Last week, we spoke about how one should work on controlling the seven gateways of the head: the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and mouth. In the last article, we discussed the eyes. Now, let’s talk about the ears. The Medrash tells us there is a small body part that can change one’s entire way of living and that’s the ear. The Gemara in Bava Kama teaches that if someone deafens a slave, he must pay the full value of the slave. That’s how important the sense of hearing is.
There is a controversial Medrash Rabbeinu HaKadosh. I have seen this Medrash, which states that the sin of listening to lashon hara is greater than the sin of speaking lashon hara. The Medrash proves this by showing that Yosef, who spoke evil about his brothers, was punished for 22 years with not seeing his father, while Yaakov, who listened to the evil tidings, was bereft of the Divine Presence (a much worse fate) for 22 years. The venerable Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, vehemently states that there is no such Medrash, for we find nowhere in Chazal that Yaakov sinned by listening to lashon hara. The Chofetz Chaim further states that we cannot say that Yaakov, whose likeness is on the Kisei HaKavod, committed such a sin. Still, the only disagreement concerns textual proof. Both agree that listening to lashon hara is a heinous act.
As we prepare for the Day of Judgement, everyone should take to heart the following story:
A man by the name of Asher Tzvi passed away at the age of 94. As he was taken before Hashem for his final reckoning, Hashem explained to him how the process works. Hashem told him that every time he did a mitzvah he created for himself a good malach. And every time he did an aveirah, a bad malach came into existence. Hashem informed Asher Tzvi that the Heavenly Court would now count his malachim. “If you have more good malachim, we will escort you to Gan Eden, to paradise. If unfortunately you have more bad malachim, you will first need the fiery purification of Gehenom.”
Hashem told Asher Tzvi, “We’ll look at the good first,” and the Heavenly Courtroom was flooded with hundreds of thousands of white malachim. After all, in 94 years, Asher Tzvi did a lot of mitzvahs. As he looked around, Asher Tzvi swelled with pride. He couldn’t help feeling elated by all those white malachim. Then, Hashem said, “Let’s see the other side of the story,” and suddenly there was a sound like a sonic boom, an avalanche and a stampede. So many bad malachim came roaring in created by every time Asher Tzvi said Hashem’s Name without kavanah, all the times that he could have learned but didn’t, all the money he didn’t give to tzedakah, the wasted opportunities of chinuch habonim and kibud av v’eim. Asher Tzvi didn’t need to be a mathematician or an accountant to see that things didn’t look too good. He was sweating and he already felt the smoke of Gehenom under his feet.
Then, all of a sudden, a huge white malach came into the courtroom and Hashem turned to the millions of bad malachim and proclaimed, “Dismissed!” and they all immediately disappeared in a puff of smoke. Asher Tzvi was smiling again and he approached the bench to Hashem. He said to Hashem, “Please believe me. I’m not complaining, but what did that big white malach say?” Hashem answered, “Asher Tzvi, you have to know that in Heaven we reward and punish measure for measure. This malach just told me that during your lifetime you made it a habit not to listen to bad about others. When people wanted to tell you gossip, you told them, “I have my own problems. I don’t need to listen to bad about others.” Hashem continued, “You steadfastly refused to listen to lashon hara. Therefore, in this Heavenly Courtroom, we will not listen to bad about you!” This story emphasizes the importance, as we approach the judgement of Rosh Hashana, to refuse to listen to bad about people.
When we come back from vacation and we’re catching up on things at home, we must make sure not to listen to sinful shul politics, office politics or family politics. In that merit, may Hashem not listen to the Satan about us and bless us with a year of long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
To be continued