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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
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I’m Nervous about Loshon Hora

I recently heard someone say that it would be hard for a frum Jew to be a good comedian, because most good jokes are putting others down.
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Loshon Hora (evil tongue) is lately getting me really nervous. This might have to do with the fact that I’m guilty of this grave sin myself and therefore I am self-conscious about it. Or, if you want to quote the Baal Shem Tov, “the bad one sees in others always traces itself back to oneself.”

I waited until after Tishrei – so as not to speak ill of others before the days of judgment.

It’s not the sin aspect, the aveira-transgression stuff that really worries me (Although that in itself is huge!). The part that really gets to me is the after-effects to the person or group being spoken about.

I recently heard someone say that it would be hard for a frum Jew to be a good comedian, because most good jokes are putting others down.

There is an anecdote that the Chafetz Chaim sent one of his students to the Rebbe Rashab (5th Lubavitcher Rebbe) to get a haskama-approval for his famous “Chofetz Chaim” manuscript on the laws of loshon hora. The Rebbe Rashab supposedly responded: “In Chabad we work on not even thinking loshon hora”(1).

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Now all my Chabad readers are hopefully happy. No thinking loshon hora! We love all Jews (as long as you love us back). The 32nd chapter of the Tanya, the “lev” of Chabad Chassidus (the numerology of 32 is lamed-bet, spelling “lev,” or heart) is (I’m paraphrasing): “All Jewish souls are one body and when we elevate the body over the soul, it’s easy to love every Jew like oneself [for the body that separates one from another is subservient to the soul]…”

So, while we’re working on controlling our thoughts and bodies, it might be a good idea to review a good book on the laws of loshon hora (there are hundreds to choose from).

I try really hard to keep sarcasm out of my writing, but it does sometimes sneak in. I don’t have complete mind over body control. Or mind over mouth…
(1). A similar story is told that the Chofetz Chaim asked the Rebbe Rashab why Chassidim make a big deal about not cutting their beard but not about loshon hora. The Rebbe Rashab supposedly answered that cutting a beard is a calculated act, as opposed to loshon hora, which is usually an accident.

Betzalel Bassman graduated from Rabbinical College of America in 2006 with a Rabbinic Ordination, nd has taught in Yeshivas M.M. Lubavitch Monsey from 2008-2011.
He Writes on Talmud and Chassidic Philosophy. He Lives in Pittsburgh, PA.

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