Bookmark and Share
Join Our Email List
Email:
For Email Newsletters you can trust

Rabbi Arthur Segal’s love of people, humanity, and Judaism has him sharing with others “The Wisdom of the Ages” that has been passed on to him. His writings for modern Jews offer Spiritual, Ethical, and eco-Judaic lessons in plain English and with relevance to contemporary lifestyles. He is the author of countless articles, editorials, letters, and blog posts, and he has recently published two books:

The Handbook to Jewish Spiritual Renewal: A Path of Transformation for the Modern Jew

and

A Spiritual and Ethical Compendium to the Torah and Talmud

You can learn more about these books at:

www.JewishSpiritualRenewal.org
ALL ENTRIES ARE (C) AND PUBLISHED BY RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL JEWISH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL, INC, AND NOT BY ANY INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYEE OF SAID CORPORATION. THIS APPLIES TO 3 OTHER BLOGS (CHUMASH, ECO, SPIRITUALITY) AND WEB SITES PUBLISHED BY SAID CORPORATION.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

TAZRIA: LASHON HARA DENIES GOD: RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL: JEWISH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

TAZRIA: LASHON HARA DENIES GOD:  RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL: JEWISH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
 
RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL: JEWISH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL: TAZRIA: LASHON HA RA: GOSSIP
 
 RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL:TAZRIA:JEWISH RENEWAL:JEWISH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL:CHOFETZ CHAIM
 

RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL:

LEVITICUS 12:01- 13:59:

PARASHA TAZRIA:

"Spiritual Dermatitis"

PARASHA TAZRIA
LEVITICUS 12:01- 13:59
RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL
 
RABBI DR ARTHUR SEGAL
www.RabbiArthurSegal.blogspot.com 
Jewish Spiritual Renewal
Jewish Renewal
Jewish Spirituality
Hilton Head Island, SC; Bluffton, SC; Savannah, GA
 

 "Spiritual Dermatitis"

"Who is the person who Desires Life (Chofetz Chaim)?...He who guards his
tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit" (Psalm 34).

In this week's parasha we read of various dermatological conditions that
were called in Hebrew, tsaraat. This word was mistranslated into Greek
and eventually into our English vernacular as leprosy. The chapters not
only deal with skin eruptions but of discolorations that can appear on
our clothes and the walls of our homes. These scaly lesions render us
impure. Only our priests were able to diagnose us and treat us. A person
afflicted with tsaraat was called a metzora.

Any dermatologist today who has read this portion can tell you that the
conditions described were not what we know as leprosy (Hansen's
disease). Certainly, skin conditions do not spread to our clothes and
the walls of our homes to discolor them.

To make sense out of this parasha, the Talmud and the Midrash state that
something else is going on here. Whether we wish to believe, as our
ancient sages supposedly did, that they had the answer to this puzzle, or
whether we just wish to learn some good life lessons from their
explanation, the traditional teachings deserve a retelling. The lessons
from them are as fresh today as when they were written.

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 16:02) states that the word "metzora" comes
from "motzi shem ra" (making a bad name), that is, a slanderer. One who
speaks "lashon ha ra," evil talk, will be afflicted with tsaraat. 
Judaism teaches that gossip is not a victimless crime. It blemishes the
person speaking and the one spoken about. It also harms the listener! We
define gossips as relating bad things about another even if it is true.
Not only are we commanded not to do it, but we are commanded not to
listen to it. The Midrash teaches that God gave us ear lobes to fold over
our ears when someone speaks lashon ha ra.

Lashon ha ra literally means an evil tongue. It is defamatory but true
speech about someone. Motzi shem ra is defaming through lying. Rechilus,
which is tale bearing, is the third level. It is from the word regal
(foot) as one who does this is like a peddler (ped=foot in Latin) of 
gossip. We cannot say to person A, that person B said something bad
about them. 

Bad speech destroys marriages, friendships, businesses, congregations,
and even our own lives. The Talmud says our Second Temple was destroyed and
we are in exile because of it (Talmud Bavli Tractates Yoma 9B and Gitin 57B). There
are fourteen positive mitzvoth and seventeen negative mitzvoth that one 
violates when speaking or listening to gossip.
 
For example, do not be a tale bearer
(Lev. 19:16), do not give a false report (Ex. 23:01), judge your fellow
with righteousness (Lev. 19:15), and so forth. We also wandered in the
desert for forty extra years because we believed the false reports of the spies, who
spoke lashon ha ra against the land of Israel!

Rabbi Israel Kagan wrote a wonderful text on Shmirat Ha Lashon, Guarding 
the Tongue. His rules on Lashon ha ra, in which he begins with the quote
from King David's Psalm 34, at the top of this page, earned Rabbi Kagan
the name, the "Chofetz Chaim." The foundation named in his honor helps promote
proper speech and love among people. Their web site can be accessed at
<<http://www.chofetzchaim.com>>. They will send you an e-mail newsletter,
for free, with a lesson a day. Within one year, you could learn how to
eliminate this destructive habit.

There are just six basic rules on how to guard your tongue. Rabbi Z.
Pliskin's text called "Guard Your Tongue" is excellent for an overview
of this topic, as is Rabbi Telushkin's "Words that Hurt, Words that
Heal."

