GOOD MORNING! Just about everyone would like to make the world a better place. However, we are often stuck on the question, "What can I do?" One thing we can all do -- be more careful with how we speak. A wrong word can end a marriage, a friendship, a relationship. The Torah is very strong and direct in guiding us. The Torah uses the term Loshon Hora ("evil tongue") when admonishing us regarding derogatory speech.
The Torah has three classifications of Loshon Hora. The first, classical Loshon Hora -- what one says is true, but defamatory. The second, Motzie Shem Ra, ("bringing out a bad name") -- defaming through a lie. The third, Rechilus, ("tale bearing") -- telling someone what another person did or said about them. All of them are forbidden. One is not allowed to speak, listen to or believe Loshon Hora -- except for very specific situations to prevent loss and damage.
Loshon Hora destroys friendships, bankrupts businesses, ruins marriages and shortens lives. The Talmud tells us that we, the Jewish people, are in exile because of it (Yoma, 9b; Gitin 57b). There are 17 prohibitions from the Torah and 14 positive commandments which may be violated when one speaks or listens to Loshon Hora. Included amongst the negative commandments are: "You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people" (Leviticus 19:16), "You shall not utter a false report" (Exodus 23:1), "You shall not profane My holy name" (Leviticus 22:32). Amongst the positive commandments that may be violated: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), "In righteousness shall you judge your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:15), "The Lord your God shall you fear" (Deuteronomy 10:20) and "Walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9)
If you really care about the world, humanity, ecosystems, poverty, health, education, perfecting the world, being happy and creating happiness for others -- then the place to start is with your mouth, guarding your tongue. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, an organization established to promote proper speech puts it elegantly, "God desires that people live together in peace and unity, and the laws of proper speech are the Torah's way to achieve this. Actually, it is a simple principle: If one removes gossip, slander, divisiveness and anger from one's vocabulary, one automatically and dramatically improves one's own life and the lives of everyone in one's environment."
There is no way that I can give you everything that you need to know for the laws guiding speech. I highly recommend Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. It is available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242. Also, check out ChofetzChaimUSA.org.
Ours is an age of instant gratification -- or at least the desire for it. People also want instant spirituality. They want something that will give them instant communication with God and a feeling of Godliness. In the immortal words of the ages, there are no free lunches. Spirituality and Godliness take knowledge and work on oneself -- one's character traits. Being careful in one's speech IS a genuine way to be spiritual, to come close to God. Try it. See what it does for you, your family, your relationships -- and your relationship with the Almighty.
ESSENTIAL LAWS CONCERNING SPEECH
- You are forbidden to make a derogatory comment -- the person did something wrong, has faulty character traits or lacks a virtue -- even if it's true.
- Any comment, even if not derogatory, that might ultimately cause financial loss, physical pain, mental anguish or any damage is forbidden.
- Any method of conveying or implying derogatory information about others is forbidden: writing, hand motions, facial expressions.
- One is not allowed to relate derogatory information even in jest.
- Even if the derogatory statement won't cause damage or loss, it is forbidden.
- When it is necessary for someone to know derogatory information for a constructive purpose, you are obligated to relate the information to him, i.e. someone is planning to cheat or harm another person.
Torah Portion of the Week
Beha'alosecha, Numbers 8:1 -12:16
Aharon is commanded in the lighting of the Menorah, the Levites purify themselves for service in the Tabernacle (they trained from age 25-30 and served from age 30-50). The first Pesach is celebrated since leaving Egypt. The Almighty instructs the Jewish people to journey into the desert whenever the ever-present cloud lifts from above the Tabernacle and to camp where it rests. Moshe is instructed to make two silver trumpets to be sounded before battle or to proclaim a Yom Tov (a holiday).
The people journey to the wilderness of Paran during which time they rebelled twice against the Almighty's leadership. The second time they complain about the boring taste of the maneh and the lack of meat in the desert. The Almighty sends a massive quantity of quail and those who rebelled died.
Moshe asks his father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro) to travel with them in the desert, but Yitro returns to Midian.
Miriam, Moshe's sister, speaks loshon hora (defaming words) about Moshe. She is struck with Tzora'as (the mystical skin disease which indicated that a person spoke improperly about another person) and is exiled from the camp for one week.
* * *
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Miriam, Moshe's sister, heard from Moshe's wife, Tzipora, that Moshe had separated himself from her (so that he, Moshe, could receive a prophecy from the Almighty at any time). Miriam felt that Moshe's behavior was improper, since both she and her brother, Aharon, both carried on their respective married lives, yet received prophecy. Miriam related her feelings to her brother, Aharon.
The Torah states:
"And Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, 'Has God spoken only with Moshe? Has he not spoken also with us?' And the Lord heard. But the man Moshe was very humble, more than all the men that were upon the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:1-3).
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, writes (Shmiras Haloshon 2:18) that from these verses we learn a number of principles concerning loshon hora, the laws regarding defamatory speech:
1) The prohibition against speaking loshon hora applies even when the person spoken against is very humble and does not mind if others speak against him. For this reason, immediately after Moshe was spoken against, the Torah states that he was humble.
2) Even if you have done many favors for another person, it does not give you the right to speak against him. Miriam helped save Moshe's life when he was an infant, but was still punished for her loshon hora.
3) The prohibition against loshon hora applies even if you do not publicize the loshon hora, but only relate it to one person, and that person is a relative who will not repeat it to anyone else. Miriam told the loshon hora only to her brother Aharon who would not publicize it.
4) If you say about a truly great man that his behavior would only be proper if he were on a higher level, but on his present level his behavior is improper, it is considered loshon hora. Miriam felt that Moshe was wrong for separating himself from his wife. She erred, however, since Moshe's level of prophecy was such that at any moment God could communicate with him and his abstention was proper.
CANDLE LIGHTING - May 24
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You can tell more about a person by what he says about others
than you can by what others say about him
-- Leo Aikman
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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