Shabbat Shalom Weekly: Matot 5762
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Matot(Numbers 30:2-32:42)

Matot 5762

GOOD MORNING!  Did you ever come across the word "quidnunc"? If not, I am not surprised. In the last 6 weeks, I have not met one person who had ever heard of the word. It is from Latin -- "quid" meaning "what" and "nunc" meaning "now." Looking it up in your Funk and Wagnall, you'll find that a quidnunc is a gossip, a busybody. It has even made it into literature! "What a treasure-trove to these venerable quidnuncs, could they have guessed the secret which Hepzibah and Clifford were carrying along with them!" --Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables.

So, what can you do with the word "quidnunc"? First, if you are ever playing Scrabble and you have the following 7 letters in your hand -- D, I, N, N, U, U, Q - you can put them down the top left side of the board for a total of 116 points ... if you are lucky enough to have a "C" in the eighth spot from the top!

Second, if you are ever stuck in a conversation with nothing to say, you can always ask, "Do you know what a quidnunc is?"

Third, you could make a bumper sticker which reads "Don't Be a Quidnunc". Then, when you're playing scrabble, at a loss in a conversation ... or someone starts to speak Loshon Hora, defamatory speech, you could always pull the bumper sticker out of your purse or pocket to change the subject!

As an aside, I always have two questions ready to change the subject if someone starts to speak Loshon Hora: 1) Who do you think will win the World Series? and 2) What do you think of them Yankees? (the baseball team). It doesn't matter what time of year it is or what sport is in season, people always have something to say, even if it is "But it's not baseball season!" It never fails to change the conversation!

Loshon Hora hurts three people -- the one who speaks, the one who hears it and the one who is spoken about. The Talmud in Ketubot 6a says that the reason a person's index finger is tapered is so that s/he can put them in each ear if someone starts to speak Loshon Hora.

Why do people speak Loshon Hora? The Chofetz Chaim writes in Shmiras HaLashon seven reasons:

  1. ANGER -- Some people have a bad temper. When their anger is aroused, they show no restraint. The cure -- to learn to stay calm.

  2. JOKING -- Some people like to constantly tell or make jokes and this leads them to join gatherings to make fun of others. The cure -- stay away from such groups.

  3. ARROGANCE -- Some people think that they are superior to everyone else and therefore belittle others. The cure -- examine one's own character and whether s/he is meeting his own potential; once aware of one's own faults, s/he will be less likely to speak against others.

  4. GIVING UP HOPE -- Some people think that it is impossible to speak without gossiping, so they don't try to restrain themselves. The Almighty never gives us a commandment that we cannot fulfill! Once a person forms the habit of not speaking against people it becomes part of his nature and does not require excessive effort.

  5. SEEING THAT OTHERS ARE NOT CAREFUL -- Some people feel since so many others are lax with their speech that they don't need to be different. Would one refrain from healthy food because others eat junk food?

  6. COMPLAINTS AGAINST OTHERS -- Some people complain to bolster their own sense of self-worth or because they think others are talking about them! The cure -- train yourself to judge others favorably. Keep in mind that we are commanded to love other people and are forbidden to hate them.

  7. IGNORANCE -- Most people speak Loshon Hora because they simply lack knowledge of the laws. The only cure is to study. I highly suggest Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin (available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242). One can get more information from http://www.aish.com/stoplh/default.asp or www.chofetzchaimusa.org (they will email daily lessons!)

    King David gave a prescription for long life and eternal life, "Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit" (Psalm 34). Who wouldn't want a long life, eternal life and a life filled without hurting others?

    By the way, if you would like up to 5 "Don't Be a Quidnunc" bumper stickers, send a self-addressed stamped envelope (now 37 cents in the USA!) to: Quidnunc, 3150 Sheridan Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33140-3946. (It would be very kind to enclose a tax-deductible contribution to Aish to help with the campaign! If you have recently contributed, I will send you a bumper sticker with my thank you note.)


    Torah Portion of the Week
    Matot and Masei, Numbers 30:2 - 36:13

    Matot includes the laws of making and annulling vows, the surprise attack on Midian (the '67 War wasn't the Jewish people's first surprise attack!) in retribution for the devastation the Midianites wreaked upon the Jewish people, the purification after the war of people and vessels, dedicating a portion of the spoils to the communal good (perhaps the first Federation campaign), the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad for their portion of land to be east of the Jordan river (yes, Trans-Jordan/Jordan is also part of the Biblical land of Israel). Moshe objects to the request because he thinks the tribes will not take part in the conquering of the land of Israel; the tribes clarify that they will be the advance troops in the attack and thus receive permission.

    Masei includes the complete list of journeys in the desert (the name of each stop hints at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there). G-d commands to drive out the land's inhabitants, to destroy their idols and to divide the land by a lottery system. G-d establishes the borders of the Land of Israel. New leadership is appointed, cities of the Levites and Cities of Refuge (where an accidental murderer may seek asylum) are designated. Lastly, the laws are set forth regarding accidental and willful murder as well as inheritance laws for property when there has been a marriage between individuals from different tribes.

     

    Dvar Torah
    based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

    The Torah states, "And they journeyed from Etham and turned back to Pi-Hahirot...". Each of the names of the places the Jewish people journeyed in the desert are named to teach us a lesson. What does Pi-Hahirot come to teach us?

    According to Sefer Glilai Zahav, Pi-Hahirot was a form of idolatry that proclaimed total freedom of the mouth (the Hebrew words Pi Hahirot can be translated as the Mouth of Freedom). That is, a person can say whatever he happens to feel like saying; he should be able to slander and insult others whenever he wants.

    There are people who feel that to be true to themselves they must say anything that comes to their minds. This leads them to be blunt and tactless when speaking to others. They only think of themselves and what they want, but are oblivious to the pain and suffering they cause others by their verbal abuse. This tendency is antithetical to the whole concept of loving one's fellow man. If you have even a minimum amount of kindness and concern for the suffering of others, you will feel pleasure in guarding your tongue from hurting anyone emotionally. You will experience joy every time you control an impulse to say something that could cause another person pain.

    If you have caused people pain with words in the past, go out of your way to give people strength and encouragement from now on. Elevate your power of speech by helping others with it.



    CANDLE LIGHTING - July 5:
    (or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)

    Jerusalem  7:11
    Guatemala 6:18  Hong Kong 6:53  Honolulu 7:00
    J'Burg 5:10  London 9:00  Los Angeles 7:50
    Melbourne 4:55  Miami 7:58  Moscow 8:56
    New York 8:12  Singapore  6:57



    QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

    Just because you are a quidnunc
    does not mean it's your quiddity
    -- Chana Packouz



    Thank you,
    My Beloved Readers
    for your support!

Published: June 29, 2002

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