GOOD MORNING! I have been waiting several months for the start of baseball season to share this one with you. Do you know the SIX ways to get to first base? The first three ways are obvious -- walk, get a hit, be hit by a pitch. Now come the interesting ones -- the catcher drops the ball after strike three, the ball gets caught in the umpires mask or gear, and lastly, the pitcher throws the ball out of the field. Now, would you like to know how to get to first base with the Almighty and your fellow human beings? This week's Torah portion has the answer! Don't speak Loshon Hora. So, now all we have to do is ask the question: "What is Loshon Hora and What Do I Need to Do?"
Q & A: What is Loshon Hora and What Do I Need to Do?
Loshon Hora literally means "evil tongue." In our day and age we would call it "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 G-d 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, "G-d 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 from your local Jewish bookstore or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242. Also, one can contact the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, 800-867- 2482 or visit their website at http:\\www.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 G-d and a feeling of G-dliness. In the immortal words of the ages, there are no free lunches. Spirituality and G-dliness 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 G-d. Try it. See what it does for you, your family, your relationships -- and your relationship with the Almighty.
ESSENTIAL LAWS CONCERNING SPEECH:
(Read Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Z. Pliskin for greater depth!)
- 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.
Portion of the Week
Tazria - Metzora
The Torah continues with the laws of physical and spiritual purity. These portions focus upon Tzora'as, a physical affliction for transgressing the laws of speech -- and the purification process. Tzora'as progressively afflicts home, clothes and skin unless one cleans up his speech.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "And the Lord spoke to Moshe saying, 'This shall be the law of the metzora in the day of his cleansing (a physical and spiritual purification process performed after he has done Teshuva, corrected the manner of his talking and the damage he has inflicted); he shall be brought to the priest (the Cohen)" (Leviticus 14:1,2). What is the source and the meaning of the word "metzora"?
The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 16:2) states that the word "metzora" (a person afflicted with tzora'as, the physical affliction for transgressing the laws of speech) comes from motzi shem ra (a slanderer), since the disease of tzora'as is a punishment for speaking against others. Because of the relationship between tzora'as and loshon hora, the Midrash on our verse relates the followng incident: A peddler traveled from village to village in the area of Tzipori, calling out, "Who wants to buy an elixir of life?"
When someone was interested, he would take out a book of T'hillim, Psalms, and show the verse, "Who is the person who desires life ("chofetz chaim") and loves days that he may see the good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit" (Psalm 34).
Speaking against others causes quarrels, disputes, strife, and heartache which can shorten a person's life; refraining from speaking against others will lead to a much more peaceful and tranquil existence and a person will live longer.