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A person’s reputation precedes him. A bad reputation prejudices any chance of a successful encounter. Damaging a person’s reputation is tantamount to booby-trapping human relations before they can blossom into happy relationships.
When one slanders or otherwise taints the reputation of another person, one causes damage not only to the slandered person but also to oneself and to the person listening to the slander. By uttering words of slander one renders all parties to the conversation accomplices to the crime. One also offends God in Whose image the slandered person is created.
If one denigrates the human being, one denigrates The Maker. God cannot bear to hear slander spoken about His people. If individuals use their freedom of choice to slander each other, God uses His freedom of choice to remove Himself from the scene. Regarding anyone who speaks lashon hara, God says, “I and the slanderer cannot dwell together in the world.”
“What,” asks the Talmud “is the meaning of the phrase “Life and death are in the hands of the tongue”? Does the tongue have hands? Rather, it is this metaphor that is used to convey the following message – just as hands can kill, so too can a tongue kill.” Except that killing with one’s tongue is worse than killing with one’s hands because it is anonymous. The poisonous words are aimed at the victim’s reputation but the killer can rarely be identified.
We are told that one of the punishments for slandering another is tzara’at, an ailment loosely translated as leprosy, which eats away at one’s body. The Torah tells us “this will be the punishment of the metzorah.” And what was the crime of the metzorah? He or she was motzi shem ra, a slanderer of another person. Perhaps the punishment of tzara’at fits the crime of lashon hara. The slanderer’s very own person will be diminished in the same way the slanderer diminished the reputation of the slandered. In addition, one of the consequences of tzara’at was that for a period of time the person afflicted with it was shut off from the rest of the community and kept in isolation. Anybody who has been slandered knows the feeling.
If the consequences of slander are so dire and the temptation to engage in it so overpowering, what is the antidote? What should one do to overcome the temptation?
First of all, we should take advantage of the two natural slander barriers God has created us with – namely, our teeth and our lips that enclose and guard our tongues. We should contemplate the irrevocable havoc our tongues can wreak before letting our tongues loose.
The second antidote might sound trite but it is nevertheless true. We have been given something far more stimulating to talk about than other people. It is a subject that draws people together and allows them to live an interesting yet harmonious life. My father never allowed the name of another person to be mentioned at our table and yet we kids were never bored.
“What is the remedy for speakers of lashon hara?” asks the Talmud. “Ya’asok baTorah” – one should talk about Torah, because its ways are harmonious. Torah is the conversation of our Maker who made us all in His image. If we join in His conversation He will remain at our table and spread harmony among us. If we speak about each other, He will depart and leave us to destroy each other.
Lashon hara has always been a problem. During the days of the Temple many preventative and corrective measures were taken to combat lashon hara. These measures, though not applicable today, leave behind very powerful and practical messages.
First, we are told that each of the eight vestments worn by the high priest during the avodah, the Temple service, had the power to atone for certain sins. Lashon hara often disrobes people, strips them of their social status and exposes them. The me’il, the robe, which was made of turquoise wool, a color reminiscent of God’s heavenly abode, covered the high priest from the head down, and atoned for the sin of lashon hara. Around the hem of the me’il were sewn thirty-six small bells which rang out as the high priest walked about performing the avodah, to drown out, as it were, the words of lashon hara and prevent them from expelling God from His Sanctum.
Second, we are told that the ketoret, the incense that was burned by the priest on the inner altar of the Temple, atoned for lashon hara. The ketoret was made up of ten sweet smelling ingredients and one foul-smelling ingredient known as chelbonah. Rabbi David Feinstein, in his commentary on Vayikra, explains the slander atoning power of the ketoret in the following way. Just as the ten sweet smelling ingredients of the ketoret were able to overcome the one foul smelling ingredient, so too should we strive to view people so that their good qualities outweigh the bad.
About the Author: Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.
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Leading by example must be visible, regarding where, when and how-like Nachshon entering the Red Sea
Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a Ram at Yeshivat Otniel, notes that the verse is suggesting that retelling the story of the Exodus is so important that Hashem is performing ever-greater miracles specifically so that parents can tell their stories to future generations.
Before performing the 10th plague God makes a fundamental argument about the ultimate nature of justice.
How is it possible that the clothing was more valuable to them than gold or silver?
Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.
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Property ownership is an extremely important and fundamental right and principle according to the Torah.
The tenderest description of the husband/wife relationship is “re’im v’ahuvim/loving, kind friends”
And if a person can take steps to perform the mitzvah, he should do so (even if he won’t be held accountable for not performing it due to circumstances beyond his control).
Suddenly, she turns to me and says, “B’emet, I need to thank you, you made me excited to come back to Israel.”
Pesach is called “zikaron,” a Biblical term used describing an object eliciting a certain memory
Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus
Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.
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When the inability cannot be clearly attributed to either spouse, the halacha is the subject of debate among the Rishonim.
The child of a Jewish mother from a union with a non-Jewish father is not a mamzer.
Although the conversion ceremony involves more than circumcision and immersion, these are the two essential requirements, without which the conversion is ineffective.
If a man dies childless, the Torah commands the deceased’s brother to marry his brother’s widow in a ceremony known as yibum, or to perform a special form of divorce ceremony with her known as chalitzah.
What if, at the moment of the late brother’s death, the surviving brother cannot effect yibum because the widow is a niddah?
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/killing-me-softly-arachin-15b-16a-zevachim-88a/2012/02/02/
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