shmos: 15; 26) Rather, [concerning] everyone for whom it is possible to involve himself in Torah [study], and he [nevertheless] does not involve himself [in Torah study, then] The Holy One, Blessed is He, brings unsightly afflictions upon him, and they make him unsightly, as it says [in “Tehillim”], “I have been made silent like a mute, I have been quiet from good, and my pain is unsightly.” (Tehillim: 39; 3), [and] “good” only refers to Torah, as it says, “For I have provided you with a good acquisition, do not abandon My Torah.”’ (Mishlei: 4; 2)

[11] This “Minoras HaMaor” (there is another sefer with the same title), written by Rav Yisrael ben Rav Yosef Al-Nakawa, prefaces and follows the teaching that the Chofetz Chaim quotes, by discussing the manner in which one must perform vidui (admission of his sin), first in reference to sins that relate solely the person’s relationship with HaShemmitzvos bein adam LaMakom – and later discusses the vidui that relates to sins that involve interpersonal relationships – mitzvos bein adam LaChaveiro. The relevant passage from “Minoras HaMaor
states as follows:

“[The individual who performs vidui] must never commit that sin again. If this is not the case [and he still involves himself in the given sin, then the] teshuvah [that he has performed] is in vain, and his vidui doesn’t benefit him. In reference to [such a person], the pasuk [from seferMishlei”] says, “Just as a dog who returns [to eat] his vomit, [so too] is the fool who repeats [his act of] folly.” (Mishlei: 26; 11) Rabbeinu Yonah, of blessed memory, explained that just as the dog eats things that are disgusting, and once he vomits [it] up, they are [even] more disgusting, and he [nevertheless] returns [to his vomited food] to eat [it], so too is the case with the fool, who, upon performing an act of disrepute, if he will [return to] repeat [the given sin, his action] is [then all the] more disgusting. Furthermore, [concerning] one who repeats his sin, his [performance of] teshuvah [is] difficult, for he relates to the sin as if it is [that which is] permissible, and because of [this perspective], the sin has become much more [severe], as it says, “…behold you have spoken and have performed that which is evil, and have been victorious in having achieved rebellion.” (Yirmiyahu: 3; 5)”

[12] The entire pasuk from “Mishlei” states, “Death and life are in the hands of the tongue, and those who love [their tongue] will eat of its fruit.” (Mishlei: 18; 21)

RaSh”I explains that one who loves his tongue will accustom it to speak words of Torah and will thereby eat of the reward for his involvement in Torah study in The World to Come.

Metzudas David explains that the tongue has the power to provide life if one involves himself in speaking words of Torah. However, if one speaks words of Lashon HaRa, then the tongue brings about death to the person, chas v’shalom. The person who loves his tongue in that he loves to speak a great deal will eat of the fruit of his speech, whether for good (i.e. life) or for evil (i.e. afflictions, punishments, and/or death), chas v’shalom. We see from the Metzudas David that since Torah represents life, it is the opposite of Lashon HaRa which represents death.

[13] This pasuk states, “And HaShem Eloh-im said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil, and now, lest he sends his hand and also takes from The Tree of Life, and shall eat and live forever’.” (Bireishis: 3; 22)

This pasuk is subsequent to Adam’s sin of having eaten from The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Eitz HaDa’as Tov VaRa). (Bireishis: 3; 6) Targum Yonasan ben Uziel on the pasuk that discuss The Tree of Life (Eitz HaChaim), notes that if Adam were to have followed the commandment to not eat from The Eitz HaDa’as Tov VaRa, he would have lived forever had he taken to eat to eat from the Eitz HaChaim. However, since Adam did not follow the mitzvah to not eat from the Eitz HaDa’as, HaShem decided that he had to be expelled from Gan Eden prior to his having the opportunity to eat from the Eitz HaDa’as, for if he would have had the opportunity to eat from the Eitz HaDa’as, he would have lived forever, which he wasn’t worthy of now that he had sinned.

In “Mishlei” we learned that The Torah is Eitz Chaim – The Tree of Life, which is also referred to in parshas Bireishis”, in reference to Adam not following the mitzvah that HaShem had given him. Based on Targum Yonasan ben Uziel, it is evident that had Adam followed the mitzvah that HaShem had given him, he would have eaten from The Eitz HaChaim and had lived forever. As this would have been the case for Adam who had one mitzvah, how much more so is this true of us who have 613 mitzvos to perform, as is written in The Torah – The Eitz HaChaim, and through our involvement in the study of The Torah and performance of the mitzvos, we will live forever, as we are eating from the reward of The Torah which is our Tree of Life and which is in close proximity to us at all times, as it says in parshasVaYeilech”, “For this matter (i.e. The Torah) is exceedingly close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to perform it.” (Devarim: 30; 14) From this pasuk we also see that the person attains life through the study of The Torah – “…in your mouth…”, and the performance of The Torah – “…to perform it.” In the following pasuk, we are informed that Torah is life and the performance of evil is death (30; 15, 19), if we follow The Torah, as HaShem instructs us, we will live (30; 16). Similarly, in parshasBireishis”, The Tree of Life is described as being in a part of Gan Eden that was very accessible to Adam, “…in the midst of The Garden…” (Bireishis: 2; 9) It was only because Adam came to sin so quickly that he lost the opportunity of grasping onto The Tree of Life (see Mishlei: 3; 18), eating of its fruit, and thereby living forever.

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