web analytics
December 25, 2014 / 3 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

The Power Of The Spoken Word

The-Shmuz

“Send forth menand let them spy out the land of Canaan that I give to the Children of Israel.” – Bamidbar 13:2

 

The parshah of Shelach opens up with the story of the miraglim. Rashi notes that the previous parshah ended with the story of Miriam getting tzaras and being sent out of the camp because she spoke lashon hara about Moshe. Since this parshah begins with the miraglim, it implies that these two events are connected. But Rashi is bothered that they did not happen in chronological proximity. The events of the Korach rebellion were sandwiched in between.

Rashi explains that the Torah took these two events and juxtaposed them to teach us a lesson: Had the miraglim not been so wicked, they would have learned from what happened to Miriam, and that would have prevented them from saying their negative report about the land. However, says Rashi, “These wicked people saw what happened and didn’t learn from it.”

The problem with this Rashi is that the miraglim’s sin had nothing to do with lashon hara; it emanated from a lack of trust in Hashem. When they entered the land, they saw giants occupying fortified cities. They witnessed people dying left, right, and center. In their minds, if the Jewish nation attempted to conquer this land, they would be slaughtered wholesale.

Clearly, they were lacking in bitachon. Their faith in Hashem was deficient. But they weren’t guilty of speaking lashon hara.

First, there is no prohibition against speaking lashon hara about land. Land is inanimate. We are forbidden from derogatory speech about people, not rocks.

Of even greater significance, once the miraglim made their mistake and concluded that Hashem wasn’t powerful enough to bring the people into the land, what they then spoke wasn’t lashon hara at all. In their calculation, they were saving the Jewish people from utter destruction, in which case it wasn’t forbidden speech – it was a mitzvah.

Why Does the Torah Forbid Lashon Hara?

The answer to this question stems from understanding why the Torah forbids lashon hara. The Rambam defines lashon hara as words that hurt, words that damage. Whether they cause a person embarrassment, loss of income, or sully his reputation, the very definition of lashon hara is words that cause harm. That is the reason the Torah forbids us to speak it – not because the Torah is so strict, but because words can have such a harmful effect.

To appreciate the damage words can cause, imagine that I discover a cloak of invisibility. When I put this cape on, I can walk around freely without anyone seeing me. Imagine for a moment that after I find this cloak, I decide to have some fun. As I walk around the beis medrash, I take a sefer from one fellow and turn it upside down. Then I walk over to another fellow and close his Gemara. I am having a jolly time!

After a while, I get a bit bolder. As someone is walking by, I leave my foot in the aisle. He falls to the floor with a crash.

“This is fun,” I think to myself. And now I really start to get into it.

As a fellow walks by, I give him a punch in the stomach. The next guy, I smash in the back. Before you know it, guys are really getting hurt. The joke is no longer funny.

The Chofetz Chaim points out that the Torah reserves a curse for one who “hits his neighbor while hiding.” Chazal explain that this refers to someone who speaks lashon hara about his friend. Why am I so cavalier about what I say about him? Because he isn’t here. If he were standing right nearby, I would never say what I said. I say it only because he isn’t around. And in that sense, I am hitting him while hiding.

One of the reasons we have difficulty controlling our speech is that we don’t see it as truly damaging. “What is the big deal if I tell an interesting story or two?” we say. While I would never dream of physically harming you, when it comes to ruining your reputation, damaging your business, or causing you harm in the way people perceive you, then I am much less concerned. The Torah is teaching us that lashon hara is forbidden because of the power of the words and the damage they can cause. That is why they are forbidden.

The Power of Speech

The answer to the question on the miraglim seems to be that they should have seen what happened to Miriam and learned one lesson from it – the power of speech. Why did Hashem act so harshly with her? It must be that what she did was far more egregious than we realized. It must be that her words – while merely speech – are a powerful force.

Had the miraglim learned this lesson, they would have been far more careful in their speech. They would have thought many times about the consequences of their words, and that would have made them stop and think to themselves, “Before we bring back this report, are we sure? Are we a hundred percent certain the Jewish people will die trying to conquer this land? Didn’t Hashem bring us out of Mitzrayim? Didn’t Hashem split the sea for us?”

Understanding the power of speech would have caused them to think about the consequences, and the results might well have been very different.

This concept has great relevance in our lives. Most of the damage we do through speech isn’t malicious or with bad intent. We speak without thinking about the consequences, without contemplating the results. The Torah is teaching us the power of those words and how careful we have to be with what we say, not because the Torah is machmir when it comes to sins of speech, but because of the power speech has to help or to harm.

About the Author: Rabbi Shafier is the founder of the Shmuz.com – The Shmuz is an engaging, motivating shiur that deals with real life issues. All of the Shmuzin are available free of charge at the www.theShmuz.com or on the Shmuz App for iphone or Android.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Power Of The Spoken Word”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The 13th issue of Al Qaeda's 'Inspire' online English-language magazine.
Al Qaeda Urges ‘Lone Wolves’ via Magazine to Attack US Airliners
Latest Judaism Stories
Hanukiyah created world famous Venetian Glass Blower
Maestro Gianni Toso

A revolution is taking place between good and evil; light and darkness. Make the light activism!

Joseph Maketh Himself Known to his Brethren

What did Yehudah say that was so effective that it convinced Yosef to make himself known?


What does the way we count the days of Chanukah come to teach us about living in the present?

Knesset and Menorah

Israel projects global material illumination not always the light of “morality” meant by the Navi

To many of our brethren Chanukah has lost its meaning.

This ability to remain calm under pressure and continue to see the situation clearly is a hallmark of Yehuda’s leadership.

It would have been understandable for these great warriors to become dispirited.

The travail of Yosef was undoubtedly the greatest trauma of Yaakov’s life, which certainly knew its share of hardships.

Yosef, in interpreting the first set of dreams, performed in a manner that was clearly miraculous to all.

Chazal teach us that we need to be “sur may’rah v’asei tov,”avoid bad and do good.

When we celebrate the completion of learning a section of Torah, we recite the Hadran.

Fetal Immersion?
‘The Fetus Is A Limb Of Its Mother’
(Yevamos 78a)

Yosef proves he is a true leader; He is continually and fully engaged in the task of running Egypt

When the inability cannot be clearly attributed to either spouse, the halacha is the subject of debate among the Rishonim.

Those who reject our beliefs know in their souls Jewish power stems from our faith and our prayers.

He stepped outside, and, to his dismay, the menorah was missing. It had been stolen.

More Articles from Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier
The-Shmuz

Our right to exist and our form of self-government were decided by the ruling parties.

The-Shmuz

If Hashem is watching tzaddikim, why couldn’t He just save Yosef from all the suffering he was about to endure?

If a man owns a successful small business, he might do a million dollars a year in sales. But that is the gross revenue, not the amount he takes home.

It almost sounds as if Hashem is saying, “I have to keep Yaakov from getting too comfortable; otherwise he will forget Me. I can’t promise him sustenance because then he won’t need Me. He won’t write. He won’t call. He won’t love Me anymore.”

Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

What happened was that Frank Jr. stopped being the little babe looking with love into his father’s eyes, and the relationship took on a very different nature.

Is it possible a man could be standing in a burning building, knowing this life is in danger, and be too lazy to move?

Avram’s father was not impressed with the cleverness of his son. In fact, he was so unimpressed that he took him to Nimrod the king, who pronounced him an enemy of the state and attempted to execute him.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-power-of-the-spoken-word/2014/06/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: