mitzva 3: בצדק תשפוט עמיתך
is a mitzvah to judge people favorably. Certainly a righteous G-d fearing Jew,
but also us in between people who sometimes make mistakes we must judge
favorably. That does not mean we should lie to ourselves but the Chofetz Chaim
suggests that always having an open mind with the attitude of searching out the
positive in anything you see or hear will help you come up with a truthful
reason of why something might sound or look wrong is really alright. However he
also says there is no need to judge a wicked person favorably and a complete
stranger there is no mitzva to judge favorably but it is a positive attribute
to do so anyways. Often times people don’t straight out lie when speaking
loshon hara but might take things out of context say half the story or quote
part of a sentence. Other times the tone of voice someone reports in sometimes
might cause others to take it out of context. Another thing that must be taken
into account is the person you are talking about might have had a bad day or is
in a lot of pain. Therefore both the speaker and listener must be very careful
to be דן לכף זכות.
Positive mitzva #4 גר ותושב וכו׳
וחי אחיך עמך There is a mitzva
to support any Jew whether born Jewish or converted by giving him gifts, loans,
partnerships or just finding him any job. Anything so that he will not have to
go around and beg and he has a livelihood. Since that is the case one can
certainly not say anything bad about a worker or a perspective shidduch just
because you don’t like them and if there are some serious issues that must be
dealt with it will be discussed how to do so in detail in the Halacha later on
in Sefer Chofetz Chaim.
This week we began to discuss the positive mitzvos related to
1. זכור את אשר
עשה ד׳ למרים בדרך וכו. There is a mitzvah to constantly remind ourselves verbally and
picture in our minds the punishment Miriam received for speaking lashon hara
about her beloved brother Moshe whose intent was just positive and was said in
private to her caring brother Aharon, so that all the more so we will be
careful not to maliciously speak lashon hara about others.
2. ואהבת לרעך
We should be sensitive about the feelings and respect of others just like we
would want them to be sensitive to our own feelings and honor. This is another
method of discouraging ourselves from speaking lashon hara.
#16: “לא תחניפו את הארץ” This is a prohibition against flattery. It could apply to both the speaker and listener.
People who speak loshon hara might do it to find favor and flatter the listener. The person listening flatters the one who speaks loshon hara if he nodded his head in acquiescence or added a few words that adds to the slander. This sin’s severity causes Hashem’s Holy Presence to leave the Jews and it was one of the causes of the exile after the Second Temple was destroyed when the Sages flattered King Agripus.
#17 ״לא תקלל חרש״ A prohibition against cursing your fellow even if he is deaf or not present and all the more so if he can hear you curse him. Though this is not a part of lashon hara but many times when one gets angry and starts speaking lashon hara it leads to cursing the one he is speaking about.
תשא עליו חטא A
prohibition against embarrassing someone that could be caused when slandering
them in their face and if done in public the slanderer has no share in the
World To Come.
15. כל אלמנה ויתום לא תענון A prohibition on causing pain and suffering to widows and
orphans, verbally, physically, financially or any other way. We have to be
extra careful to talk and act with widows and orphans extra softly and kindly,
definitely for our own gain but even when they deserve rebuke we have to be
extra sensitive to them when giving rebuke and proper direction. If we don’t
Hashem says he personally defends them and the punishment is heavenly death.
Negative mitzvah #10 = “לא יקום עד אחד באיש לכל עון ולכל חטאת” This is a prohibition against testifying by yourself. Normally a court only accepts two or more witnesses as testimony. There are special circumstances like prompting a defendant to take an oath where a single witness is accepted. However if there is no use for the single witness it is forbidden for him to testify in court and is considered Loshon Hara.
Negative mitzvah #11 = “לא תהיה
אחרי רבים לרעות” You can hang around a bad crown, like a group that speaks
loshon hara. The Be’er Mayim Chaim points out that not only is there a Torah
mitzvah against hanging around bad crowds but in the rest of Tanach there is
many instances where it mentions the same thing so it is also Rabinnically
forbidden, for example the first verse in Tehillim, “The praises of a man are that he did not follow
the counsel of the wicked, neither did he stand in the way of sinners nor sit
in the company of scorners.”
Negative mitzvah #12 = .”לא יהיה
כקרח וכעדתו” There is a specific prohibition to not act like Korach and
his followers. Speaking or even accepting loshon hara can lead to intense
fighting. If the person listening would have made a displeasurable face,
showing he does not want to listen to this type of talk, there is a good chance
an argument could have died down.
Negative mitzvah #13 = “לא תונו
איש את עמיתו” This a prohibition against speaking אונאת דברים, speech that makes people feel bad, in
front of them bythemselves is a problem, all the more so if there is a group
listening. Examples are talking about what a baal teshuva use to do before he
or she became Torah observant, disabilities in intellect, physically,
emotionally, etc., or even talking about family members in a negative way. If
there is no helpful purpose it is forbidden to bring up even in private, all
the more so in public.
Today we covered Negative Mitzvos 7-9 in the prologue.
Negative mitzvah 7: ״לא תשנא את אחיך בלבביך״ “Do not hate your
brother in your heart.” If a person is nice to someone to his face but
speaks loshon hara about him to others, The Chofetz Chaim says this sin is so
severe and is even specified in the Torah because it is worse than regular
hatred since the one being hated cannot defend himself. If one lashes out, out
of hatred against someone he can physically or verbally defend himself but if
the enemy is speaking peace to your face and hurts you behind your back what
can you do? This sin only applies to the one speaking loshon hara and only as
long it is behind the back of the guy he is speaking about.
The 8th and 9th negative mitzvos are ״לא תקום ולא תטור״ “Don’t take revenge or bear a grudge.” If someone
did something bad to you and you remember it and then speak loshon hara about
him so that other people won’t act kindly towards him, this is bearing a grudge
and taking revenge. One should just forget about anything bad one does to you.
The Sefer HaChinuch and Rambam both hold that not taking revenge or bearing a
grudge applies whether someone did something against you monetarily,
physically, or verbally. The Sefer HaChinuch’s advice to forgive and forget is
that really everything is from Hashem and this person is just a messenger to
cause harm to you in order to atone for a sin you have done so you can’t take
revenge or bear a grudge against him since he really did nothing wrong it is your
sin which brought the harm upon you. However the Chofetz Chaim adds that at the
time of being harmed one is allowed to defend himself however it is a positive
trait to overlook any bad one says about you or even does to you, unless
physically defending your self from getting harmed. Otherwise after the fact it
is forbidden to care about what happened because that will be bearing a grudge
which could lead also to revenge. These sins could apply to both the speaker and listener
of lashon hara, for if the listener adds his input or agrees fully what the
speaker says because he was wronged by the same guy then he is transgressing
taking bearing a grudge and or taking revenge.
“לא תחללו את שם קדשי,” the Torah says do not profane my Holy name. This is the prohibition of creating a Chilul Hashem. The Chofetz Chaim goes on to explain that lashon hara is a chillul Hashem because it is done out of spite, not because you are over come by any physical desires.
What he means is that
Hashem, when creating us, purposefully gave us physical needs that must be
handled like eating, sleeping, cohabitating, etc. Hashem expects us to c ontrol
these physical needs and use them for the sake of serving Him. However it is
possible that if we are lax, those physical needs could start to control the
person and he or she might start doing things unhealthy or even sinful, however
that is not called a chillul Hashem as long as it does not become too habitual
because Hashem gave us these physical desires and it is understood that it is
an on going process to create a healthy balance. That doesn’t mean it is wrong
if misused, it is just not spiting Hashem.
But if one slanders
another human being or swears falsely even for the sake of making money, or
even if this negative speech is said for the sake of defending one’s own honor
that is still a chillul Hashem because no physical desire that Hashem gave him
got the better of the person to cause him to sin, and even if it was for the
sake of profit or honor, one has to always be attuned that Hashem honor comes
first and if he doesn’t that by definition is a “slap in the face” to
Hasham, lihavdil, and that is why it is a chilul Hashem.
We also saw that it is
common place that lashon hara has a death spiraling effect, that once one
starts slandering, even someone rebukes him for doing so, he’ll find excuses of
why it is not slander in this case and will continue to slander the other
person even worse which is the opposite effect of a typical sin. If a normal
Jew ate a piece of pig unknowingly and then was told that it was pig he would
not just take another bite, he would throw it out, rinse his mouth out and stay
far away, but by lashon hara there seems to be the opposite effect and that is
also why it is such a terrible chillul Hashem.
#4 לפני עור לא תתןמכשול: The prohibition of placing a stumbling
block in front of the blind applies to both the speaker and listener for the
speaker would not have said anything if no one was there and the listener would
not have accepted the loshon hara if the speaker would not have made it sound
#5 השמר לך פן תשכך את ד׳ אלוקיך: Is a prohibition on
the speaker against acting in a haughty manner for he would not have said
something bad about someone if he didn’t think he was greater than him
especially if he now looks better in the eyes of the listeners.
1. לא תלך רכיל
בעמיך (Vayikra 19:16): This negative mitzvah applies to both rechilus
which is essentially tattle telling and lashon hara which is speaking bad about
others even if it is the truth. This sin only applies to the one
2. לא תשא שמע
שוא (Shemos 23:1): According to most opinions applies to the one
listening and accepting loshon hara or rechilus. It is based on the case of a
judge not allowed to accept testimony before a court case officially begins
even if it is exactly what he is going to be hearing in the court case.
3. נשמר מאד מנגע הצרעת
(Devarim 24:8): There is a prohibition on getting yourself to have tzaraas, a
spiritual ailment in the times of the beis hamikdash and before, which one of
its causes is lashon hara.