Over the years there has been a plethora of books, lectures, shiurim, sermons and articles by gedolim, rebbetzins, and seasoned speakers denouncing lashon hara. This phrase literally translates into “bad speech” but refers to indulging in “juicy gossip” even if it may be somewhat accurate and positive in nature.
Generally though, the talk is negative, derisive and demeaning, usually taking place behind someone’s back, where there is no possibility to correct, or defend oneself from what is being said. For too many, it’s a pastime to be a yente, opining about that which is none of their business to comment on.
But there’s another version of lashon hara – one that is unspoken and silent, as words aren’t uttered out loud, but nonetheless, can have very unfortunate consequences. I call this machshavot ra’ot, negative or derogatory thoughts, attitudes and bias, that manifests itself as haughtiness, arrogance, snobbery, self importance and narrow-mindedness.
Typically, the target of gossip usually suffers from the repercussions of being “bad mouthed” and not the one uttering it, but ironically, when one inwardly views someone or a situation negatively, he/she can be the one who loses out.
Especially, when it comes to finding one’s bashert. As a consequence of these negative thought processes, opportunities to achieve one’s goals are flitted away, having never been given a chance to develop.
Years ago, when there were singles’ Shabbatons or gatherings, I sometimes would be told by exasperated organizers of the event that there would be one or two guests, often women who came in pairs, who demanded a refund because they weren’t staying. For after a cursory look at the crowd, they concluded, “There is no one here for me.”
They had dismissed most of the male attendees as being inappropriate – too young, too old, too nerdy, too frum, not frum enough (based on their various head coverings).
They had seen, judged and the verdict – “What a waste of time and money.” Their dismissive assessments and thoughts were to their own detriment, for had they not been so scornful, the program could potentially have led to their goal of finding a zivug.
Often the road to the chuppah involves several intersecting steps, with one leading to another. Every person at the gathering had siblings, neighbors, colleagues, or friends, etc., who might have had shidduch potential, but the close-minded women who walked out did not get to meet, mingle and network with the other attendees.
Maybe many of the men truly were not their ‘schnit’ – literally cut from the cloth that works for them – but perhaps these malcontent women could have looked outward instead of being self–centered and looked out for their single friends and out-of-town relatives, or associates who could find common ground with some of the men, and they could have possibly launched a shidduch.
In the more formal shidduch world, machshavot ra’ot on the part of either set of parents, or the young people themselves have impeded a potentially successful match because the contents of the “resume” or photograph didn’t quite match a pre-conceived idea of whom would be the perfect “one” for them.
I know of a blue-eyed girl who would only date blue-eyed boys to ensure all her children would be blue-eyed. I guess she had paid attention in biology class and knew that the blue eye gene was recessive, so brown eyed candidates were disqualified. At the age of 19, I wouldn’t consider that to be machshava rah – but at 30, it would have been. (She did actually get married at 20 to a blue-eyed chossen, and is a young bubbie.) But those who are dismissive without taking a deeper look, are hurting themselves.
There are many stories of various Jews of wealth or yichus who didn’t let hubris and a sense of superiority stop them from being mentshlich to others who universally would be viewed as “lower rung.” They would greet the gentile town garbage collector, or give coins or food to hungry street orphans. Doing so sometimes saved their lives. When the Nazis invaded their towns and the locals were put into positions of power, some remembered that they were treated as human beings who had value, and they viewed those Jews in the same way, and saved them. Middah keneged middah.
Since we are all made in Hashem’s image, snobbery or disdain, or internal eye-rolling, is a rebuke to Hashem. I’m not saying a person can’t have preferences in who they want to be with. It makes sense to be with like-minded people, who are on the same page on issues that are important to you, like level of yiddishkeit, but machshavot ra’ot – demonizing or sneering at someone whom you consider inferior can backfire.
I am not a psychologist, but I truly believe that aspects of machshavot ra’ot are triggered by low self-esteem that leads to a need to put others down in order to feel better about themselves. And some are motivated by peer pressure, and treat those outside the “cool” and acceptable box” as invisible.
Yet often, what you see on the surface doesn’t truly reflect what’s beneath. Rabbi Akiva is a perfect example of that. The high status Rachel was willing to give this low status man a chance. And this unpolished diamond became a precious jewel, whose value to Am Yisrael is immeasurable.