1. We cannot say bad things about someone even if its true and even if
the news is in the media.
2. We cannot make any comment that can cause someone anguish, pain,
financial loss, etc., even if it is not derogatory.
3. Any method we use to do 1 and 2 above, other than with our tongues, is
forbidden, such as writing, e-mailing, hand gestures, facial gestures,
etc.
4. We cannot say mean things even kidding.
5. We cannot even bad mouth ourselves.
6. We have an exception. We are obligated to warn a potential bride or
groom, or someone going into a business deal, if we know information 
firsthand that will save them from harm or cheating.

The Rabbis took lashon ha ra very seriously. The Midrash (Devarim Rabbah
5:10) says, "Whoever speaks lashon ha ra causes the Shechinah (God's
presence) to depart from this world." In Talmud Arachin  15b, it is
written that God says that He and the gossiper cannot dwell together in
the same world.
 
 King Solomon said, "Six things are hated by God and the
seventh is despised by Him: haughty eyes, a tongue of falsehood, hands
which shed innocent bloods...and one who incites quarrels among
brothers" (Prov. 6:16-19). King Solomon also wrote in the same book
(Prov. 21:23) that "one who guards his mouth and tongue, guards his soul
from tribulations."

In lesson two of the Chofetz Chaim, he writes that it is forbidden to
relate that someone has been remiss in matters of Jewish observance, even
if it is a rabbinic law, a Torah command, or just custom.
 It is forbidden to mention an incident in which a law was broken, even in a society
where that halakah, Jewish law, is ignored commonly. It is lashon ha
ra for us to say Mr. Cohen eats pork or Mrs. Levine spent money on Shabbat. It is also
lashon ha ra for one to bad mouth an entire community, such as saying that
members of "Congregation B'nai Korach"  are not "real Jews" because they
are Reform.

The next time you see someone engage in gossip, watch as they look around
to make sure that no one is looking at them. They are very concerned that
the subject of their defamation cannot hear them. In Talmud Arachin  15b,
Rabbi Yochanan said that whoever speaks loshan ha ra is as though he has
denied the existence of God! He quotes Psalm 12:05: "With our tongues we
shall prevail, our lips are with us, who is master over us?" A metzora
has no concern of God watching him.

The power we wield when we speak is far beyond what we can perceive. We
think we are only exchanging words when in fact we can move worlds.
Lashon ha ra is so powerfully poisonous that it is taught that God takes
the good deeds accumulated by the gossiper and gives them to the subject
of the gossip, as well as taking the sins of the subject and giving them
to the gossiper! The Talmud teaches that Lashon ha ra is like a triple
murder, with the gossiper, the listener, and the subject being killed!
Ben Sira wrote in the Apocrypha Ecclesiasticus  19:10: "Have you heard
something? Let it die with you. Be strong. It will not burst you!"

Just as the negative consequences of speech can be so enormous, the
positive effects of good speech is even more vast. The Vilna Gaon says
that proper speech is the single largest factor in determining one's
share in Olam Ha Ba (the world to come). Whether you believe in an
eternal afterlife of not, or even in our Creator, remember that few folks
who gossip about person A when he is not present, will not hesitate to
gossip about you when you are not present.
 
 Few folks who pick on someone
or arbitrarily dislike someone will remain loyal to you. These people
are enemy centered. They are not happy unless they are fighting with or
in some way opposing someone. The metzora (our modern bad mouther) had
to warn others that he was "unclean, unclean" and had to live outside of
the community (Lev. 13: 45-46). These folks can poison our congregations,
sisterhoods, and men's clubs, and can keep civil, decent people, who do
not wish to keep their ear lobes pulled up, from participation in these
groups. If we wish our congregations to pursue life (chofetz chaim), to
grow and be strong, we need to void these unrepentant self-made metzorem
from our board rooms and sanctuaries.

Choose your companions wisely and avoid bitter, nasty, mean-spirited,
mean-speaking people so that you can pursue life, chofetz chaim, and not
diminish your spirit. Let us do the best we all can to Shmirat ha
lashon, to guard our mouths and think kinder thoughts about each other.
We are all God's children and therefore all brothers and sisters on His
earth.

Shabbat Shalom,

RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL
 
RABBI DR ARTHUR SEGAL
www.RabbiArthurSegal.blogspot.com 
Jewish Spiritual Renewal
Jewish Renewal
Jewish Spirituality
Hilton Head Island, SC; Bluffton, SC; Savannah, GA
If visiting SC's Low Country, contact us for a Shabbat meal, in our home by the sea, our beth yam. 
 Maker of Shalom (Oseh Shalom) help make us deserving of Shalom beyond all human comprehension!
RABBI DR ARTHUR SEGAL
www.JewishSpiritualRenewal.com/books www.FaceBook.com/Arthur.L.Segal www.FaceBook.com/RabbiArthurSegalJewishSpiritualRenewal www.RabbiArthurSegal.blogspot.com
Jewish Spiritual Renewal
Jewish Renewal
Jewish Spirituality
Hilton Head Island, SC; Bluffton, SC; Savannah, GA
 
RABBI DR ARTHUR SEGAL
www.JewishSpiritualRenewal.com/books www.FaceBook.com/Arthur.L.Segal www.FaceBook.com/RabbiArthurSegalJewishSpiritualRenewal www.RabbiArthurSegal.blogspot.com
Jewish Spiritual Renewal
Jewish Renewal
Jewish Spirituality
Hilton Head Island, SC; Bluffton, SC; Savannah, GA